Season to Date: 10-17 (battered and bruised)
So, like, that’s a bad record, eh. My credibility is clearly in question at the moment. And that is not something I’m comfortable with in the least. For the most part, if you look at my picks this season, I’ve been picking the better teams – at the wrong times. Here’s a closer look at my personal nightmare:
Last week CHI-town (+3) had the Browns locked up 10-6, then gave up two long TD’s in the final 3 minutes to yank away my green (just like DC did on Monday Night, also a loss for me). Take away those 2 TD’s and Dilfer had 167 yds with 2 Int’s. Ah well… ya gotta finish.
Miami (+2.5) went up to Buffalo and moved the ball quite well, only they had 2 turnovers inside the Red zone and lost the game at the BUFF 25 just passed the 2min warning. (Bills QB Kelly Holcomb was efficient (20/26) if not spectacular (169yds, 1TD).
Here’s what the Offense produced in Detroit as they slaughtered that Ravens (+1) Defense for 35pts. QB Harrington 10/23, 97, 1td-2int; RB Jones 26-58 2td. They also had a series from the BAL 8 that required 9 plays (6, count ‘em…6 plays - from the BAL 1) to put the score at 21-10 Detroit at the end of 3 Quarters. Perhaps you can now understand why the Ravens players derailed and went ape on the Zebras. (I was looking quite the monkey myself.)
In Atlanta (-2.5), the Patriots passing game I put so much faith in the week prior in New England (facing the porous Chargers Secondary) – could not be stopped despite absolutely DEAFENING crowd noise on long distance downs at key moments in the game. This contest was anybody’s game down to the wire (and Adam Vinatieri doesn’t miss. Slightly off topic, how much would you be willing to spend on THAT particular Kicker? I’d pay him more than Mike Holmgren… more on that later).
And Tampa (-3), who I tried to talk myself out of if you read last weeks article, fell to the inevitable trap of a ‘helpless’ Jets team that has no chance to win. I should have trusted my gut there and ignored the ‘easy’ win.
This is the NFL, folks. And its unpredictability has you riveted week after week. Fortunately, they afford us bettors several months to crawl back from a slump and get the cash back on our end. I’ve got 12 weeks plus Playoffs to get back on the right side of the ledger. And the reason I point out those results above is not to make excuses for my poor record, but to shed a little light into how close I am to the reverse. And clarify I’m not picking bad teams (nor match-ups for that matter) – I’m picking bad weeks. And that can happen in this league cuz it’s haaaaaaaaard, it’s very hard to win in the NFL.
And therefore, it’s time to get serious…
CIN –3 @ TEN
Had the Jagz not lost to Denver in the manner they did prior to meeting Cincy last Sunday Night, I would have been ALL over the Jagz to upset the Bengals as they did. The Bright Orange had been coasting on a crap schedule and were due to get punched in the mouth by a team that brings their fists. I had that game marked weeks ago but Del Rio’s boys really let me down facing a Denver team that’s admittedly now better than I thought they were – so I backed off like a chump. However, that was all part of a 3-game set where I planned to take the Bengals big here were they to lose in Jax. Finish it out. We got the number we want and it’s soliciting me like a purple covered pimp!
Next week the Neon Tigers have a Division home game vs the Steelers, which some might fear they’re looking ahead to. Coming off a loss does everything we need to avoid that concern and removes the benefit a team like the Titans needs to sneak up on you. The Titans ARE worth a wager in ‘look past’ situations. This is not one of them. And I shall therefore GUARANTEE a win here. The Bengals will cover this game at any cost. If they fail to do so? They are not for real (and I’ve really hit the skids).
ATL –5.5 @ NO
Another blatant mismatch. The Saints were not able to maintain the momentum of a supportive America and have since succumbed to the excessive adjustments they’ve had to endure. They are not able to maintain the competitive zest the rest of the NFL requires (personally, I think their head coach has plenty to do with that. As he has for the past several seasons there). To add injury to insult, the one player the Saints depend on to keep the game in reason (Deuce McAllister) is Out for the duration of 2005. That’s a knife through the heart.
Meanwhile, the Falcons, win or lose – remain a top contender for the Super Bowl. They are resilient and maintain a fierce competitive desire. You cannot expect the Saints to survive a Division game against a very upset Falcon team coming off a heated contest vs the Champs. Will Vick be involved? It just doesn’t matter. Contrary to what some may assume, QB Matt Schaub had a fine game against the Pats and is perfectly capable of dismantling an inferior opponent for better than 7 points. I’m very comfortable with this game as well.
CAR –1.5 @ DET
The Panthers have been a bit of a disappointment this season, struggling to maintain any consistency in virtually every contest they’ve played. The only thing consistent? They’re going to compete to the bell. The Lions have also been a disappointment and despite last week’s results – I expect that they will continue to be (until further notice). The Lions Offense has done nothing to give credibility to the 3 Redwoods at WR and RB Kevin Jones has not put up the numbers expected (205yds in 4 games). Why? Well let’s just say no one has stopped questioning Joey Harrington… Garcia might get the call the moment he gets healthy.
Currently, the top 3 starting tailbacks for the Panthers are sidelined. Which means we’re giving the ball to FB Nick Goings. This just in – he did quite nicely for them last year (821-6td’s). So we’ll just be happy that gave us a more manageable number. Because if you look at the year they’re having in Detroit? They don’t look anywhere near the team we thought they ‘might be’. And while Carolina has not established their own credibility… they’re a level above the Lions already. Giving a point and a half? Check, please!
DAL –3.5 vs NYG
Dallas has been a bit of a mystery this year. They step out of the gate, dropping the Chargers in San Diego, in a very physical contest. Then collapse (like only the Hawks know how) against DC in week2. Follow that by allowing the sad sack Offense of the 49ers to light them up deep for 31 points, yet manage to squeak out a win (as Drew Bledsoe is having a very fine season). And then travel across the bay to give the Raiders their first win of the season - as they could not afford to crowd the run box, due to the oppositions success with the deep ball, and the Raiduhs controlled the game with RB LaMont Jordan (hey, I called that game precisely - wahoo!). Then last week they knock the shine off the defending NFC Champs trophy (and a very fine Passing game) to the tune of 33-10.
So…who the hell are these guys?
My opinion is they are a fine football team that I expect to make the post season. Which is not an opinion I share with the Giants. The Giants – are pretenders. While ‘Elisha’ Manning has shown marked improvement the last 2 contests (if he continues that success I might drop the ‘girl’ tag), their Defense does not deserve the respect they generally receive from the league. The Secondary is atrocious (and that’s the key here) allowing 322yds/game, while the Run D serves up 4.5/carry. Furthermore – they’re allowing a 50% 3rd down conversion rate (and we all know what that means, eh Hawk fans?). Basically, they can’t stop anything that’s capable of moving. Like Dallas for instance. I’d feel a lot more comfortable knowing whether Julius Jones will make the field (who, while only managing 3.6/carry, DOES have 407yds after 5), but I like the number regardless. Dallas is the better team. Plain an’ simple.
MIA +4 @ TB
Disappointing loss for the Fish up in Buffalo last week. They found themselves down 17 early and spent the rest of the game fighting an uphill battle. The good news? They dutifully continued to fight that hill and pulled victory close at the finish (as noted previously). That’s a reflection of the coaching staff I can’t stop praising. I don’t know what’s up with all those penalties week to week, but the Dolphins have left last year in the past and are playing tough Football. Speaking of last year, Ricky Williams returns to the field this week. Lots is being published about that. I’m not going to say any more about it other than - he probably adds some benefits they didn’t have the last 4 weeks.
Which brings us to Tampa Bay. The Caddy is in for repairs. Three weeks ago Gruden was laughing off questions about over-riding the rookie with too many carries… I guess the press knows what they’re talking about sometimes, eh Chucky? During the span of wins they enjoyed they failed to score 20+ in all but the very first contest (which made it very difficult to cover the spread, as I myself encountered), and exhibited a steady decline in ability to control the game. Think ‘the ride’ had anything to do with that? You bet he did. The Bucs are now forced to create things with their passing game and they’re just not able to do it without the wheels there to threaten the ground. Dolphins coach Nick Saban will shut that Bucs Offense down and prove to have the more able team.
I’m getting 4 from a team that failed to beat anyone by that margin the last 3 weeks - and I expect to win the game outright.
SEA –9 vs HOU
That’s right, I’m about to curse the Seahawks by picking them this week. You can send all your hate mail to the Email addy below if we experience an upset of unimaginable proportions. Houston has an offense that reminds me of the Kelly Stouffer days – pathetic. They are truly inept. And if we can’t manage a pass rush versus a line that’s on a pace to shatter the record for sacks allowed (6.75/gm!!), then we should probably do away with the rush completely and play a silver-dollar defense (um, I think that’s like 10 DB’s or something). Texans suck. We don’t. We’re under the lights. Let’s score a lot of points please. Annnnnnd, let’s try to understand how to control a game and run out the clock to clinch a victory… cuz the guy I’d love to boot out the door just doesn’t understand how to do that.
Some notes on the Rams game:
We won!! That is quite a relief. I was so relieved I was calmer than any win we’ve ever enjoyed (it was as if I stopped sinking, and found cement under the quicksand). Props to our boys for sucking it up under difficult conditions and finding a way to win. Is this a better team than last year? We’re finding an edge where last year we lost it. We can now think, perhaps.
Now had we lost? Does anyone think we would recover, following last year’s fiasco? Which is why… I can’t believe our HC was doing his damnedest to allow for that possibility. Here comes the grunge…
I could complain about us running the stretch play wide to the Left all day long… expecting each continual failure to result in success at some point. Is that the plan? Keep failing until they can’t believe you’d actually try that again – and it works? We scored on that play in the 1st Q only because Shaun was able to cut it back inside (we got lucky). We then ran the play another half a dozen times – none of which succeeded. Not nearly.
I cold complain about punting from the RAMS 35, rather than attempting a 52 FG in the 1st Q. Last week we we’re “feeling comfortable” about ignoring another down and attempting an early 47 yd FG at the end of the game in DC. This week? We hate it when there’s no wind and it makes too much sense. So let’s punt instead of allowing our Kicker an early opportunity to atone for himself.
I could complain about… 2nd and 4, Rams 40 (13:40 to play in the 2Q). Alexander is getting hot, busting off 20yds on his last 2 carries. We’re playing without our starting WR’s. Is there a more perfect rushing opportunity than this? No. Holmgren makes the obvious seem ridiculous and throws a pass instead. It’s this kind of ignorance that drives me absolutely nuts. It is not a REQUIREMENT that you out-guess the other guy in Pro Football. Sometimes, you just need to line up and bust him in the mouth because you’re better than he is. The more you do that? The more certain you are that your better than he is, rather than get gun shy cuz you’re not used to having to do that. (The result of that series might counter my argument, if you consider an incomplete pass on 2nd down, followed by a low percentage run on 3rd and 4 gaining a first down - like I said, Alexander was hot - ultimately resulting in 4 successive passes that got us in the endzone… success you can count on?)
But all I really need to do is point to the final minutes:
SEA 1-10; 3:53 to play (leading by 6)
3-10; 3:41 (our chance to maintain the lead has burned 12 sec off the clock. I’m a coaching genius. Ku-ku-ka-choo.)
Here’s the play on 3rd down: We sent 2 WR on Out patterns SHORT of the marker by 2 yards. The Left Flanker went on a fly route to Hass’s backside – he had no chance of being the play. Therefore, we got one option. Our plan on 3-10 to contain the ball and end the game was… hope that ONE player would get open. Jerheme Urban, just re-signed (the guy that dropped the ball all pre-season) ran an identical fly pattern as the Right Flanker. Boy, that’s remarkably creative, and has virtually NO chance of success. What the hell are you thinking?!!. Guess what, he didn’t get open. So Hass scrambled and barely kept the ball in bounds to continue the clock (worse – Urban WAS open on a comeback during the scramble and Hasselbeck failed to unload. Mystifying). Who’s fault is this? I am The Walrus… and I’m way too doped up on NFL acid that convinced me I’m a genius because I had 3 Hall of Fame QB’s play for me (often times ignoring my play call and making something out of nothing).
That’s a play I might run if I was playing Madden Football and couldn’t find the right play in time – best avoid a delay of game penalty and call whatever the joystick points at.
So we punted. Which became a fumble. And we won the game. Does that erase the fact that our HC set us up to LOSE the game? No. It doesn’t. Mike Holmgren continually plays a philosophically foolish approach to the 4th Q. I prefer not to play to miraculous moments that are completely out of my hands. (Raise your hand if you think the Rams would NOT have scored a TD from midfield with 3min+ to go? I don’t see many hands.)
So basically, Mike Holmgren’s game plan was to recover a fumbled punt in the closing minutes. Awesome…
This week’s punts:
“Beat the Man… because no one likes to be made a fool of.”
G. Scott Jones is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Seahawks.NET. Reaction of any sort is always encouraged at email@example.com.