Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Week 15 NFL Picks

Those commentators who expressed shock over the Ravens' decision to fire Cam Cameron based on the fact that they are 9th in the league in scoring with three games to play are missing the point. To explain why this was the right move, and why it should have been done in the off season, I could point out that, in their nine games decided by 7 points or less this season, the Ravens are averaging 4.8 points in the 4th quarter and overtime (this includes being shutout in four of those 4th quarters). I could also make a broader generalization about how Joe Flacco has only improved from being "raw" to "above average" in his five years under Cameron (which could be just as much on Joe but we won't know that until next year when he may be playing in Arizona or Kansas City).*

Taking a knee may actually have
been the right call because . . .
cue the theme from Jaws.
All of that matters but here is how we know it had hit rock bottom. Last Sunday the Ravens had the ball in a tie game on their 20 yard line with a timeout and a kicker with 65 yard range. That means they had at least three plays to advance the ball about 35 yards for a shot at winning the game but instead THEY TOOK A KNEE which was like announcing over the P.A. system, "the Ravens have so little faith in their offense's ability that they are going to concede this opportunity to win the game in regulation" (and then as the announcer was putting down the microphone you would hear him say, "what a bunch of pus . . .").

If there was any questions before last Sunday as to whether Joe Flacco is "elite," that decision answered it because here is a list of quarterbacks who would not have taken a knee in that situation: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, RG, III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, Andy Dalton and Johnny "Football" Manziel (and believe me, not all of those guys are "elite"). Having some idea of how Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti is wired, I'm surprised he didn't walk down from his box and fire Cameron on the spot (but only after ripping John Harbaugh for wasting two second half timeouts on (1) a fake punt that he didn't even run and (2) the Redskins' two-point conversion when, more than anything, Kirk Cousins needed a minute to make his heart stop beating like a deer that just wandered into a Chuck 'E' Cheese). This should have happened in the off-season so they could have seen if Joe Flacco improved under a different coordinator. Now it may be too late.

Replacing Cameron is former Colts' head coach and quarterbacks coach, Jim Caldwell. So the Ravens have turned away from the guy who built his reputation while coaching Drew Brees and put their offense in the hands of the guy who built his reputation while coaching Petyon Manning. Let's be honest, the job of quarterbacks coach with the Colts during the Manning era was kind of like being the ambassador to Canada.** You go to some meetings, make a few harmless suggestions and generally try not to screw-up a situation that is un-screwupable. He's going to have to work a little harder for his paycheck in Baltimore.

Green Bay by 2.5 over Chicago: The Pick - Packers

We need to start a list of NFL related topics that, when raised, are immediately quashed with a resounding "STOP IT!" At or near the top of that list would be the theory that the Bears are a Super Bowl team with a healthy Jay Cutler at quarterback. It has become quite clear at this point that something will always go wrong.

Atlanta by 2 over the Giants: The Pick - Giants

Exhibit "A" for every W.K.
student accused of violating
the school's honor code.
Despite this being one of the marquee games of the weekend, there is a much more entertaining Falcons angle to be played. Former Falcons' coach Bobby Petrino was recently hired as the new head football coach at Western Kentucky University. Some may remember Petrino as the coach who walked-out on the Falcons amidst the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal announcing his decision to his players with thoughtful notes left in their lockers as opposed to actually telling them in person which would have been very awkward (for him). Others may remember Petrino as the coach who was fired from his next job at the University of Arkansas because he neglected to mention that, when he crashed his motorcycle, he happened to be giving a ride to a former Razorback volleyball player (and it should be pointed out that his wife is not a former Arkansas volleyball player so you do the math). In announcing the decision, Western Kentucky athletic director, Todd Stewart, said, "this is the United States of America and we're a country of 'second chances'" Apparently we're also the country that never gives-up on the hooker with the heart of gold.

New Orleans by 3 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Saints

I'm sorry but I'm still stuck on this idea that the NBA's New Orleans Hornets are changing their names to the Pelicans. I mean a wonderful bird is the Pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can. He can hold in his beak enough food for a week . . . but I'll be darned if I know how the hell he can. But does that make him a good choice for a mascot?

Miami by 7 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Dolphins

Ahh the classic battle to determine the second best football team in the state of Florida which is kind of like the battle to determine the second most talented Baldwin brother.

Stephen? . . . Whahappened?!?
St. Louis by 3 over Minnesota: The Pick - Rams

Another cautionary tale for the Ravens during the Joe Flacco contract negotiations. Over the last two games, Adrian Peterson has out-rushed Christian Ponders' passing total by 154 yards (Peterson's great, but he ain't that great).

Washington by 1.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

On Monday when RG, III was doubtful, this spread was Browns by 6.5 so congratulations if you rolled the dice and took the Skins early because now you could take the Browns and have a nice little 8 point double down window if the Browns win by 6 points or less or the Skins win by a point (or if they tie). Even for someone who bailed on being a math major after one semester because you can't bullshit a math test, that took me way too long to figure-out.

Denver by 2.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

One thing you can't hang completely on Cam Cameron is Joe Flacco's complete obliviousness to what is going on around him in the pocket. It's as if he thinks that once a defensive player goes past him, he falls off the face of the Earth. Jim Caldwell might want to start by giving the offensive linemen a safe word that they can yell so Joe knows when to get out of the strip sack pose that he apparently practices in the mirror.

Houston by 8.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Colts

The "R" on the Texans' jackets
apparently stood for "Roadkill."
Just when you thought that the Texans were ready to take their place among the NFL's elite teams, they show-up in New England wearing a bunch of stupid letterman jackets and get their doors blown-off by Brady and Co. In their defense, the last time we saw someone desperately resorting to a letterman jacket, it worked.***

San Diego by 3 over Carolina: The Pick - Panthers

Cam Newton continues to pose and preen his way to the second 6-10 record of his NFL career while three rookie quarterbacks on teams no more talented than the Panthers are on the verge of making the playoffs. Keep smiling Cam.

Seattle by 4 over Buffalo: the Pick - Seahawks

Even if we give the Bills 3 points for the home field, they would still need to be 51 points better than the Cardinals to cover this spread and I've got them 35 points better than the Cardinals at best.

Detroit by 6 over Arizona: The Pick - Lions

At this point, hasn't Cardinals' coach Ken Whisenhunt become Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly? The product of an experiment gone horribly wrong begging someone to put him out of his misery with a shotgun. Whisenhunt is now stuck in the modern day NFL coaching Catch-22. He's a good coach who may be looking for a job this off season but, after what he's been through, he's not going to take one with a lousy quarterback. The problem is that teams with good quarterbacks are rarely looking to hire. The one exception would be if Sean Payton takes the Cowboys' job leaving a vacancy in New Orleans . . . hmmm....remember you heard it here first.  

Dallas by 1 over Pittsburgh: The Pick - Steelers

Never a good sign for your QB
when the Super Bowl MVP is
the other team's cornerback.
Your answer to the trivia question, "which two teams have played each other most often in the Super Bowl?" They've played three times with the Steelers winning two classics and the Cowboys winning one of the most forgettable games in Super Bowl history (if Neil O'Donnell starts in a Super Bowl, did it really happen?).

Oakland by 2.5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Raiders

I really don't have anything worthwhile to say about this game so I'm just going with the following quote: "I went to school with a lot of people who listened to jazz. You know what all of those people had in common? . . . . None of them could shoot a jump shot." - Tony Kornheiser memorializing Dave Brubeck (sort of ).

New England by 3 over San Francisco: The Pick - 49ers

Let's face it. This one is all about the post-game handshake as we have Jim "The Bumper" Harbaugh v. Bill "The Cold Shoulder" Belichik and how great would it be if Belichick told Vince Wilfork that, "we're going to run it up big against these jokers so get ready to pancake Harbaugh if he gives me any guff?"

Tennessee by 1 over the N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Who gives a crap?

You can't really blame whomever picked this game for a late season Monday nighter because you know they were banking on Tim Tebow being the starter by now (as was Tim Tebow and, as far as I can tell, every football fan between the ages of 8 and 12). Who would have thought that the Redskins at the Browns would be an infinitely better option at this point? I guess I'll take the Jets. Someone let me know who wins.

Last Week's Record: 6-10 . . . Season Record: 98-104-6

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Endnotes

* As Bill Simmons wrote this week, "He's [Flacco] submitting the most mundane contract year of all time." - The NFL QB Power Poll.

And we did not see the
leather pants coming.
** As compared to the Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks coach which would be like being the ambassador to North Korea . . . if we had an ambassador to North Korea, which we don't (thank you internet).

*** I will admit that I am not proud of how many times I have seen Grease but you have to remember that it came out at a time when HBO only had about three or four movies running on a constant loop (most of which starred Jan Michael Vincent - I particularly enjoyed Defiance) and we were so enthralled by the profanity, potential nudity and lack of commercials that we would watch anything (so things have not changed that much). Grease, however, was good clean fun that had that rare gift of re-watchibility due in no small part to the fact that John Travolta was in the midst of his first prime (also known as B.S.A. or "Before Staying Alive").