TOJ Week 16 NFL Gambling Advice and Picks

Last week was a step back in my quest to get over .500 for the season and my Best Bets bombed to drop me below .500 on the season in that category as well. Hell, I even lost my teaser pick, which I’ve been pretty good at this season. It’s my own fault though really… I mean, what the HELL was I thinking being so high on the Giants?! Ugh. Oh well, it’s time to move on and take a look at Week 16, which has a few games I absolutely love. A big week is coming, I can feel it. Let’s get on with the show… Continue reading “TOJ Week 16 NFL Gambling Advice and Picks”

Blame The Horse That Kicked You: Looking At The NFL’s Worst Teams

Justin takes a look at the NFL’s worst teams and how they can make some type of improvement next year

“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”
― Christopher Hitchens

Everyone likes to watch the Colts suffer. After years of stomping out the AFC South, the Colts are showing the inherent weakness of putting an almost inhuman load on the franchise quarterback. Save for an aging Freeney and Mathis, the Colts have become a hopeless one sided team that can’t even rip off a few wins in a 16 game season.

Next year, a few things are readily apparent. Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter will be gone, Reggie Wayne is probably going to get traded for a draft pick or a younger, bigger target for what many can only assume is going to be Andrew Luck. Here is where the confusion begins. What if the Colts don’t drop Manning and trade the first pick for 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders? They can easily get two receivers and two defensive backs, but do they want to build a team or create a show? The NBA knows a lot about shows and the season hasn’t even started yet. The Thunder are a team. The Knicks are a show.

Before getting into the intangible insanity that is the Colts franchise, let’s squash a few glaring weaknesses with logic and sympathy for the devil. The offensive line, where the Colts drafted both a first and second round pick, can only do so much after being used to having a guy behind center do all the hard work for them. Changing protections etc. Two rookie lineman without Peyton Manning spells disaster for anyone not in the shotgun. Two rookie defensive backs (5th and 6th round respectively) aren’t enough to ail a defense completely out of their element.

If Peyton does come back, look for 4 down lineman and a linebacker blitz early and often. As of right now, the Colts have Drake Nevis (3rd round pick out of LSU) out on IR, a 1st round pick in Jamaal Anderson, a 1st round pick in Tyler Brayton, and a 1st round pick in Jerry Hughes all between Freeney and Mathis. This unit should be equal to the Giants in terms of pure pass rush, but when you have no linebackers of any value, and an almost laughable secondary, things backfire easily. Lineman don’t cause turnovers.

There are others. Dallas Clark could be gone. Joseph Addai could be gone. It could be a complete overhaul, take no prisoners, house clearing sort of stuff. That hideous factory of a stadium will glow red with anger. Luck could very well be steering a ship lost at sea. Coordinators fired. Assistants gone. There is nothing to show that this team even cares, so why not clear house and get some people on the cheap if Manning is going to be gone anyway?

The line on the draft as of now is that the Colts are going to take Luck, an offensive lineman, and most likely another cornerback. Will it help? Sure. But there’s going to be trouble getting free agents if they aren’t sure of the plan. Veterans will ride with Peyton, young players will want to jump on board with Luck. The Colts can go stay in the present or bet on the future, but they can’t do both.

The Rams are an ugly franchise. Sure the uniforms aren’t Colonel Mustard yellow anymore, but nothing looks sadder than Sam Bradford chucking a few straight into the ground while hobbling around like a 70 year old one legged sailor. Their 4th round receiver is out on IR, McDaniels is running the same sort of fruitless, clever pass happy offense that got him booted out of Denver, and he very well could become a head coach next year. Sensing a theme yet? Bad teams don’t have a defined method of winning. Patriots pass. Ravens run. Texans run and play action. The Rams should run. Problem is they have a weak offensive line, and almost all mock drafts have them picking Matt Kalil out of USC as the 2nd overall draft pick. Their secondary is paper thin and a guy like Jayron Hosley could at least give them a dual threat corner/kick returner that could help the struggling offense. The defensive line is too reliant on Chris Long and they need a big free agent linebacker pickup or grab someone high in the 3rd round.

Cadillac Willians is a stop gap solution so they could use a running back to lighten the load of Steven Jackson. With that said, here comes the trump card. If the Rams want to create a show, they will grab Justin Blackmon and make a top 10 receiving core with one draft pick. 29 year old Mark Clayton is a first round pick. Pettis and Salas are 3rd and 4th round rookies respectively. Brandon Lloyd at 30 is the veteran, and Blackmon would be the intermediate threat in his rookie year. It would be the welcome return of the spread no huddle, and at least they would put up more than 11.8 points a game. Again, show or team.

Overall, the Rams are a good draft away from being a contender in the NFC West, which could easily become the 49ers for the next five years if the Rams don’t take some risks in the draft.
In a past article, I wrote about the syndrome of bringing in a veteran quarterback and holding off the need to get a future franchise quarterback. For every year you rely on that, two years will be washed down the tank. 2 years of Favre? 4 years of irrelevancy. The Vikings are currently in the midst of irrelevancy. Depending on the final shakeout, the Vikings and Rams could exchange second and third picks. They need offensive line help, as Steve Hutchinson is 34 and his best years are behind him. They could also use Blackmon to help out Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins in 3 receiver sets.

What the Vikings should really do is trade that pick and get some help at linebacker, cornerback and running back. Will they? If they want Adrian Peterson to be happy they will. Is Ponder the future? Will Joe Webb sub in at the wildcat on a regular basis? Let’s say they are. The Vikings have a few options. Take Blackmon, Brandon Thompson at defensive tackle, and grab an offensive lineman in the third round. The more conservative approach would be to get Matt Kalil in the first round, find the best defensive lineman available in the second round, and grab a guy like Nick Toon in the third round.

Some would say most efforts are futile in a division with the Lions, Bears and Packers. As we saw this year however, all teams can lose or gain three games from the last year.

The Buccaneers are not good. They aren’t even competent half the time. They have no one even worth mentioning at receiver, their defensive line should be the best in the league (McCoy and McCargo are both on IR), and their defensive backs should keep games close. They don’t. I want to give hope to Buccaneers fans and give them a few points worth mentioning next time someone rips their team, but they probably won’t help. Freeman is not the next great quarterback. Neither is anyone else from that draft class, but Freeman played at Kansas State, not Kansas City.

Unfortunately most mock drafts have them taking linebackers or defensive backs in the first two rounds. Look for a 4th or 5th round receiver and hopefully a free agent pickup next year from teams like the Giants or the Eagles. They need to get their defensive line sorted out in next year’s training camp as the ages of their lineman are 28, 23, 21, 23, and 30 respectively. The Bucs are the shining example of why rookies don’t start on defense.

From here on out it gets weird across the board. Nobody knows about the Jets, Giants, Eagles, Bears, Texans, Raiders, Chargers, etc. etc. Everyone is falling apart at the seams as the Patriots and Packers seem to be the head of their respective conferences. Teams are hurt, coaches have been fired, and the lame beginning of the bowl season gives me a thousand reasons to hate the BCS and lobby for a college playoff. Good luck San Francisco.

Grading Out Jets/Bears

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Quarterback (A) – If you have seen every snap Mark Sanchez has taken in the NFL, you know how encouraging yesterday’s performance was. He looked like the quarterback who nearly took them to the Super Bowl last year and if he can continue his confident, poised play, the Jets will be competitive against any team they face in January.

Running Back (B+) – Another player who looks ready for the playoffs is Shonn Greene, who needs to be given the reigns as the Jets lead back immediately. It is inexcusable how little action he received in the fourth quarter. LaDainian Tomlinson still has value to the offense, particularly as a pass catcher but Greene should be getting the bulk of carries from now on.

Wide Receivers (B+) – Another very good game from Braylon Edwards, who continues to have a great season. Santonio Holmes was productive but lost a fumble. Jerricho Cotchery is slowly being phased out of the offense. Brad Smith looked good in the Wildcat and threw a nice ball down the sideline.

Tight Ends (B+) – Good to see Dustin Keller back involved in the offense but he has to make that catch in the end-zone.

Defensive Line (D) – The lack of pass rush was more acceptable when they were doing a better job stopping the run. Shaun Ellis was banged up and will likely rest next week for the playoffs.

Linebackers (D) – Another missing in action performance from both Jason Taylor and Calvin Pace, who has been a major disappointment this season. Bart Scott didn’t too much either, which has happened all too often since he joined the team. Bryan Thomas had his team leading 6th sack.

Secondary (D) – This would be a F if it wasn’t for Darrelle Revis and Dwight Lowery’s pick six. However, the blueprint to beating the Jets remains to throw away from Revis and to pick on players like Lowery, Drew Coleman, and even Antonio Cromartie.

Special Teams (C) – Nick Folk seems to be back on track and Steve Weatherford has been terrific all year. I hated the fake punt call, it was terrible timing and worse execution.

Coaching (C) – Rex Ryan seems to have a problem finding a good “Plan B” after the offense figures out what the Jets defense is doing. Brian Schottenheimer called a strong game for the second week in a row but must use Shonn Greene more.

Highlights From Yesterday

TOJ NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

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It is hard to remember a year when so much of the seeding could be shakenup in the final two weeks, and I know there has never been a year when one division has been so putrid…

1. New England Patriots (12-2) – Bill Belichick won’t let them take the foot off the gas in the final two weeks, as they face the basement dwellers of the AFC East.

2. Atlanta Falcons (12-2) – A quiet 12-2. Let’s see how they handle New Orleans this Monday Night, but either way they have all but locked up home field advantage.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) – Players like Mike Vick and Desean Jackson mean the Eagles are never out of a game.

4. Baltimore Ravens (10-4) – Impressive win over the defending champs kept their NFC North title hopes alive.

5. Chicago Bears (10-4) – How many people picked them to win the NFC North?

6. New York Jets (10-4) – The best way to shoot up in the power rankings is by beating a quality opponent in their building. Can they do it two weeks in a row?

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4) – Their offense has been inconsistent and their defense isn’t anywhere near the same without Troy Polamalu in the line-up.

8. New Orleans Saints (10-4) – They can be happy with likely playing the NFC West winner in the first round of the playoffs.

9. New York Giants (9-5) – Went from a potential number two seed to playing for their playoff lives in Lambeau this Sunday.

10. San Diego Chargers (8-6) – They’ll win out, but will they get the help needed to win the AFC West?

11. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5) – The Chiefs should be able to handle business to become the surprise winners of the AFC West.

12. Green Bay Packers (8-6) – Do or die against the Giants at home this week.

13. Indianapolis Colts (8-6) – One of the weaker Colts teams in recent memory but they will still be hosting a home playoff game, unless something strange happens.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6) – It was only a matter of time until the Colts caught them. Who wanted to watch Jacksonville host a playoff game anyway?

15. Tampa Bay Bucs (8-6) – Nothing for this young team to hang their head about, if they fall short of the playoffs this year.

16. Oakland Raiders (7-7) – The Colts will have their hands full with the Raiders in Oakland this Sunday.

17. Dallas Cowboys (5-9) – They have played very good football since Jason Garrett has taken over.

18. Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Another mediocre season for the Dolphins, who have some major questions to answer this off-season.

19. Tennessee Titans (6-8) – Took a few weeks too long to wake up out of their mid-season funk.

20. Houston Texans (5-9) – Are you really surprised the Texans were a “disappointment” this year?

21. St. Louis Rams (6-8) – The only team in the NFC West that I have a small amount of respect for.

22. Buffalo Bills (4-10) – Way too high? I don’t think so. They play with heart and remain competitive every single week.

I have to be honest…I can’t even rank beyond this point. It is just a pile of crap, that doesn’t deserve to be sorted through. It feels like the Seahawks lose by 30 every week and yet they could still host a playoff game. The 49ers are four games under .500 and could still host a playoff game. The Vikings have clearly quit. The Browns appear to have quit. The Bengals are a disaster. The Lions…well hey, they won a road game. The Cardinals and Panthers are unwatchably awful, and of course are both playing prime-time games this week.

TOJ’s Favorite Moments Of Week 15…

Off to Italy: Jets vs. Colts/Week 16 Predictions

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First off, Merry Christmas everybody. I am about to head off to the airport for 7 nights back in the old homeland where my forefathers likely rooted for the worst soccer team in the country and passed that tradition down to me as a Jets fan when my family came to America. If you never see this blog updated again, it is likely I pulled a Michael Corleone found my Apollonia and will be settling down as a simple grape farmer in the hills of Italy, with no concerns about rookie quarterbacks, graduate school, playoff scenarios, or student loans. However, in the more likely case I will return a week from today to write about Jets/Colts which I will be viewing on DVD and the upcoming Jets/Bengals game.

I don’t expect to be coming home for a meaningful week 17 game but I can keep up some bizarre hope the next 7 days. I will be rocking my brand new white Titans Darrelle Revis jersey as a final show of support on the plane today. What do I think will happen in week 16 while I am paddling down the canals of Venice?

1. I think the Jets will put a good fight but ultimately fall short to the Colts 27-17. I expect most of the Colts key players to play the bulk of the game and that should be enough for them to get a victory. The defense will play well but in the end Peyton Manning will be too much and Mark Sanchez won’t make enough plays for the Jets to get a victory.

2. I think the Miami Dolphins will beat the Houston Texans fairly easily and set themselves up to be playing for a playoff spot in week 17…yuck.

3. I think the Titans will knock off the Chargers tonight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

4. I think the Steelers will win a close one over the Ravens, muddling the AFC playoff picture even further.

5. I think New England will beat Jacksonville and wrap up the AFC East.

6. I think the Bengals will beat Kansas City and wrap up the AFC North.

7. I think Dallas will hold off Washington and the Giants will beat Carolina keeping the NFC race interesting for another week.

And with that…I’m off to Italy.