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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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These Flags Are KILLING Me…

…and everyone else of course, right?

Big topic around the league recently.  Simply because all of these penalties being called in the NFL has somewhat affected “watchability” of the game itself…for the Blowhard anyway.  Especially the Dallas Cowboy/New York Jet game last week, where near the end of the game there were penalties called on SIX CONSECUTIVE PLAYS.  Believe me, I hate both of those teams so I had no interest in watching either of those clowns.  BUT, of course, I had the Cowboys in not one, not two, but THREE knockout pools.  (Thanks Jason Garrett!!).  Shame on me…but I digress…

Listen, officials could call pass interference, holding, illegal contact and several other penalties on EVERY play if they wanted to.  Doesn’t it seem like they actually ARE calling them on every play now though?

Yeah, yeah, every year the NFL Competition Committee hands down some “points of emphasis” for the officials to start clamping down on.  But by Week 6, a lot of those infractions that were called in the preseason and the early regular season weeks to get the players’ attention have been virtually eliminated.  Start out strong, then wane down as the season progresses.  Seems to happen every year.

Not this season, I don’t think.

Is it more than “point of emphasis” calls then?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that the biggest change of the offseason was giving the head coaches the ability to challenge offensive pass interference calls.  Due to the atrocity that occurred in the NFC Championship Game last season.

But you know what?  They aren’t reversing any of those.  Or a fraction anyway.

So why bother with that rule now?

People are blaming everyone from the Commissioner to the Competition Committee, to the owners, to the coaches, to Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron, to the refs themselves.  Who do I blame?  All of them!!  Let’s face it, they all have a role in this mess.  But where doe the largest piece of blame pie go?

Replay.

I know, some penalties cannot be even replayed and thus confirmed or overturned.  But because we have it available I feel like it is a root cause.  The officials have a split second in real time to make a determination on everything.  We as fans see 9,000 different angles of each play within seemingly a split second.

The fact that it exists just provides a little bit of pressure on the officials to “get everything right”, no?

I’m almost at the point where I don’t want replay in ANY sport.  It seems to be killing most sports.  “Killing” may be a bit strong.  But it’s putting a dent in a lot of them.  My opinion anyway.

These sports have existed for decades on human judgment.  And other than a few egregious calls over the last century or two, we all seemed to have lived with it.

You couldn’t pay me any amount of money to be an official in any sport.  No one likes you.  The players are all bigger and faster and stronger and all than they ever have been.  And it is IMPOSSIBLE to see everything.  Yes, some of the officials across the board are old and fat.  But it’s even tough for the younger and athletic ones to stay on top of stuff.

And now we have replay looking to see if a pinkie came off the second base bag or a skate was a fraction over the blue line or a there was a slight bobble while a receiver is heading out of bounds…etc., etc., etc.

Enough is enough.

I never thought I would say this, but we need to go back to the days of no replay and human judgment/error.  On top of that, we need to “let the boys play” a little bit.

And just deal with the consequences.

Couple of brief Patriot notes from the news of the week:

*Michael Bennett.  I guess we all should have seen this one coming.  Playing in garbage time.  Not playing much overall.  When was Mt. Bennett going to erupt?  Despite all the nice things he said about Bill Belichick and the overall program from the second he got here?

I have no idea what specifically happened with the defensive coach.  Furthermore, I have no idea why he isn’t playing much.  But most assuredly that’s what it was all about.

Do the Pats trade him?  Not sure how many suitors he would have or who will take half his salary.  Or what they could even get in return.  But I honestly don’t know if I trade him actually.

It’s a long season and injuries and other things happen (see:  wide receivers).  What’s the harm in giving him a little more time and seeing if he can get back on board.  And maybe by the playoffs he is making a huge contribution?

Would not rule that out.

Unless he becomes a complete locker room cancer.  That’s a different story.

But with the leaders in that locker room, I am not sure it will blow up to any more than this.

*N’Keal Harry.  Good to see Harry practicing (and Phillip Dorsett returning).  Now all we have to do once Harry actually gets into games is to convince Tom Brady to throw to him.

I do not think the wide receiver or overall “weapon” problem is as big of a problem as people are making it out to be.  I know, Brady does.  And he is the one who needs the weapons.  I will allow for that.

But think about it.  Harry and Dorsett come back.  Josh Gordon and Rex Burkhead eventually do too.  Ben Watson is now here.  Watson is no Gronk but is certainly capable of doing more than Matt LaCosse or Ryan Izzo…maybe combined.  Brady is now throwing to Sony Michel out of the backfield.  Jakobi Meyers should have earned some trust last week.  And of course Jules and James White.

That’s not all that bad, right?

*Demaryius Thomas.  Thomas thinks his time in New England was a waste of time.  According to comments he made to a New York newspaper this week.  Perhaps that is true.

But welcome to the world of not being a star buddy.  Demaryius isn’t used to being on the back end of the roster.  Yeah, I guess he is starting (or at least getting good playing time) for the Jets.  But…the Jets.  On the Houston Texans last year and the Patriots this year (without the injuries), he wasn’t the All-Pro receiver he has pretty much always been.

Not to mention he is just getting up to speed from a serious injury.

This roster juggling is what the end of the roster guys go through ALL.  OF.  THE.  TIME.

Just think about it from that angle Demaryius.

*Trade deadline.  The Pats will make moves.  Still have some time.  But bank on it.

Probably not left tackle Trent Williams from Washington though.  Williams has been holding out all year because he is upset with the teams’ medical staff.  Not about money?  Yeah, that has to be part of it too of course.

But the ‘Skins are inexplicably not taking offers for him.  Plus the haul and the salary will likely make it prohibitive for the Pats to pursue.

So stop dreaming about that, but be cognizant that help will be on the way.  And not just in the form of Isaiah Wynn.  That’s if Wynn can even be counted on.  Big “if”.

Now on to the game:

Kansas City (-3.5) at Denver

Thursday Night divisional games often go the opposite of how they really should.  Actually, a lot of the Thursday games are crapshoots.  This one should be no different.  The Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes do not look right.  KC has lost two in a row at home, no less.  Their defense is putrid.  The Broncos are “hot” as they have won their last two…albeit against the underachieving Chargers and Titans (or do they just stink?).  The Bronco D appears to be still serviceable.  So things seem to be trending in the Bronco direction here and they are at home.  And I’ll be picking them, right?  Wrong.  If KC loses three in a row I’d be shocked.  And ultimately Denver isn’t any good.  People across the country are starting to question the Chiefs.  Big mistake.

Kansas City 31, Denver 17.

Week (against the spread):  6-8

Week (straight up):  8-6

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  3-3

Season (against the spread):  46-46

Season (straight up):  59-33

Week Six…

…Ok, let’s start out with an apology.  Thursday I wrote that the Patriots would not need tight end Ben Watson.

Looks like I was wrong.

Sure, I’d love to see if the younger guys like Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo can be something in the future.  But man, Izzo doesn’t look like he can block anyone.  And LaCosse keeps getting hurt…or at least keeps on reinjuring what he had previously hurt.  No difference to me in the end.  That being said, it doesn’t look like he can block anyone either.

And when your offensive line is, well, offensive, that’s not what you need from a tight end.

There’s probably a way you can have all three on the roster…or put LaCosse out of his misery already and stash him on injured reserve for the rest of the year.

But now they may need MORE than one body there.  There have been calls to get free agent TE Dwayne Allen back.  Yikes!  Whoda thunk it would come to that?

But it may have.

It is still relatively early in the season.  These games against garbage teams may have allowed for some experimentation.  Also, we know they will make a move or three before the trade deadline.

So I am not going to get all crazy about the state of the offense.

Yet.

I will say it was encouraging to see Jakobi Meyers get into the mix.  He made four mostly difficult catches (and had a fifth wiped away on a penalty elsewhere on the field).  Hope Tom Brady took notice.

It was nice to see Gunner O-SHEF-SKIIIII make a couple of grabs as well.  But I’d honestly prefer to keep him on punt returns only.  Just use him at receiver in “break glass in case of emergency” cases…like Thursday night.

Either way, we will put that one in the books and await another tomato can in Week 7…the New York J-E-T-S!  Sammy Darnold will be back.  But I’m guessing that won’t really matter much.

As for the rest of the slate:

Carolina (-2.5) at Tampa Bay

Just when the masses thought Bruce Arians was on his way to successfully rehabbing Jameis Winston, the QB threw up on himself last week against the Saints.  Kyle Allen has helped breathe new life into the Panthers, along with Christian McCaffrey.  Tough to pick the road team in a divisional game for two about average teams.  But…

Carolina 34, Tampa Bay 27.  

New Orleans at Jacksonville (-1.5)

Not sure I understand the spread on this one.  Sure, it’s Teddy Bridgewater and not Drew Brees.  And Gardner Minshew has played well.  And the Saints are on the road.  But New Orleans is the underdog?  Vegas usually calls these things pretty well overall.  But this one…I don’t see it.

New Orleans 27, Jacksonville 17.

Philadelphia at Minnesota (-2.5)

Kirk Cousins keeps taking shots from people, off the field I mean.  He may not be the best QB in the league.  And he probably doesn’t deserve that huge contract (really, who does though?!).  But if someone offered that dough to you, would you say “no”?  Nope.  And he is far from the worst quarterback in the league.  This should be an entertaining matchup between two 3-2 teams that are pretty good.  Seems like a good time to just go with the home team.

Minnesota 24, Philadelphia 21.

Houston at Kansas City (-5.5) 

The Texans put up 53 last week in a win against the Falcons.  The Chiefs only 13 in a loss to the Colts.  That broke a fairly long streak of scoring over 25 points in a game for the Chiefs.  I’m wondering if those above scenarios will be flipped this week?

Kansas City 41, Houston 27.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-11.5)

Some of the double digit spreads haven’t seemed to work out this season across the NFL.  Seems like a high number for a divisional game.  But the Ravens being at home tilt the scale over to the favorite for me here.  Plus, the Bengals stink.  That doesn’t hurt.

Baltimore 31, Cincinnati 16.  

Seattle at Cleveland (-2.5) 

I actually expect the Browns to bounce back from that debacle last Monday against San Francisco.  I mean, they play well and win every other week and look silly and lose on the weeks in between.  So that kind of inconsistent performance would lead some to believe that this week they will win this tilt.  Especially at home.  But they actually are 0-2 at home and Seattle is pretty good.  Nothing would shock me with this Brown team at this point.

Seattle 34, Cleveland 31.  

Washington (-3.5) at Miami 

Will anyone attend the game?  Will anyone watch…if it is even on any TV station?

Washington 13, Miami 7.

Atlanta at Arizona (-1.5)

Another yawner.  Except perhaps for the occasional Kyler Murray play.

Atlanta 23, Arizona 17. 

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams (-4.5)

Todd Gurley is out?  Who cares?  Did you all see what C.J. Anderson did in relief of Gurley last year?  Despite being cut by a few teams and mostly being out of the league for the season?  The Niners seem to be a pretty good team.  But this one takes Jimmy Football and crew back to Earth at least temporarily.

Los Angeles Rams 34, San Francisco 24.

Dallas (-8.5) at New York Jets

The Luke Falk era is mercifully over.  He couldn’t even stick on the roster as he was waived today.  As mentioned above, Sam Darnold is back.  Not sure that means much.  The Cowboys have lost two in a row to good teams, after winning their first three against three dregs of the league.  Here comes another dreg.

Dallas 37, New York Jets 17.  Lock of the week.

Tennessee at Denver (-2.5)

Can’t figure out these Titans.  But they are better than the Broncos.  Aren’t they?  Denver shocked most with a win at the Chargers last week.  But that might be their high water mark of the season, to be brutally honest.

Tennessee 17, Denver 10.

Pittsburgh at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)

Devlin Hodges.  ‘Nuff said.

Los Angeles Chargers 27, Pittsburgh 12.  

Detroit at Green Bay (-4.5)

Welp, maybe we find out if the Lions are for real here.  Any team coming off a bye usually gets extra credit from me.  But…I simply cannot do it.  The bye is nice.  And I’m happy Matty Patricia and his team are off to a nice start.  The Lions have tied a bad Cardinal team, barely beat a (now we realize) a subpar Charger team, had a good win against the Eagles and a close loss against the Chiefs (though KC’s D is below average).  Encouraging, especially the last two weeks.  But we are still talking about the Lions.

Green Bay 34, Detroit 21.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  3-2

Season (against the spread):  41-38

Season (straight up):  52-27

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