Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Week 16 NFL Picks

"Get the commissioner on
the phone.  We're forfeiting
the rest of the first half."
I have a little issue with John Harbaugh's clock management at the end of the first half last Sunday night.  (This part will be better if you picture Jack Nicholson sitting in Cuba wearing a Colonel's uniform while you read it).  "You see, I can deal with the missed field goals and the blown coverages and the interceptions. I can deal with the frustration and the angst and the aggravation.  I don't want excuses and I don't want apologies. What I want is for the head coach of my favorite team to stand there in that dorky Ravens sweatshirt and, with his Miami University mouth, extend the fuckin' first half by using his timeouts."

Late in the second quarter, Phillip Rivers hit Malcom Floyd who was tackled on the one yard line with about 1:46 left in the half.  The Chargers had two timeouts left which meant that they were in absolutely no jeopardy of running out of time before they ran four plays from the one.  In fact, the ideal scenario for them would be to run two plays to get the clock down under 30 seconds and then score the touchdown on third and goal.  John Harbaugh, however, was in a perfect position to thwart this as he had shrewdly saved all three of his timeouts so the Ravens could get the ball back with over a minute to play.

Instead, he called no timeouts and, to compound the mistake, the Chargers scored on second down after running the clock down to 26 seconds.  So instead of getting the ball back down by 10 with about 1:30 left and one timeout, the Ravens got the ball back with 13 seconds left and three timeouts which were worth less than American Airlines stock at that point.  They got off two plays before the end of the half.  The Chargers then got the ball to start the second half and...bing...bang...boom...touchdown...game over because you're not making-up 17 points on a night when bad Joe Flacco got on the plane again.  (Have we ruled-out the possibility that Joe Flacco has a twin brother he sends to all of the away games except Pittsburgh because he's afraid to fly?)

"Bring out the Nerd!!!"
It's probably unfair to single out Harbaugh when there are multiple clock management debacles by different coaches every week (see Andy Reid having Michael Vick scramble around and throw a 25 yard pass out of the back of the end zone with 6 seconds left against the Bills and then stare at the zeroes on the clock in disbelief or any of Jason Garrett's recent work).  What I don't understand is why they don't brng in a specialist to handle these situations.  They already have a dozen coaches, trainers and managers roaming around the sidelines.  Why not add a math nerd and put him next to the coach for the last two minutes of each half to handle the timeouts?  If nothing else, the Sound FX scenes would be great, "OK Gandhi, talk to me" . . . ."coach, my name is Bill". . . ."yeah whatever."

On to the picks:                

Houston by 5.5 over Indy:  The Pick - Texans

Now that the Colts have gotten the monkey off their backs and let the Vikings and Rams back into the Suck for Luck race, I expect them to start digging their heels into the ground like the harness jockey in Easy Money.  (Check out Tom Noonan on the right auditioning for his part as the serial killer in Manhunter three years later.  He looks like he wants to cut the jockey's eyes out before Joe Peschi jumps him.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5DKoIAn45g&feature=related)). 

Kansas City by 1 over Oakland:  The Pick - Chiefs

"So you really think we can single cover
Calvin Johnson?  I hadn't thought of that."
Raiders' coach, Hue Jackson, was recently pictured in ESPN Magazine getting a pedicure next to the following quote, "After putting the game plan together, I come to this East Bay nail salon on the weekend before every home game and gather my thoughts.  I'll spend about 90 minutes getting my feet rubbed, calluses scraped and fingernails and toenails buffed."  The first thing that jumped into my head was the image of a disgusted Jon Gruden reading that quote followed by the sound of spit whistling through his clenched teeth.      

Denver by 3 over Buffalo:  The Pick - Broncos

 A game Tebow is actually supposed to win.  I'm sure God is thankful for the bye week.

Tennessee by 7.5 over Jacksonville:  The Pick - Titans

"Whaddya say guys...let's just go out
and play our best game ever!"
Here's a quiz:  Blaine Gabbert, Jarrett Dillard and Chastin West - (a) Starting quarterback and wide receivers for an NFL team, or (b) the cast of High School Musical 4?  This should be a slam dunk but the Titans have gagged away the greatest single season window of opportunity in NFL history by not winning a division where every other team lost it's starting quarterback for the year so who knows?           

N.Y. Jets by 3 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Giants

"Eli"te Manning barfed-up a no touchdown three interception hairball against the Redskins just when the Giants were in position to take control of the division. Here's a good stat for measuring quarterbacks. How many games does their team win in the second half of the season when playoff spots are on the line? So far the Saints and Patriots have won their last 6 and the Packers are 5-1 (but we'll cut them some slack considering they were 8-0 before that). The Giants? 1-5. During that stretch Eli has thrown 9 picks while Rodgers, Brady and Brees have combined for 5.  And I'm picking the Giants in this game which shows how much I think of Mark Sanchez.

New England by 10 over Miami:  The Pick - Dolphins

"Honey, where's that jacket I wore when
I was on the Match Game.  I really want
to make a strong first impression."
Brian Billick said that he would have an interest in the Dolphins' coaching job if approached.  Rumor has it that Rex Ryan and Bill Belichik have already faxed over their letters of recommendation.      

Cincinnati by 4 over Arizona: The Pick - Bengals

Speaking of Billick, he draws the assignment of covering this flavorless match-up as part of Fox's "C" crew.  I bet he jokes with his friends that the "C" stands for "Cool" as he quietly dies inside.

Baltimore by 13 over Cleveland:  The Pick - Ravens

Joe Flacco fans will tell you that you have to look at more than just statistics when you judge him which presumes that he has certain qualities like leadership skills and the ability to perform under pressure that exceed those of the guys we might want to compare him to like say Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady.  I don't want to completely dismiss the argument that Joe has the intangibles edge over the guys who've won seven of the last ten Super Bowls but, for just a second, let's put that argument over there on the side . . . no a little further . . . little more . . . ok now close the door.     

Here are the bottom line numbers.  Flacco has thrown 17 touchdown passes and the Ravens have scored 31 total offensive touchdowns (rushing and receiving).  There is a good chance that if they are going to win the Super Bowl, they will have to beat Tom Brady and either Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees to do it.  The average number of touchdowns thrown by those three guys is 37 and the offensive touchdowns scored by each of their teams is Packers - 52, Saints - 51 and Patriots - 49.  That means those teams are averaging 3.6 offensive touchdowns per game to the Ravens' 2.2 which translates into a 9.8 point differential.  I'm not a "Ravens Insider" but I'm guessing the fact that the Ravens have not extended Flacco's contract and handed him $30M guaranteed may have something to do with these numbers.  Just a theory.                           

Washington by 6.5 over Minnesota:  The Pick - Redskins

"What the fuck was that?!?"
The Redskins are gathering steam and could be headed for a 7-9 record which would put them just out of reach of the top quarterbacks in the draft though they might luck out because teams like the Browns, Jags and Bucs will be too stubborn to admit their recently drafted quarterbacks stink and will pass on the highly rated prospects in this draft (because why would you want depth at the most important position on the field?)  This is also known as "The Boller Gambit" made popular by Ravens coach Brian Billick who passed on Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft because his pride and arrogance prevented him from giving-up on Kyle Boller after two years despite the fact that Boller clearly had the pocket presence of an over-caffeinated squirrel.  

Carolina by 7.5 over Tampa Bay:  The Pick - Panthers

This is one of two games this week where neither team involved has a mathematical chance of making the playoffs so let's just say goodbye to Bucs coach Raheem Morris and move on.      

Pittsburgh by 15.5 over St. Louis:  The Pick - Steelers

On Saturday morning at about 2:00 a.m., the alarm went off in our house and believe me, nothing gets the heart pumping like being woken-up by a blaring alarm and then looking at the keypad in your bedroom and seeing "Intruder - Kitchen".  As I stood in the hallway trying to listen for man made sounds coming from downstairs (other than the blaring alarm), I started running through the mental checklist I had for this situation:  (1) pretend you have a gun by yelling, "I'm getting the gun!" and (2) grab the hunting knife from the closet (but then I had a vision of it sticking out of the side of my head so I decided to go in unarmed).  By that time I started to get my wits about me and realized that it must be a false alarm . . . . and then I heard someone sprinting up the steps.  (We've had a burglar in the house before and I can tell you from experience that the sound of someone downstairs looking for stuff to steal has a distinctly different effect on your adrenaline flow than the sound of someone sprinting up your steps).  

At that point I set myself about six feet from the top of the steps and got ready to launch myself at the guy (not sure what I planned to do after that).  I've actually had some practice at this move having used it on an overly celebratory Titans fan in the concourse of Ravens' stadium after a particularly frustrating playoff loss in 2004 (turns out running 20 feet and slamming yourself into the midsection of a total stranger wearing the other team's jersey is a great way to blow off steam).  Anyway, as the guy was reaching the turn in the steps and I got ready to make my move I thought "those sound like pretty small footsteps."  A second later my formerly sleepwalking and now sleep running 8 year old son appeared at the top of the steps and I resisted the urge to flatten him anyway.

What does this have to do with the Steelers-Rams game?  Not much other than the thought of ramming the guy in the face with my head a la James Harrison never crossed my mind because what kind of psychopath hits like that?       

Detroit by 2 over San Diego:  The Pick - Chargers

"That includes free
paintball lessons."
OK let's roll through the rest of these as I have an office gift exchange to get to.  (I hope I score the bag of paintballs this year).  The Chargers are rolling while the Lions appear to be careening toward the last NFC playoff spot and a 45-17 loss to New Orleans in the first round highlighted by Ndamukong Suh punching a ref in the face and then saying, "what?  I was just trying to straighten his cap."       

San Francisco by 2.5 over Seattle:  The Pick - Seahawks

I probably owe it to the 49ers to pick them after they potentially saved the Ravens' season on Monday night but the Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in football right now and Tavaris Jackson is playing like a top ten quarterback.  (Writing that felt weird).  I hope the Seahawks win just so we get to see Pete Carroll redefine the word "smug" when he shakes Jim Harbaugh's hand.

Dallas by 2 over Philadelphia:  The Pick - Eagles

The "Clock Management Bowl."  We may have our first instance of a coach calling a timeout to ice a punter.        

Green Bay by 12.5 over Chicago:  The Pick - Packers

Over the past five weeks the story line for this game has devolved from "Epic Divisional Match-Up" to "Two Wins Away from Perfection" to "How Many Fantasy Football Titles Does Aaron Rodgers Control?"  Unfortunately not mine as I was one of the eight guys in America who had him and missed the playoffs (and the only guy who had Rodgers and Calvin Johnson and missed the playoffs).  I hope he sits out the second half to make me feel better.  Screw everyone else who owns him.   

New Orleans by 6.5 over Atlanta:  The Pick - Saints

Let's just say that if Drew Brees has a big night, there will probably be an extremely self-serving (even by my standards) fantasy football post on Tuesday.  Come on Drew bring it home for the Jerkstore baby!

Last week: 7-8-1 . . . . Season: 75-66-3

Special Bonus NBA Preview

For the five of you that care, I'm going with the Heat over the Thunder in six games as Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert stages a protest on behalf of small market teams outside of soon to be renamed American Airlines Arena that (a) ignores the fact that one of the teams in the finals plays in Oklahoma City, and (b) somehow has less impact than Martha Burk's Masters protest.

   
My female readership takes another hit.