Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Week 15 NFL Picks

The NFL used to be the league of parity where any team in a given year could rise from the ashes and make a playoff run no matter how incompetent it seemed the year before. This was based in part on a salary cap system that was supposed to level the playing field by preventing good teams from keeping all of their talented players by paying them market or above-market value year after year. That worked for a while but, inevitably, the competent teams figured-out how to manage the cap by not overpaying players who were past their primes and by finding value where others could not. In 2014, it would now appear that the well-run teams have fully adjusted by applying one of the following three blueprints: (1) Keep riding the elite quarterback you scored in the draft (Patriots, Packers, Seahawks and Colts); (2) Go find a randomly available experienced quarterback who can make you at least a playoff contender every year (Broncos and Chiefs); or (3) Hire a great coach and build a winning organization that doesn't require a superstar passer (Ravens, Cardinals and Eagles).

Maybe if we quit showering
him with so much attention,
he'll stop pulling crap like this.
But who wants to talk about those successful teams when it's infinitely more entertaining to recognize the failing organizations and to examine how and why they have failed. Not to mention, the Patriots, Broncos and Packers already have Peter King writing them love sonnets every week so who needs more of that? (We all acknowledge that Brady, Manning and Rodgers are great but the slurping is getting a little over the top). Over the past four seasons including this one, six teams have distinguished themselves for their ineptitude - the Jets, Titans, Jaguars, Raiders, Redskins and Bucs (as every fan of one of those teams just winced at the suggestion that they are in the same class as the other five). Let's take a look at what this sextet of inadequacy has accomplished or failed to accomplish over the last three seasons.
  • There are twelve teams in the AFC with at least 7 wins and there are four teams with only 2 wins. (There are currently no AFC teams with 3, 4, 5, or 6 wins which has to be some kind of statistical anomaly . . . or something). The four teams with 2 wins each (the aforementioned Jets, Titans, Jaguars and Raiders) had a combined winning percentage in 2013 of .359 and a combined winning percentage in 2012 of .281. You have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a winning record for any of those four teams when the Titans went 9-7.
  • The two teams at the bottom of the NFC are the Redskins and the Bucs with 5 wins between them. Their combined winning percentage in 2013 was .219. The Redskins actually made the playoffs in RG, III's 2012 rookie season but they of course tainted that by playing their franchise quarterback until his injured leg literally looked like it was about to fall off thereby sacrificing their 2013 season and quickly returning them to the dark ages of 2011 when they went 5-11. The Bucs aggregate winning percentage since the start of the 2011 season is .266. You get the picture. 
Biggest red flag you can see on
a quarterback's scouting report?
"The Jags are really high on him."
  • The quarterbacks who started the most games for each of those six teams in 2012 were Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Carson Palmer, RG, III and Josh Freeman. Of those six quarterbacks, only Locker and RG, III are still with their 2012 teams and both have been benched this season. The quarterbacks who have started the most games for each of those six teams this season and their passer rating ranks are Geno Smith (34th), Zach Mettenberger (25th), Blake Bortles (33rd), Derek Carr (30th), Kirk Cousins (21st) and Josh McCown (32nd).      
  • The Jets made the AFC Championship Game in 2010 and 2011. To find another playoff win for any of these six teams you have to go back to January of 2008 when the Jags beat the Steelers. (Eat it Pittsburgh . . . eat it).           
So there you have what appear to be the past and immediate future dregs of the NFL. To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, it's six teams walking around blind without a cane when it comes to finding a quarterback and there is no indication that they're any closer than they were three years ago with the possible exception of the Raiders and Derek Carr. (If you're a fan of one of the other five teams, the fact that the Raiders may be better positioned to turn things around than your favorite team has to be a bit disconcerting). To make matters worse, they haven't displayed that they can even rise to a level mediocrity in the absence of a quality starter like the Texans, Rams, Bills and Browns have (another wincing moment for the beleaguered fans as the realization that their team has been lapped by the Bills and the Browns sinks-in).

So what's the cure for these six ailing franchises? Well, it is both simple and virtually unattainable. They all need a change of ownership because they stink from the top down and that business model doesn't work in the NFL (nor in many other places). From Al Davis' son in Oakland to P.T. Barnum in Washington, the guiding hand for each of these six teams can be described as suspect at best. And the one thing they all seem to have in common is an owner with the desire put those guiding hands all over the running of the football operations from hiring and firing the coaches to influencing the decisions about who to draft and start at quarterback. I'm pretty sure the CEO of Jet Blue isn't in the ear of his pilots telling them "a little to the left." At least I hope not.

But we don't even need that outrageous hypothetical when we can get such a better real life example from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who just recently decided to stop using unpaid homeless people (some of whom are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts) to sell beer at their home games after being called-out by the Tampa Bay Times (because they apparently needed to read about it in a newspaper before they realized it was a bad idea). Now consider that at the top of the organization is a person who both hired the people responsible for that decision and also hires the people making the football decisions. Then consider that that same person who keeps your team picking at the top of the draft is probably the final say on which players get picked thereby creating a hamster wheel of failure. Yeah, I'd be wincing too.                          

Well that was fun. Now let's get on to some picks:  
Hey, Merry Christmas.
St. Louis by 4.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Cardinals
Kansas City by 10 over Oakland: The Pick - Chiefs
Baltimore by 13.5 over Jags: The Pick - Ravens
Pittsburgh by 2.5 at Atlanta: The Pick - Falcons
Indianapolis by 6.5 over Houston: The Pick - Colts
Cincinnati by 1.5 at Cleveland: The Pick - Browns
New England by 7.5 over Miami: The Pick - Patriots
Carolina by 3 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Panthers
N.Y. by 6.5 over Washington: The Pick - Redskins
Green Bay by 5 at Buffalo: The Pick - Packers
Detroit by 8 over Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings
N.Y. Jets by 1.5 at Tennessee: The Pick - Jets
Denver by 4 at San Diego: The Pick - Broncos
Seattle by 9.5 over San Fran: The Pick - Seahawks
Philadelphia by 3.5 over Dallas: The Pick - Eagles
New Orleans by 3 at Chicago: The Pick - Bears

Last Week's Record: 8-7-1
Season Record: 99-106-2.

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