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Out With A Whimper And Then…The Picks…

…so a lot has been discussed already this week about the New England Patriots’ unceremonious exit from the NFL playoffs.  There will be a new Super Bowl champion.

And, in general, it appears to be the end of an era.

I know, most of the country (world?) is celebrating this fact.  It’s been a good run for Pats fans though.  Nothing to complain about.  Even the falling way short thing of this year.

We will dive into the future of the New England Patriots full force in an upcoming piece.

For now, a short chat about what went wrong against Tennessee last weekend.  Short, because these things have been discussed and analyzed ad nauseam all week…everywhere.  But, we officially need to get things off our chest.

So here goes, in no particular order:

*Horrific play calling, specifically the three straight runs near the goal line, when they haven’t been able to run the ball in from there all season.  Also, the handoff to linebacker Elandon Roberts on third and short earlier in the game.  And Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels will still get a head coaching job, perhaps before I am done writing this.  Not to mention the defensive play calling.  Everyone knew Titans running back Derrick Henry was going to tote the rock a lot.  How was he able to carve up that defense right from the get go?

*Julian Edelman’s crucial drop late, when he was wide open.  There was still third down to get the job done, but the air felt out of the tires by then.  Hard for me to get on Jules, with him playing through all sorts of injuries.  But that drop was MASSIVE.

*Offensive guard Shaq Mason being downfield at the wrong time.

*Mohammed Sanu adding nothing.  N’Keal Harry seemed clueless.  And Joe Judge is the head coach of the New York Giants now.

*Hate to even go after the head coach with all the wins Bill has given us.  But he got burned when Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel pulled the same thing with the penalties on the punt that ate up a lot of clock.  Belichick pulled this the same move against the Jets earlier this year when the game was out of hand.  Maybe Vrabel knew the rule all along too.  But why would Bill pull that out in a game where it wasn’t needed?  Then he was pissed when it went against him.  Hard to fathom.  Also, the late punt with no one back to receive it, letting the ball roll all the way to the one-yard line.  Couldn’t Edelman have caught it at the 20ish yard line and gotten a few yards to put the team in a better position?  Head scratcher.  Hoping for a blocked punt seems a little “pie in the sky” to me.  I guess it was a little too late then anyway.

*The fraudulent defense that was supposedly full of Pro Bowlers and All-Pros not being able to stop anyone when they needed to.

That’s enough.  It was a disappointing end to the season.  That’s an extreme understatement.  Losing to Miami and losing the bye pretty much sealed the deal for me.  I picked them to lose to Tennessee, but wouldn’t have been shocked if they pulled this one game off.  But no more than that for certain.  Playing the extra week was never a good idea for this team.  I was actually pretty calm as the Titan game was going on.  I had zero faith, even if they managed to win.  No lofty Super Bowl expectations here for sure.

The team gave me some false hope after the Buffalo win in Week 16.  But I also think they had some talent to go further than they did.  I never thought they were an 8-0 (first half) team.  But I didn’t think they were a 4-4 (second half) team either.  I didn’t think the defense was a record setting one like they looked like when they played a bunch of bums in the first half.  But I thought even against good teams that they could get a stop when they needed one.  I never thought the offense was as explosive as the Randy Moss/Wes Welker years (duh!).  But with Edelman, James White, Sanu, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel and with a sprinkle of Benjamin Watson and maybe N’Keal Harry and a smidge of Phillip Dorsett from time to time, the offense would have enough.  After all, there have been years with lesser weapons, in my opinion.

In any event, the Patriot season is over.  But hopefully, there is still some good football left to be played.  Let’s move on to that:

Minnesota at San Francisco (-7.5)

The Niners are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.  Week off.  Rolled through 2019 to the tune of a 13-3 record.  The Vikings had a nice win against the heavily favored New Orleans Saints on Wild Card Weekend.  But there are injuries all over the place on that team.  And if receiver Stefon Diggs gets past his illness and plays, he will likely pull another temper tantrum if the Vikes choose to ride the running game and Dalvin Cook to offset the injuries.  Which is what they should do.  The Niners should probably win big, but they won’t.  But they still should win.

San Francisco 31, Minnesota 27.  

Tennessee at Baltimore (-9.5)

Looks like RB Mark Ingram is going to play.  Expect TE Mark Andrews to play as well.  Will the bye week and the last week of the regular season where the regulars didn’t play create rust for the Ravens?  I am betting no.  Maybe at the start.  But not much more.  The Ravens defense was pretty good by season’s end.  And although Derrick Henry is a beast, I would say the Ravens put up more resistance than the Patriots.  Force Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball, which he didn’t at all last week.  Tannehill has apparently been reborn in Tennessee.  But the guess here is that he has less success against Baltimore.  Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was abysmal in last years’ playoffs.  This should be a complete 180 from that game.  How can it not be?

Baltimore 34, Tennessee 17.  

Houston at Kansas City (-9.5)

I don’t hear too much Chiefs hype.  Haven’t heard much this season, to be honest.  I get that Baltimore had a great year, no question about it.  But I feel like the Chiefs have just as good a chance to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  That game the Texans played against Buffalo last week was wretched.  Both of those teams were…no one wanted to win.  Even though Houston beat KC way back in Week 6 (yes, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes DID play), I have a hard time seeing how they do it again in this spot.

Kansas City 27, Houston 13.  

Seattle at Green Bay (-4.5)

Green Bay ended up 13-3 and secured a bye.  I’m still trying to figure out how that happened.  They won games down the stretch but played kind of uninspiring ball from what I could see.  The Seahawks stumbled a little bit at the finish as well.  They had trouble beating a 40 year old backup QB with a torn hamstring in the Wild Card game.  The ‘hawks also have pulled a few guys off the street to play running back the last few games.  Including The Artist Formerly Known As Beast Mode.  But they seem to always keep games close.  And are an amazing 8-1 on the road.  Gut feeling here.

Seattle 24, Green Bay 20.  

Week (against the spread):  3-1

Week (straight up):  3-1

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  10-7 (since we forgot to do one last week, let’s be done with it for the year.  Pathetic record for a Lock Of The Week anyway).

Season (against the spread):  133-127

Season (straight up):  167-93

Disgusting…And Then…The Picks…

…trying to find the right words to write while also wondering why Jason Garrett still has a job several days after the end of the NFL season…guess that is not something I need to worry about.  But still curious…anyway…bottom line is that Jerry Jones is probably weaseling out of the whole thing and letting Garrett’s contract expire on the 14th I think.  Maybe force the new coach after that to add Garrett to his staff.  But otherwise keep him “in the building”, without actually firing him as head coach.

Just find the whole thing in Dallas comical.  As opposed to Miami coach (and long time Patriot assistant) Brian Flores firing his offensive coordinator (and long time Patriot assistant) Chad O’Shea the day after the season ended…and after only one year…and after Flores brought O’Shea to Miami…and considering those guys were supposedly tight.  I find that story interesting, but nothing more.

What is NOT comical is the New England Patriots’ loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.  I think all Patriot fans feel the same way.

Even though it has likely been a lot of substitutes for the main hosts on the local sports radio stations this week, we have not been able to bring ourselves to listen to the noise.  Because we fear the noise is accurate.  And I will make my own noise here.  Don’t you worry.

But even the subs have probably been saying the same things on the radio (and TV and newspapers and the internet and etc. of course) this week.  Stuff like:

*If they can’t beat Miami with a bye on the line, how do you think they will do in the actual playoffs?

*So much for that vaunted defense.  Letting the immortal Ryan Fitzpatrick march the offense downfield to win the game in the end.

*By the same token, so much for that Defensive Player of the Year award for Stephon Gilmore this season after being torched by Devante Parker all day.

*Tom Brady sure looked terrible today, eh?  Is he hiding an injury?

*Why did they give up ANYTHING for Mohamed Sanu?  He is brutal!

*Boy, Julian Edelman really needs some time off.  Could’ve used that bye!

*Brady is gone.  Josh McDaniels is gone.  Devin McCourty is gone.  Kyle Van Noy is gone.  Joe Thuney is gone.  Jamie Collins is gone.  (Insert other free agent player or coach here).

*Feels like the 2009 team all over again, right?!

And so on…

I can’t argue with ANY of that.  This space loved the 8-0 start.  But we weren’t completely sold on the team since they were playing teams that were barely better than some local colleges.  Well, maybe not local colleges, as Boston College still stinks.  But you get the point.

And yeah, the Dolphins sure turned things around from that 43-0 blasting by the Pats in Week Two, eh?

The FEEL of things out there regarding the team just doesn’t seem right.  And that is without getting into Brady’s future with the organization (or football as a whole).  We may get to that someday.  That topic has already been covered ad nauseam locally.  I’m not sure I have completely formed my opinion on that as of yet.  It feels like he is gone, to retirement or another team.  But this postseason could prepare a different script.  We can chat more about that later.

But back to the “feel”, meaning…the offense…and Brady himself… has never seemed right.  The offensive line has been bad, helping contribute to running back Sony Michel not running for many yards.  Though Michel has looked slow and indecisive in his own right.  Brady’s attitude and demeanor in interviews.  McDaniels’ play calling.  Does Brady ever trust the kid wide receivers?  Or do they just stink?  The defense not looking so great against good teams.  Why did they opt for Sanu over Emmanuel Sanders, who is playing well in San Fran?  The Antonio Brown fiasco.  The Gronk “will he or won’t he garbage”.  Edelman being banged up.  Is Brady too?  Giving Michael Bennett away instead of say, ditching Deatrich Wise Jr., who plays very little, but always seems to have a key penalty every game.  The Josh Gordon Experience.  Blah, blah, blah.

In any event, based on the history of this organization, it would not shock me at all to see them make another Super Bowl run.  Far-fetched, especially since they needlessly forced themselves to play an extra game?  Sure.  But the Pats have looked bad before.  And turned it around when no one thought they could.  See:  Last season.

Is a Super Bowl run likely?  Doubt it.  There are just too many strong teams out there.  Baltimore and Kansas City in the AFC.  (Side note:  I am not sure how everyone is handing the conference to the Ravens.  And have been for quite some time.  We know what the Chiefs can do, right?).  San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans, even Seattle in the NFC (though those teams do have flaws that can be exposed, especially with two weeks of preparation time).  The overall competition just seems a little stiffer all around.

It’s just hard for me to rule anything out with these Patriots.  Despite what we all feel.  Yup, that the dynasty may indeed be over.

As for this weekends’ slate:

Buffalo at Houston (-2.5)

I love some of the latest chatter I’ve heard:  The Bills are going to go into Houston and win.  Then shock the Ravens in Baltimore.  Then when New England beats Tennessee at home and upsets the Chiefs in KC (well, they did that last year!), the Pats will be hosting the Bills in Foxborough for the AFC Championship game!!!!!  And guess what?  THEN the Bills will all of a sudden suck and it will be an easy win for the Pats to cruise into the Super Bowl!!  Please.  The Bills are a nice story.  I said it last week, Sean McDermott seems like a good coach and has the team headed in the right direction.  QB Josh Allen has his moments.  The Texans do have some trouble in the playoffs historically.  Resting some key guys last week will help them.  Maybe the return of J.J. Watt will as well.  The Bills ride ends here.  Sorry wishful thinkers.

Houston 27, Buffalo 17.  

Tennessee at New England (-5.5)

You know who else’s ride ends here?  You’ll have to wait a second.  As well as the Patriots defense has played at times this year, they have had some problems stopping the run.  Titans RB Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing yardage.  Also would not be surprised if the Titans resurrected old friend Dion Lewis from the depths of their bench.  The Pats D historically don’t do well against QB’s who can run, or at least move around a little.  Titans QB Ryan Tannehill can at least do the latter.  And upped his game for sure once he took over the Titans job.  It’s unlikely Bill Belichick will stack eight men in the box against the running game since the Titans all of a sudden have a receiver tearing it up in A.J. Brown.  The Titans can give up some points, but the Pats have trouble scoring them.  Not a lot of confidence from this usual homer.  And therefore you get this:

Tennessee 27, New England 20.  

Minnesota at New Orleans (-7.5)

Verizon FIOS is trying to make me feel bad.  They have removed the FOX channel from our cable offerings because apparently, FOX is trying to squeeze more money out of Verizon.  How’s that feel Verizon?  Look in the f’ng mirror.  Like you haven’t been screwing John Q. Public for years with your plans?  This message is on a loop on the channel now:  “This station is asking for a 70% increase in order to carry them.  That’s like the price of gas going from $2.99 to over $5.00 a gallon overnight”.  Comparing a huge corporation with Joe Average Person?  Please.  Enough with that nonsense already.  I digress, but I mention it because I will have to find an alternative way to watch this game.  Plus, I think it is as funny as sh&t that VZ is trying to do this.  Plus, I don’t really have much of anything to say about the actual game.  Looks like Dalvin Cook is ready to roll for the Vikes.  But how healthy is Adam Thielen?  Kirk Cousins had a nice run for a while, but I can’t say I’ve ever bought in.  The Saints should handle this one at home fairly easily I imagine.  Maybe I won’t even have to watch.

New Orleans 34, Minnesota 24.  

Seattle (-1.5) at Philadelphia 

The Seahawks lost 3 of 4 down the stretch and have emergency guys playing running back.  Yet, they were an inch (and a horrific delay of game penalty previously?) away from not even being in this game.  Maybe they should have fans call in goal line plays instead of whoever is coaching.  Might end up with better results than last week and…well, you know the other major time.  Philly won their last four, but 2 against the Giants and one each against Dallas and Washington.  I’m not sold.  Miles Sanders is supposedly giving it a go, but will Zach Ertz be able to?  The Iggles are banged up all around.  I just don’t see how they can win one against a good team here.  Being home and having the ‘Hawks go cross country should help.  But Seattle was surprisingly 7-1 on the road this season.  Even if Sanders, Ertz and their slew of injured players can suit up, it seems like a tall task.

Seattle 31, Philadelphia 23.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  9-7

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  10-7

Season (against the spread):  130-126

Season (straight up):  164-92

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

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