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Week Seven…

…piggybacking a smidge on the last post on the seemingly inordinate amount of penalties being called this year…

A great deal of the reason these penalties come about is because the NFL is trying to increase player safety.  We can talk about the league wanting to force an 18 game schedule down the players’ throat some other time, because that in no way increases player safety, but still.

Is it even working?

Football is a violent game.  Always has been.  Always will be.

Sure, the players are bigger, stronger, faster, etc. these days.

But they all know what they sign up for.

Listen, I’m not saying I want these guys all to be incapable of living a normal life after, say, 50 years of age.  But that’s why they get paid millions of dollars.

In any event, injuries ALWAYS will be part of the game.  This year is no different.

Think about the big names that have gone down thus far:  Big Ben (and even his backup, Mason Rudolph), Brees, Gurley, Kamara, Newton, Barkley (and other Giant “weapons”), Packer receivers, including Davante Adams, Cowboy O-Linemen, Eagles D-backfield, Trubisky (ok, a reach, but he is still the QB on what is supposed to be a good team), Watkins, Tyreek Hill and Jalen Ramsey…oops…Ramsey’s injury was fake.

I’m sure I’m missing more than a few.

Wait…the biggest name of all, perhaps:  Patrick Mahomes!

Of course, I saved the best for last.  Mahomes will miss multiple weeks after getting hurt in Thursday’s rout of the Broncos.  This after he probably could have missed a week or two already based on the fact that he has been hobbling around for a couple of weeks already.

Player safety?

Guys are still getting hurt.  An unfortunate by-product of this game.

The Thursday Night games can’t be helping either.

Take the headhunting and extreme violence out of the game, absolutely.  Toss thugs like Vontaze Burfict out of the league (bravo!).

But please let the minor hand-checking and slight shoves go on.

Thank you.

Some brief comments on that Thursday game:

*If the Chiefs have to go with Matt Moore for longer than the three weeks Mahomes is expected to miss, it could get ugly.  Moore has supposedly been a capable backup in this league in his career.  And maybe he gets better with some practice reps.

But he hadn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2017.  And has barely played since 2011.

Yikes!!

*I have no idea if Vic Fangio can actually coach in the NFL.  Maybe the jury is still out on that.

But he helped make the Chief defense actually look good.

That is hard to do.

*It sure looks like Joe Flacco is cooked.  Wow, that was bad.

I say let him get the 107 yards he needs to get to 40,000 career passing yards next week.

Then put him out to pasture.

I think the Broncos have a kid or two behind him.  Though Drew Lock is apparently still injured and not ready to return.

No matter.  The team stinks.  Let the kids play.

Cannot be any worse.

Speeding through the picks:

San Francisco (-9.5) at Washington

The ‘Skins got a win in new coach Bill Callahan’s debut.  But…the Dolphins.  And they almost choked it.  This game will be much different.

San Francisco 34, Washington 13.  Lock of the week.

Miami at Buffalo (-16.5)

When is the last time the Bills have been favored by this much??  During their run of four straight Super Bowl losses like 25-30 years ago?  Buffalo is improved, but this is too much.  Plus…FITZMAGIC breathed some life back into the ‘Phins last week.  That could count for something…though not a W, unfortunately for them.

Buffalo 24, Miami 17.

Houston at Indianapolis (-1.5)

Coincidentally enough, both of these teams’ last game was a win over the Chiefs in KC.  The Texans should end up being the better team this season, but they always seem to leave us scratching our heads.  Indy off the bye and at home gives me a little more comfort here.

Indianapolis 27, Houston 24.

Minnesota at Detroit (-0.5) 

Tough loss for the Lions on Monday against the Packers…with those two huge (bogus?) calls against ex-Patriot Trey Flowers on the “hands to the face” stuff.  Still, Green Bay held the ball for like the last 7 minutes of the game, so there’s that.  The Vikes have been much better since QB Kirk Cousins was publicly flogged.  Minnesota should be the better team, but just a hunch here.  The Lions need this one.  And have been shockingly pretty good this year themselves.

Detroit 24, Minnesota 23.

Jacksonville (-3.5) at Cincinnati

Yawn.

Cincinnati 13, Jacksonville 10.  

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at Atlanta

The Falcons are just what the doctor ordered for the struggling Rams.

Los Angeles Rams 34, Atlanta 24.  

Arizona at New York Giants (-2.5) 

Double yawn…though Saquon Barkley will supposedly be back.  And Kyler Murray can be exciting.  Doesn’t mean I will be watching.

New York Giants 24, Arizona 21.

Oakland at Green Bay (-6.5)

The Packers may not have any wide receivers for this tilt.  And just played a tough game Monday night.  The Raiders shockingly have a winning record and should be fresh coming off a bye last week.  Raiders here then?  Nope…can’t do it.

Green Bay 27, Oakland 17. 

Los Angeles Chargers at Tennessee (-2.5)

Two teams that were supposed to compete for playoff spots this season.  And both now sit at 2-4.  And haven’t looked very good at getting to that record…obviously.  Chargers coming to the East.  Not ideal.  But two words for you:  Ryan Tannehill.

Los Angeles Chargers 20, Tennessee 17.

New Orleans at Chicago (-3.5)

Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook are out for the Saints.  Still no Drew Brees.  Do they have enough on the road against a damn good defense?  Welp, the Bears still have Mitch Trubisky or Chase Daniel at QB.  So I feel like the Saints can pull it off.  It works for me anyway.

New Orleans 17, Chicago 13.  

Baltimore at Seattle (-3.5)

The Ravens are 2-2 in their last 4 and their last 2 games were wins against the putrid Steelers and Bengals by a combined 9 points.  That’s enough for me to take the Seahawks at home.

Seattle 33, Baltimore 24.

Philadelphia at Dallas (-2.5)

Both teams coming in at 3-3.  The Cowboys were extremely overrated following their 3-0 start.  The Eagles have been inconsistent and perhaps a little underachieving.  The ‘Boys look like they will get some injured players back and being at home in prime time doesn’t hurt.  Jason Garrett is still a terrible coach though.  He has to be grateful it seems that owner Jerry Jones has given him a lifetime contract.

Dallas 30, Philadelphia 27.  

New England (-9.5) at New York Jets

The Pats keep steamrolling bad teams.  But they could be doing it even more than they have been.  The offense hasn’t exactly been clicking on all cylinders.  I blame the offensive line, as you know.  Maybe Ben Watson and some other TE named Tomlinson can help there.  If Phil Dorsett comes back maybe that is ok too.  Sammy Darnold pumped some life into the J-E-T-S last week in his return.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I still think the Jets stink.  And the Pats D has been off the charts.  But on the road, Monday Night, still a little “off” on offense…leads me to think the Jets could somehow keep things a little too close for comfort.

New England 27, New York Jets 20.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  3-3

Season (against the spread):  47-46

Season (straight up):  60-33

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Hockey Is Starting Already?!

I’m not ready.  Period.

Feels like last season just ended.

And we know how disappointing that end was for Boston Bruins fans.  I suppose we do not need to cover that again.

Speaking of disappointing, the Bruins transaction activity this offseason.  Sure, they re-signed Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo…and I suppose Danton Heinen if you will.  But the team did not sign any new acquisitions…none of any note anyway.

We also know they didn’t lose much in Noel Acciari and Marcus Johansson.  Sure, Marcus would have looked nice on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.  But we also knew the B’s were not going to pay him.  Well, because they had to pay Carlo and Chaz.  And they had to keep Tuukka Rask on the roster.  And of course, they NEEDED to retain David Backes…sigh…

But, once again, that is a big part of the problem.  Bringing essentially the same team back after a long championship run is not a recipe for success.  Ask the 2011-12 Bruins themselves.  Or the 2019 Boston Red Sox.

But Team President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney obviously feel differently.  So there is not much anyone can do about it.

So where do we go from here?  What kind of preview of the 2019-2020 Boston Bruin season can we give, if the same team is basically the same from last year?

Not much.

Similar to the 2011-12 team, I expect a much shorter run from the team this year.  First round playoff loss seems about right.

Why do I say that?  Well, let’s dig a little deeper.

The first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak remains intact.  You know, the same first line that disappeared in the Stanley Cup Final?  Ok, maybe that is a little unfair.  But while Pasta should continue to grow, how much more upside is there for the other two?  Marchy broke 100 points last year, can he do it again?  Bergy is now 34 years old.

Listen, these guys won’t be the problem.  They will most assuredly enjoy productive regular seasons, barring injury.

But once again, is all the scoring going to be on that line?  Well, you’ve got David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk anchoring the second line.  Krejci enjoyed a bit of a scoring renaissance last season.  But at 33 years old, already banged up even before the season starts and once again, without a decent right winger, what does his season look like?  Hopefully Jake keeps trending up.  But…who is the other winger?

All indications were that Karson Kuhlman would at least start out in that role.  BUT…he was shipped to the minors yesterday.  Some sort of procedural move?  Perhaps.  You find hockey teams doing things like this all the time.  Maybe he suits up tonight in the end.  But as I write this, he is not on the team.

So who is the winger in this case?  Backes?  Brett Ritchie?  Par Lindholm?  Based on the roster as I write, those are the options.

Take your pick.  There are only 12 forwards listed on the current roster.  So they will all play.  Unless there are roster shenanigans, as I said.

Heinen and Charlie Coyle make up the rest of the third line.  Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner the fourth.

I will say that none of those last 3 lines excite me.  Will Coyle play wing on Krejci’s line?  Doubtful.  But I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

So I just wonder who is going to score.  Especially if the old guys get older and the injuries become more prevalent.

Reinforcements in the minors?  I don’t know.  Sweeney had stockpiled the minors with “prospects” for years.  But have (or will) any of them pan out?  So far, just DeBrusk…and I suppose we have to count Heinen.  But there have been many, many more that haven’t (or will not make it).

Peter Cehlarik was once a popular name.  But he just cleared waivers.  That should tell you all you need to know about his prospects.  Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson signed with a Swedish team even before their Cup run was over last season.  Anders Bjork always comes with some hype.  But he was shipped out again.  Kuhlman?  Maybe.  Jack Studnicka?  Pavel Shen?  Samuel Asselin?  Yeah, we will see.

I know one thing:  I am not counting on any of the kids to come up and light things on fire.

So we shall see where the goals come from.

The defense should be solid with all the returnees.  Chaz, Carlo, Torey Krug, Big Z, Matty Grzelcyk…John Moore and Kevan Miller when they are healthy…Connor Clifton…wait, he just got demoted too.  Oh yeah, Stevie Kampfer is back!  And Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vakakakakakaeienen may soon be ready to contribute too.  I’m not worried about the defense, no matter how old Big Z is.

But you know who I AM worried about?  TUUKS!!!  I am sure you are shocked.  He did play well for most of the postseason.  Speaking of shocking.  Until the end of course.  Which wasn’t shocking.

Ok, enough of that.

Tuuks will be fine…for the regular season.  Splitting time again with Jaroslav Halak will once again “keep him fresh”.  Yup, paying a goalie like a #1 when he can’t play as many games as a true #1 can.

So where does that leave us?  Or the team rather?

Unless some of the youngsters provide some scoring touch.  Or if there is a mid-season acquisition or two that does, I think we are looking at a playoff run, but an early exit.  Tampa Bay is most assuredly looking to redeem themselves after their playoff disaster of a season ago.  Other teams have made improvements.  And the Bruins stood still.

Not good enough.

So Much For That Good Start…

…took it on the chin last week.  Thankfully, there is time to recover this season.

Once again, no sense in covering last week’s New England Patriots game.  Although the two turnovers for TD’s killed the sure cover and with it also killed the undefeated hopes of the “Lock Of The Week”.  In reality, the Pats should have won that game by 40-50 points, injured receivers or no injured receivers.  But that’s the way it goes sometimes.

I really don’t have much to say about the Patriots upcoming game against the undefeated Buffalo Bills either, but we will get to that with the rest of the games.

For now, let’s just get through the normal Thursday Night stinkfest…

Philadelphia at Green Bay (-4.5)

…or will it be?  The Thursday tilts have not been great thus far this season.  We’ve been through that already.  But for some reason, I have high hopes for this one.  The Eagles are banged up but hope to get wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back.  That can’t hurt.  It also wouldn’t hurt if receiver Nelson Agholor was a little more consistent as well.  I guess Nelson invited that dude that ripped him on social media…you know, the dude that was apparently catching babies from a window to help save them from a fire.  Nice work, Hakim Laws!  Laws won’t be at this game I don’t think, but maybe it will light a fire under Agholor.  See what I did there?  Ok, maybe that was somewhat in poor taste, but I couldn’t resist.  In any event, Philly is too good a team to go 1-3.  And I am not sure the Packers are that good a team to go 4-0.  The Pack has only given up 35 points this year, but haven’t exactly played stout offensive teams thus far.  Not to mention the offense has only scored 58 points.  Doesn’t seem like typical Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers fireworks, eh?  People who watch the Packers say something is missing so far as well.  New coach, new system, I suppose it is bound to happen.  Just a gut feeling with the Eagles on the road here.

Philadelphia 27, Green Bay 23.  

Week (against the spread):  6-10

Week (straight up):  10-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  2-1

Season (against the spread):  23-25

Season (straight up):  34-14

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