NFL Week #16
Last week, two games were decided by the foolishness of players who committed the inexcusable sin of trying to stretch the call out towards the goal line and risk a fumble. Had both players simply gone down with the ball at the one-yard line, both teams would have had plenty of time to run a few more plays and potentially win the game.
Pittsburgh lost the chance to have the ball at the half-yard line against New England. Instead, the receiver foolishly stuck the ball out instead of taking the sure catch and completion. Meanwhile, if Oakland’s quarterback had taken the ball out of bounds at the 1, at worst they would have been able to kick a field goal and go into overtime.
Sticking the ball out towards the goal line is the dumbest, riskiest, and — as we’ve seen — the most costly act any ball carrier can make. Given the risk and the rules, it makes no sense at all. Earlier this season, a Baltimore linebacker intercepted a pass and instead of being tackled at the 1-yard line and it being 1st and goal for the Ravens, he fumbled the ball through the end-zone and the opponent got the ball back at the 20. Baltimore ended up losing the game by 3 points. Since the Ravens could miss the playoffs by one game, that likely means stretching the ball out might cost Baltimore a playoff spot.
New England reportedly has a team rule AGAINST stretching the ball out when being tackled. Bill Belichick is strictly against this. His record speaks for itself.
Incredibly, three games where idiot ball carriers tried to stretch the ball to the goal line resulted in disaster. Those three games will impact the AFC playoff race and perhaps even determine the home field advantage. That’s how big a disaster this was for Pittsburgh, Oakland, and Baltimore.
No football player should ever risk a fumble at the goal line unless it’s in the last dire seconds or desperate final play, or first-half of the game.
By the way, my opinion has nothing to do with my wagers. In one game (Pittsburgh) the idiotic play actually saved me a loss. I got a push instead. In the other game (Oakland), I had the under. So, both situations were contrary to my betting interests. My wagering has no bearing on what’s obviously playing stupid football.
I’ll say it again: No football player should ever risk a fumble at the goal line unless it’s in the last dire seconds or desperate final play, or first-half of the game.
End of discussion.
2017 NFL REGULAR SEASON RESULTS
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000.
CURRENT BALANCE: $11,900. (+$1,900.)
OVERALL W-L RECORD: 54 wins / 42 loses / 3 pushes
Week #1 — 3 wins, 4 losses = net -$250
Week #2 — 1 win, 0 losses = net +$350
Week #3 — 7 wins, 2 losses = net +$1,070
Week #4 — 1 win, 1 loss = net -$20
Week #5 — 7 wins, 3 losses = net +$740
Week #6 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$40
Week #7 — 3 wins, 4 losses, 1 push = net -$280
Week #8 — 4 wins, 2 losses = net +$360
Week #9 — 2 wins, 2 losses = net -$270
Week #10 — 9 wins, 6 losses = net +$480
Week #11 — 3 wins, 4 losses = net -$280
Week #12 — 2 wins, 4 losses = net -$480
Week #13 — 4 wins, 2 losses = net +$360
Week #14 — 4 wins, 4 losses = net -80
Week #15 — 2 wins, 2 losses, 1 push = net +$60
CORRECTION: Two weeks ago, I went 4-4, for a net loss of -$80. However, in my write-up posted last Sunday, I mistakenly counted one loss as a win and tallied my weekly record as 5 wins and 3 losses. That was incorrect. I always report my results and W-L record accurately and have made the correction in this week’s write up.
LAST WEEK’S UPDATE: Last week, I posted 2 wins, 2 losses, and 1 push — for a net win of +$60. The small profit resulted from betting slightly more on the winning teaser play. That puts me at +12 games over .500 for the season after 15 weeks. Just two weeks of the regular season remain.
WINLESS TEAMS UPDATE: The “bet on all winless teams” angle has crashed and burned. Last week, Cleveland (the NFL’s only remaining winless team) lost again, both straight up and against the spread. The system is now 7-11 for the season for a loss of -5.1 units. This week, the Browns are getting +6.5 at Chicago.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS:
On to this week’s games (lines current as of Saturday afternoon). I made FIVE wagers:
Detroit at Cincinnati
From a wagering standpoint, this is the most intriguing game of the week in my opinion. Detroit is in a must-win situation playing for a possible wild card spot versus a deflated team that could be motivated to deliver a final home win for longtime head coach Marvin Lewis. I bet on the Lions heavy early in the week, riding the anti-Cincinnati money train which continues to pay dividends. Recall, three weeks ago I touted the Bengals highly at home on MNF hosting Pittsburgh, which covered easily despite a last-second meltdown. Then, knowing the Bengals would be demoralized, I bet against them taking Chicago two weeks ago. The Bears destroyed Cincinnati in that game. Then, last week I unloaded my cash accounts on the moneyline favorite (Minnesota) knowing Cincinnati would have nothing left in the tank for a road game against the Vikings. At one point, the Bengals were down 24-0. It could have ended 50-0 had Minnesota not taken their foot off the gas. So, the Bengals have played very much according to expectation. This week, I still think this is an anti-Cincinnati spot. The team lacks confidence and consistency. However, many respected handicappers are on the other side of this contest which does worry me. In fact, the line went from -4 down to -3 at one point (it’s now -3 to -3.5). I don’t worry about being a contrarian in some games, but this worries me a little. There were some reports that Detroit’s offensive line will be patchwork for this game (two key injuries, including a shift in positions for two linemen). That concerns me. Also of concern is the Bengals defense getting healthier. Then again, the defense was terrible even with the previous starters, so what’s the difference? Weather could be a factor as cold and snow was in the early forecast. The anti-Detroit bettors also cite (incorrectly) the Lions poor record outdoors playing in the elements (damn the domes). But that’s not current. I went back and looked at Lions record in cold road outdoor games in December the last three years. Detroit played at Green Bay once and at Chicago twice — AND WON ALL THREE GAMES. While this is a small sample size, it might be wise to ignore the falsehoods about Detroit playing badly in cold weather. Of course, the biggest factor here is the pending departure of Marvin Lewis. Some think Cincinnati will rise to the occasion and play tough for a coach that’s generally been popular with his players. But taking the opposite view, wouldn’t the team play tough for him in other recent games, too? What exactly has anyone convinced the Bengals can suddenly flip a switch and be competitive? Cincy offense has been dreadful, scoring just 7 points in each of the last two games. All one has to do is look at QB Anthony Dalton’s face and see the frustration (he’s been pulled mid-game each of the past two weeks). Meanwhile, the defense has been getting scorched the last ten quarters, giving up 87 points in that span. I don’t think Bengals numerous problems are going to be solved in late December. Bengals have the worst rushing offense in the NFL, which means they can’t run the ball. That will mandate they throw often (at least one capper I respect loves the OVER in this game). Oddly enough, Detriot is the second worst NFL rushing team in the league, which also means we should see lots of passing (barring the elements interfering in game plans). What compels me to wager on Detroit is looking more closely at their 8-6 record. ALL THE LOSSES were against winning teams — Minnesota, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Carolina, and Atlanta. But their eight wins were against mediocre to bad teams. This tells me (1) Detroit isn’t that good of a team, but….(2) Detroit consistently wins the games they should, and….(3) Cincinnati lines up perfectly as a team Detroit should beat. Yes, I am concerned about inclement weather and the Bengals’ motivation being a factor. But Detroit is clearly the better team with a proven ability to win the games they should. With playoffs on the line and knowing Cincy is playing its last home game for Lewis, I don’t think Lions take this opponent lightly. They can’t afford to. An extra day to prepare (Lions played and won easily last Saturday) also helps the road favorite. I’m making two wagers on this game — Detroit on the moneyline and Detroit -3 laying the extra juice. (WEATHER UPDATE: Earlier forecast called for snow and temps in mid-20s. Not, looks to be cloudy and temps in mid-30s — probably helps Detroit.)
LA Rams at Tennessee
This line looks to be inflated based on last week’s results, where Rams looked like a Super Bowl team and the Titans looked awful. I’m not sure about betting against Titans in this spot. I’m hoping the number hits +7 in which case Tennessee becomes far more attractive as the home dog. Still, there’s enough here for me to pull the trigger at Titans+6.5. No argument that Rams are a bona fide winner and arguably the most exciting team to watch in the NFL. However, coming off such a dominant victory that no one saw coming (last week LAR led SEA 37-0 at one point) Rams could run into some motivation issues and put up a lackluster effort. Tough for any team to blow out opponents every single week. The real key here is disrespected Titans which aren’t getting much love from the public despite being 8-6 and still very much in the playoff race. The tipping point for me is the Titans’ impressive 5-1 home record. After two straight road losses, this homecoming becomes a circle the wagons game and should provide a stage for a much better effort. I expect Titans to show up and for this to be a closer game than the line suggests. As I said, given the Rams’ high-scoring offense, I’d feel far better getting the full touchdown. Based on the +6.5 that’s current, I still think there’s enough +EV to fire with a wager. Taking the home motivated dog playing for its playoff life.
Tampa Bay at Carolina
Carolina plays its third straight home game after winning the previous two in impressive fashion (Panthers covered in both games vs. MINN and GB). I can’t lay -10 here as I don’t give double digits in divisional games. But the teaser does have some appeal, though it’s admittedly landing on a bad number (-4). Purist will argue this is a game to pass on, but I’m gambling on favored Panthers not so much because I believe they’re worthy of laying extra points. It’s more of a situational anti-Tampa play which will have a very difficult time going on the road agaisnt solid opponent following such a devastating emotional letdown off the home MNF loss. The short preparation week and some key injuries don’t help the Bucs, either. Note the last few home dog inferior teams got destroyed the following week. CIN played PIT tough three weeks ago and then was humiliated by 30 in a home loss to Chicago. MIA upset NWE in what amounted to its Super Bowl and then lost to BUF. I see a similar result here where Bucs lack the pedigree or motivation to go on the road and give a test to a team that’s still playing for a division title. With road game at Atlanta next week, this is is huge game for Panthers which should deliver a victory by more than -4. Teasing the home favorite.
Seattle at Dallas
Credit the Cowboys for three straight victories, keeping their playoff hopes alive. However, Dallas has beaten up three soft teams and draws a much tougher opponent here which is coming off one of their worst losses in history. Seattle might have given up once the score reached an insurmountable point last week — so final tally may be slightly misleading. Sure, Seahawks lost every phase of the game. But we may want to throw out the horrid effort and expect something much better this week. Seahawks have faced an excruciating stretch of games last three weeks — versus PHIL, JAX, and LAR (combined 30-11 record) — and now face arguably a slight drop off in talent. Remember, Seattle beat Philadelphia convincingly three weeks ago (Eagles were at full strength). I think the betting public is vastly overreacting here to the last few games. Dallas will continue to run the ball heavily and doesn’t pose nearly the diversity of threats as the Rams did last week. So, we can likely expect a closer game. If the line was +3, I might pass. But +4.5 is more than enough points to make a wager. Playing Seattle +4.5
Oakland at Philadelphia
Eagles don’t seem to have lost a step offensively with backup Nick Foles doing a nice job as the fill-in for injured Carson Wentz. The drop off might show in playoffs, but not here nor in situations where Eagles are clearly the superior team. What’s of concern for Philadelphia is the defense, which has been embarrassing the last two weeks. How does Phila allow the Giants to pass for 430 yards? I suspect some of those issues to be fixed this week. They better get fixed, or Eagles will be gone early in playoffs. Oakland is one a two-game slide and now flies to East Coast for a night game on Christmas. Given how mediocre the Raiders have looked this season, tough to see how this team will rally and put up enough of a fight to beat one of the leagues’ top teams. If Raiders do make a game of it, they will have to score points, but I don’t see that happening. Last seven games with QB Carr back, Raiders averaging just 18 PPG. That’s not going to be enough to keep pace with Eagles. Philadelphia is a perfect 6-0 at home this season and should roll here. I don’t like laying the -9 (though that’s tempting). Although it conflicts with basic strategy teaser, I’ll still tease the Eagles from -9 down to -3 and look for an easy cover. This teaser is combined with the Panthers.
Detroit (Moneyline -165) vs. Cincinnati (Risking $330 to win $200)
Detroit (-3 at -120) vs. Cincinnati (Risking $240 to win $200)
Tennessee +6.5 vs. Los Angeles (Risking $220 to win $200)
Teaser (ties lose): Carolina -4 / Philadelphia -3 (Risking $220 to win $200)
Seattle +4.5 vs. Dallas (Risking $220 to win $200)
OTHER GAMES AND THOUGHTS:
SD at NYJ — Betting public will be on visiting Chargers laying close to a touchdown (-6.5). I’d go contrarian and bet the Jets if the QB position was more secure. However, backup QB Bryce Petty hasn’t shown he has an NFL pedigree, so it’s way too risky to bet the home dog and expect them to score enough points to get the cover. I’ve been riding the Jets in home games most of the season, but this is the game to lay off. Also, there’s some uncertainty as to what condition the Chargers will be in following a devastating road loss at Kansas City last week which probably will cost them the division title and a playoff spot. Tough for them to go on the road again after such an ass-kicking. I can’t possibly lay this number. UNDER 42.5 looks very tempting. Chargers have played four straight UNDERs and the Jets are probably a good UNDER bet with the lousy inexperienced QB.
CLE at CHI — Bears favored by -6.5 in a game expected to be cold and frigid. Normal circumstances would dictate taking the points in a game with a low total (38), especially since the favored team’s offense has struggled to score points. However, the Browns are an impossible wager at this point (just 4-12 against the spread this season and on the coldest run in pointspread history). UNDER has some appeal. Otherwise, this is a pass.
ATL at NOR — Not to sound like a broken record, but I hate betting these high-totaled dome games played on rubber grass with two solid QBs playing for what could be the division title. Way too many variables. Way too many passes being thrown. Way too unpredictable for me. If I absolutely had to bet the game, I’d take Atlanta which has won three straight in this rivalry and seems to be getting too many points. This is especially true since New Orleans hasn’t always played up to par at home this season 3-4 ATS). There are no sports teams where I have an emotional connection other than to the Saints, and since I can’t evaluate them objectively, I tend to pass on betting either for or against them. I’d sure like to play the Falcons here but can’t do it. But bettors should be advised that Atlanta looks to have some value at +5.
DEN at WASH — Washington has been my Achilles heel this season. I can never figure out when they are going to show up for a game. Redskins are wildly unpredictable and even with Denver’s quarterback mess (starter still hasn’t been announced — might be time to suit up the waterboy), I can’t lay a number with the home favorite. It might be worth noting that Broncos have very quietly won two straight, but those were against horrid teams (INDY and NYJ with quarterback injured). If you must bet the game, probably worth taking the points at +3.5. But I did that last week in an identical spot with Arizona for first-half and the game — and lost both bets. So, not going to make the mistake again betting a bad team and asking them to cover on the road.
MIA at KC — Chiefs are laying -10 after righting the sinking ship the last two week against division rivals. Kansas City is playing third straight at home and also had extra prep time for this game, so all the conditions exist for a blowout. Miami prospects not helped by playing yet another cold road game second straight week after 8-point loss at Buffalo. Temperatures expected to be in the mid-20s. Incredibly, QB Cutler — no stranger to cold weather games from his time in DEN and CHI — was reported this week to be possibly returning again in 2018. That’s important news as Cutler may want to prove something in this game. Yes, that might sound like a punch line. But it’s enough to keep me off the game. Kansas City might be due for an ugly go-through-the-motions win but non-cover. Dolphins could be worth a buck or so at +10.5, which is avaiable at some sportsbooks.
BUF at NWE — I have to wonder how much is left in the emotional tank for Patriots after last week’s epic victory in Pittsburgh. This is a contrarian’s quintessential situation, taking the divisional dog getting a ton of points (+12 and moving higher). I’d probably bite the apple at +13 but can’t go at this number. New England has dominated this matchup for years. At 8-6 and still playing for a playoff spot, Buffalo should be given some consideration by serious bettors. Nothing would compel me to bet New England laying this number.
JAX at SFO — San Francisco is a different team with Garopollo under center, winners of three straight. However, Jacksonville defense is for real. Jaguars probably the dark horse team in the AFC and likely the best bet on the board at odds to win Super Bowl. This game will actually tell us more about the Jags than we may realize. If they roll up a big victory and the close with a win the final week — look out. If Jags mail in a weak performance here, then perhaps the team is just benefiting from weak competition. I’d probably play the 49ers getting +4 at home if forced to wager. But I’ll pass instead.
NYG at ARX — NYG played a surprisingly tough game at home hosting Philadelphia last week. They came within a play of winning outright (stopped at 11-yard line with seconds left). It appears QB Manning, who put up 400 yards passing last week, still has something to prove heading into a long offseason. Getting points, NYG are sure tempting as a wager, but their defense has major gaps. ARZ offense goes back to another replacement QB (Drew Stanton) after the last few miserable weeks with Blain Gabbert. Too many question marks with Cards offense. Arizona is 4-3 at home and clearly plays better in Phoenix. That keeps me off the game.
PIT at HOU — I don’t lay close to double digits on the road. Ever. Supposedly, the Steelers will be “mad” and now take it out on the weak Texans. Maybe. But hard to say how that devastating loss last week will affect the team. Also, Steelers have a horrid reputation for playing down to their level of competition. Pittsburgh has also lost FOUR STRAIGHT against the spread. It’s hard to like Houston which starts a bum QB and has a lot of players who make really dumb mistakes (the defensive backs are painful to watch sometimes). That said, much like the last three MNF home dogs covering the spread, this game has become Houston’s Super Bowl. Look for an emotional high for Texans. Too many question marks for me to make a wager.