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Week Fifteen…

I didn’t get to see much of the Thursday NFL game between Baltimore and the New York Jets…we could probably say that was by design.  But of what I did see…I, of course, was not shocked.

The most surprising thing I noted was how long Lamar Jackson stayed in a lopsided game.  If he is truly nursing a quad injury, I would have yanked him much sooner.  Yeah, he has like 10 days to rest up now.  And may even get all of Week Seventeen off once they wrap up home field advantage in the AFC.  But no need to have him out there that late against the Jets.

On to the weekend:

Denver at Kansas City (-10.5)

The Houston Texans beat the New England Patriots in Week 13 and then got blasted at home by a bad Denver Bronco team in Week 14, with its rookie QB playing only his second career game.  The Chiefs beat the Pats in Week 14, so does a similar fate await them in their matchup against Denver?  I think not.  Unless Chief QB Patrick Mahomes’ hand is more hurt than they are letting on.  Drew Lock’s play has been good thus far, but let’s not get carried away.  The Chiefs are better than the Texans as well.  I don’t see KC falling into the same trap as many other teams have the week after beating the Patriots.

Kansas City 42, Denver 24.  

Philadelphia (-4.5) at Washington

Philadelphia came back from a big deficit and squeaked through with a win against the terrible New York Giants on Monday.  But I am not sure how many bodies they have left with all of their injuries.  The ‘Skins have all of a sudden become a plucky little team with their interim coach and their rookie quarterback.  I usually lean away from the Monday night winner.  Sounds like Washington here, right?  Probably.  But Philly needs it more, as they still have a shot at the division.  Maybe that comeback provides some juice.  Shot in the dark.

Philadelphia 24, Washington 17.  

Tampa Bay (-3.5) at Detroit

Looks like Tampa QB Jameis Winston is going to give it a go with his thumb injury.  That could be good news for the Bucs.  But it could also be bad news.  He is a turnover machine, after all.  Either way, the Lions still stink.

Tampa Bay 34, Detroit 13.

New England (-9.5) at Cincinnati

Hopefully, the league will allow the Pats to use the video they shot of the Bengals sideline last week.  They should need it against this pathetic franchise.  And yes, that was sarcasm.

New England Patriots 27, Cincinnati 10.  Lock of the week.  (Yup…and wouldn’t be shocked at a higher score either).

Seattle (-6.5) at Carolina

The Seahawks only scored 12 points in a loss to the Rams last week.  I cannot see that happening this week in Carolina.  The Panthers fired their coach and then got waxed by a bad Atlanta Falcon team.  It looks like they are ready for vacation.  So much for the Christian McCaffrey for MVP talk.  And are the Panthers really sure they want to unload Cam Newton now, with the recent play of Kyle Allen?

Seattle 38, Carolina 17.  

Buffalo at Pittsburgh (-2.5)

DUCK HODGES!!  I’m still going to ride this train.  Especially if JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner return.  The Bills surprisingly kept it close against the Ravens last week.  But I am still not buying in.  If they beat the Pats in Foxborough next weekend, then I may finally be on board.

Pittsburgh 20, Buffalo 17.  

Miami at New York Giants (-3.5)

FITZMAGIC VS ELI!!  MUST SEE TV!!  Actually, Fitzy apparently has been quite entertaining in recent games.  Eli proved he was washed up by the second half of the Eagle game Monday night.  That’s enough for me.

Miami 24, New York Giants 13.  

Houston at Tennessee (-3.5)

Everything is telling me to go Titans in this game.  Ryan Tannehill and the entire team is on fire.  They are at home.  But something tells me the Texans will rebound from that miserable performance of last week.  There really is no rhyme or reason for this pick, to be honest.

Houston 30, Tennessee 27.  

Chicago at Green Bay (-4.5)

The Pack beat the Bears a mere 10-3 in the NFL Opener way back when.  Seems like last season.  My guess is that more points will be scored this time around.  Most of them will be scored by the Pack I think though.  They should play like they are more interested in a football game, unlike last week against Washington.  Chicago has won three in a row…yaaaaay!  But they have been against the Giants, Lions and Cowboys.  No thanks.

Green Bay 31, Chicago 21.

Jacksonville at Oakland (-6.5)

That Raider playoff push was fun, eh?  6-4, then getting hammered 3 games in a row since then.  But the Jags have been pummeled for 5 games in a row themselves.  Therefore…

Oakland 37, Jacksonville 23.  

Cleveland (-2.5) at Arizona

Baker Mayfield vs. Kyler Murray!!  That may be the only intrigue in this game.

Cleveland 27, Arizona 24.  

Los Angeles Rams (-0.5) at Dallas

Have the Rams finally righted the ship?  Maybe.  Not sure you will be able to tell when they play this poorly coached and underachieving Cowboy team.  The ‘Boys have had a few extra days to prepare for this one.  Will it matter?  It should.  But I’m not counting on it.

Los Angeles Rams 31, Dallas 20.  

Atlanta at San Francisco (-10.5)

One may be able to forgive the Niners for taking this one lightly, what with their thrilling win over the Saints last week and tilts with the Rams and Seahawks on the horizon.  I can’t see it happening, however.

San Francisco 41, Atlanta 27.  

Minnesota (-2.5) at Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ smokeshow against the Jags last week doesn’t change anything…they are a colossal disappointment this season.  Adam Thielen apparently will be back and the Vikes need this one.

Minnesota 34, Los Angeles Chargers 23.  

Indianapolis at New Orleans (-9.5)

Indy’s season essentially ended with that horrid loss to Tampa last week.  The Saints lost that aforementioned thriller to the Niners, so they will be looking to get back on track in this one.  They are already in the playoffs but are still fighting for a bye.  One would think they should be pretty focused in this one at home.

New Orleans 45, Indianapolis 27.  

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  104-105

Season (straight up):  135-74

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

 

Fantastic…

…start to the gambling season!  Ummmmm…nope.  Another unpredictable Week One of the NFL season, with a potential Super Bowl contender in Pittsburgh tying lowly Cleveland, another potential Super Bowl contender in New Orleans getting blasted (defensively anyway) at home by a questionable Tampa team with a backup quarterback, Detroit falling flat on its face against the Jets and so on and so on.

The New England Patriots won a game that many didn’t think they would.  Of course, Deshaun Watson may not be back at full speed and it looks like he may only have two offensive weapons on his side (Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins).  But the pass rush didn’t look as dormant as it had in previous years and the receivers did not look as putrid as many have predicted.  So there’s that.  Long way to go to find out what this team will be…as well as what all the other teams will be also.

We will see what Week Two brings…and let’s get it started:

Baltimore at Cincinnati (-0.5)

The Ravens hammered the Buffalo Bills at home and the Bengals won on the road in Indy.  I guess neither should be that surprising.  Is Baltimore really that good?  Unlikely.  Are the Bengals a team to be afraid of?  Also, unlikely.  Nice divisional matchup.  Thursday’s are hard to predict as it is and then you throw in the division game?  Leads me to believe that Cincy will start 2-0?  Why?  Short week, division game, Cincy at home…that’s all I really can come up with here.

Cincinnati 27, Baltimore 24.

Week (against the spread):  5-11

Week (straight up):  7-9

Season (against the spread):  5-11

Season (straight up):  7-9

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