This was a bottom-five all-time week for me. I went 2-10-3 ATS, pending Monday night and got bounced from my two remaining playoffs. When you’re losing like that, the little things begin to annoy you more. Like Red Zone Channel host Scott Hanson’s relentless, pointless, inane enthusiasm and the cutting back to highlights of earlier games in which you had no interest the first time you saw them, let alone the 10th.
Like the predictable play calling, constant replay reviews, injury stoppages and bad coaching decisions. And this doesn’t include commercials from which I have detoxed my mind and soul this season. It’s the only reason I watch the Red-Zone Channel, which often shows us chip-shot field goals and PATs rather than interesting action at midfield – to avoid commercials. When I have one of the standalone games also streaming it’s usually on mute, and if it’s not, I’ve developed lightning reflexes to silence the offending window as the first bars of the insidious jingle activate my mental immune system.
There are only two tolerable ways to consume NFL football: (1) Red Zone Channel during the densely packed early slate; and (2) Game Pass – the 40-minute condensed version. You knew this already, but it’s never more clear than when you’re having one of your worst weeks of all time.
• Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan run the most predictable offense in NFL history. (I’ll give them a slight edge over Ben McAdoo/Mike Sullivan.) I could have called out their plays for them. And why bother to get Dez Bryant involved when you have Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. Dak Prescott needs to show more courage too – throw it to Bryant and let him make a play. It actually worked late in the game.
• What a joke of a game. The Cowboys kicked the FG from the one-inch line rather than going for the TD, but still had the Raiders dead to rights before committing a 55-yard PI on 4th-and-10. But Derek Carr, despite having the tie locked up and the win likely in hand if he simply goes down at the one, instead of reaching for the pylon, voluntarily fumbles the ball out of the end zone to gift the game back to Dallas.
• Marshawn Lynch still has it. Too bad he wasted perhaps his final season in Oakland.
• The Patriots-Steelers game was also a joke. The Patriots went ahead, the Steelers drove down the field in two plays and had it all but won on the TD to Jesse James. But James’ TD was overturned because he didn’t control the ball all the way to the grave*, and Ben Roethlisberger threw a senseless pick rather than getting the game-tying field goal. Can’t any of these games be settled on merit rather than technicalities, bad decisions and lucky bounces?
* Only upon one’s death is the catch actually completed (Rule 85f, subsection 44c.)
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• Rob Gronkowski showed why he’s great. But it’s also Tom Brady who throws to him while he’s covered and trusts Gronk to make the play. I don’t think the Patriots are that good this year, but they’ll probably win the Super Bowl again when some other team botches the end-game clock management and fumbles an inch from the pylon.
• Antonio Brown’s injury was unfortunate, but I don’t feel sorry for Brown owners who have gotten so much consistent production and health. Maybe it’s because I’ve so rarely had shares of him the last few years, while I’ve had plenty of A.J. Green and Julio Jones at similar cost.
• Le’Veon Bell has 1,849 YFS and 80 catches in 14 games. He’s already over 300 carries. Those totals prorate to 351 carries, 2,113 YFS and 91 catches. His 10 TDs are relatively meager by comparison.
• The Titans are unwatchable. Is there one player on that team you look forward to seeing play? Let’s hope they miss the playoffs so an interesting one like that Chargers can get a shot. Even the Bills, who have no chance to go anywhere, would be a much more interesting story.
• Jimmy Garoppolo is a monster – 389 yards, 8.9 YPA with Marquise Goodwin as his best receiver. Garoppolo will be drafted as a top-10 QB next year, given his coach and the likelihood the 49ers sign/draft better targets for him.
• The Rams beat the Seahawks 42-7, and the game wasn’t that close.
• Todd Gurley had a game for the ages with four TDs, 180 YFS and three catches in three quarters. Gurley has 1,717 YFS, 17 TDs and 54 catches in 14 games, numbers that prorate to 1,962 YFS, 19 TDs and 62 catches.
• The Seahawks sacked Russell Wilson seven times, and he managed just 4.7 YPA not including the sack yardage, which was massive.
• It would have been nice for the Seahawks to provide notice ahead of the playoffs about Jimmy Graham. He totaled minus-one yards in Weeks 14 and 15 combined. That I have Graham on three teams goes a long way to explaining why I did so poorly in the playoffs this year.
• Blake Bortles is yet another example of how quarterback play is usually a function of conditions and not something inherent about the player. At the extremes (Aaron Rodgers, Wilson), players can excel in a below-average environment, but most QBs are massively dependent on good conditions. Bortles had 326 yards, 11.2 YPA and three TDs playing with a huge lead against a weak defense Sunday.
• DeAndre Hopkins always gets his. I doubted he would this week, given the matchup, but 13 targets were good for a 4-80-1 line.
• Aaron Rodgers made some mistakes, but more or less looked like himself in difficult conditions. The Packers probably would have tied the game too, but for a fumble on the final drive.
• Greg Olsen is back, and that makes Cam Newton and the Panthers significantly more dangerous in the playoffs. He’s the receiver with whom Newton’s had the greatest rapport during his career.
• One thing that went right is my best bet, the Redskins, covered. They barely covered, but I’ll take what I can get.
• The Giants played the Eagles tough twice this year. Even with Carson Wentz, Philadelphia needed a last-second 61-yard field goal to win.
• Eli Manning had an out of nowhere 434 yards and three TDs on a solid 7.6 YPA, but he not only wasn’t in your active lineup, he was probably on the waiver wire. Sterling Shepard had a monster 16-11-139-1 line. The Giants should have a top-5 receiving corps (including tight end Evan Engram) next year, and I shudder to think they might be dumb enough to bring back Manning after this showing.
• Nick Foles had four TDs passes, but an otherwise unremarkable 6.2 YPA and 237 passing yards against one of the league’s worst pass defenses.
• The Saints-Jets was surprisingly competitive, thanks in part to Brandon Coleman losing two fumbles in Jets territory. Bryce Petty got 4.6 YPA though, and the game was never seriously in doubt.
• Mark Ingram had 151 YFS and two TDs, thanks to a garbage time 50-yard TD. He now has 1,420 YFS, 11 TD and 51 catches in 14 games.
• The Bengals should not have bothered to make the trip to Minnesota. It was a waste of jet fuel.
• The DeShone Kizer experiment has run its course. The Hue Jackson one too. If Josh Gordon can resist going back to booze and drugs after playing in this offense, he is truly healed.
• Joe Flacco played his third straight credible game in a row. The Ravens might not be an easy out in the playoffs.
• Jay Cutler ran the four-minute drill (down two scores) like he took too much xanax to cure his hangover. I’ve never seen someone so relaxed with the game ticking away. DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry combined for 25 targets, with several of Parker’s in the end zone.
• It’s amazing the Bills, who could make the playoffs, gave away a game with Nate Peterman at QB. Tyrod Taylor has been very good when you account for the conditions around him, though it should be pointed out Goodwin and Robert Woods are excelling in their new homes while Sammy Watkins was better with Taylor.
• Why did the Chiefs forget to involve Kareem Hunt for almost half the season? It’s incomprehensible. Hunt almost never goes down on first contact, and he’s one of the most dangerous receiving backs in the league.
• I dogged Tyreek Hill all year, but he’s proven me wrong. He’s just too fast to cover one-on-one, and even if his route tree is limited, who cares if he’s catching long TDs?
• Many people look at Philip Rivers’ career rate stats and think “easy Hall of Famer,” but he seems to save his worst for the biggest spots. He’s the anti-Eli Manning, and I’d argue neither should get in.
• I have nothing to say about the Bears-Lions except that it was so unwatchable, I went to bed (Portugal time) at 11:00 pm rather than watching the second half on which I wasted 20 minutes of my life the next morning. We don’t need two games Saturday, three waves of games Sunday and standalone games on Thursday and Monday nights. If each game is 3.5 hours, that’s 24.5 hours to catch them all.