This has been a weird week in sports for reasons well beyond what we’ll get into here today. Any seven day news story that can push the death of a legend like Joe Frazier or the daylight kidnapping of a major league catcher from the front page in less than 24 hours is a guaranteed serious thing and we won’t say much more other than to offer our thoughts and condolences to the families affected deeply by the tragedy unfolding at Penn State.
Thursday, Nov. 10, 9:53 EST:
It's 17-3 now and Philip Rivers is starting to look bad, like a real goat in the Shultzian sense of the word: a sad little boy who lies motionless on the field for days after each game ends and wonders what exactly went wrong and why? Behind him the 2011 Chargers are a complete mess, staring down the barrel of a four-game-skid that at some point people will start calling a slide and eventually, a slump. Pretty soon we'll be talking about a full-blown, season-long swoon and the point spreads will just keep getting wider with each passing winless week...
Thursday, Nov. 10, 11:44 EST:
Rivers looked better in the second half until he threw an absolutely baffling long pass downfield to be picked off with 3:22 left to play in the fourth, final score Oakland 24, Chargers 17. Vincent Jackson was so thoroughly confused by the play that by the time the ball finally landed in the hands of the Oakland secondary he was on his way back down field and Norv Turner was already halfway toward the tunnel.
It's four in a row now and going on nine consecutive weeks of costly turnovers and bad decisions. Rivers has racked up 15 INTs in that span, eight coming in the last four and you’ll find seasons unravel fast for any team routinely surprised by and unable to supplement their own misfortune. Sixty-five forward yards in a first half is totally unacceptable for a team that insists on turning the ball over that much and something is definitely wrong when a sub-par Raiders’ pass rush is made to look like God's own D-Line for 60 straight minutes.
This is the kind of pedestrian play that will cause casual fans to change the channel on Sundays when their team is losing. The people who measure their happiness in Nielsen Ratings and overall gore won’t have to look too far for reasons to move your games to unfamiliar time slots, like 3am on a Wednesday night when your team and a highly-touted quarterback can’t be bothered to move the ball much further than half the field in two quarters worth of televised air time. Losing football games is one thing but when lost games translate to lost advertising dollars it’s quite another…
Other goats showing up gruff this season include Chris Johnson of Tennessee and DeSean Jackson of Philadelphia. The former has only broke 100 yards rushing once and his next best tops out at 64 while the latter’s number-one wideout status in what was supposed to be an explosive Eagles offense has yielded two touchdowns and five games under 50 yards. It’s a reason, but not the only one, that Philadelphia is 3-5 and fading fast in the NFC East, another goat on the 3am Watch List for teams no longer suited to play primetime and National Conference’s answer to the Chargers and a doe-eyed little boy named Philip Rivers.
This week’s lines:
Green Bay (-13.5) over Minnesota
Green Bay averages a league-leading 34.4 points a game and the Vikings are giving up an average of 26 on the road against paltry offenses like the Chiefs and disorganized bands of Bears and Chargers. Green Bay will cover.
St Louis (+3) over Cleveland
Betting the Browns has become an unnatural habit of mine and something that has not been a pleasurable experience despite my being compelled to do so almost every single week. Except this one if for no other reason than to snap a bad streak.
Jacksonville (-3) over Indianapolis
The Colts know the difference a premier play-caller can make over the span of a decade and one blown season is marginal price to pay for a shot at Andrew Luck; through nine games this season, the Stanford Junior has a 71.3 pass percentage, 26 TDs and 163 overall QB rating. The Suck to Luck campaign is on in Indy and even the hapless Jags won’t slow the train down.
Pittsburgh (-3) over Cincinnati
Titans, Seahawks, Colts, Browns, Jags: this isn’t the cream of the NFL crop. Outside the Bills, Cincy has had some pretty easy pickings on their way to 6-2 but their second half schedule has home-and-homes with the Ravens and Steelers and the five game win streak ends as they begin.
New England (+1.5) over New York
When was the last time the Pats lost three in a row?
Buffalo (+5.5) over Dallas
Dallas has made a habit of blowing out bad teams and blowing fourth quarters against good ones. Buffalo is somewhere right in the middle; take the points and be happy.
Miami (-4) over Washington
The Dolphins can’t even lose right and they’ll win again this week pushing them further back in the Suck to Luck sweepstakes and forcing them to consider giving up their first round picks for the next twenty years just to trade up to get him.
New York (+3.5) over San Francisco
Brother Eli played like a man possessed last week against the Pats leading everyone to wonder if the NFL is only ever big enough for one Manning at a time. Stopping the rush hasn’t been their specialty but stopping the pass hasn’t been Niners. The Giants have a lot of weapons when Eli is on and Hakeem Nicks should be back in the mix.
Denver (+3) over KC
Detroit (+3) over Chicago
Tampa Bay (+3) over Houston
If you can talk someone into this three team parlay at 6/1 (Vegas odds) take it. The money line is offering $1334 on a $100 bet.
Quick Slants: Baltimore (-6.5) over Seahawks, Philly (-13) over Arizona, Carolina (-3.5) over Tennessee, New Orleans (PK) over Atlanta
Last Week: 11-3