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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Thursday, December 3, 2015




Packers at Lions
Last month the Lions did something they haven’t done in 14 years: beat the Packers in Wisconsin.

Detroit opened the season losing 6 of the first 7 games prior to their bye week. Since then the Lions have roared their way to 3 straight wins including the previously mentioned 18-16 win at Green Bay and a 45-14 win over the Eagles on national television on Thanksgiving.

Clearly the Packers bye week was not kind to them. Green Bay started 6-0, but since then they have lost 4 of their last 5 games. Last week the Packers lost to the Bears in the Thanksgiving night cap and on the same night the team honored Brett Favre who regularly victimized the Bears and Lions.

Both teams need a win; the Packers to keep pace with division leader Minnesota and the Lions to keep their slim playoff chances alive. Per FiveThirtyEight, the Packers currently have a 46% chance of winning the NFC North while the Lions have a 5% chance of making the playoffs.

Jets at Giants
Neither New York team can afford another loss going forward. If the playoffs started right now, I would not be talking about the Jets or Giants.

Despite their record, the Giants have better odds at making the playoffs than the Jets. FiveThirtyEight puts the Giants chances of winning the NFC East at 45% while the Jets making the playoffs (likely as one of the two wild card spots) at 18%. The chances of the Jets winning the division is at <1 a="" chance="" hell.="" in="" is="" nice="" no="" o:p="" of="" saying="" way="" which="">

When these two teams last met in this stadium, the Jets were the home team in Week 16 in 2011. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz caught and ran for a 99-yard touchdown pass which was part of the Giants winning streak en route to their Super Bowl XLVI victory.

Texans at Bills
Like the Jets, the Bills are in the same predicament. Despite having a worse record than the Jets, the Bills have a better chance at making the playoffs… at 22%.

Houston has seen their playoff chances improve since their 3-5 start. Since their bye week, the Texans have won three straight and currently have a 49% chance of making the playoffs and a 36% chance of winning the AFC South. Another win should increase their playoff chances to above 50% and push their AFC South division title hopes higher.

Falcons at Buccaneers

The Falcons are 6-5 and the Buccaneers at 5-6…? And one of Tampa’s wins is against the Falcons?!

And FiveThirtyEight is giving the Buccaneers a 53% chance of winning this game…?

Seahawks at Vikings
Seattle has made the playoffs for 3 consecutive seasons while the Vikings are leading the NFC North and currently have the NFC 3-seed. Minnesota could improve their playoff standing with a win this week and next week in Phoenix.

The best Seattle can hope for is to claim one of the two wild card spots given the Cardinals lead the division by 3 games as well as a 3-1 division record and already have a win against the Seahawks. While at times last week against Pittsburgh Seattle’s secondary looked like its former self intercepting 4 passes, giving up 30 points and 480 yards passing will not win too many games.

Bengals at Browns/Broncos at Chargers/Eagles at Patriots
The Bengals, Panthers, and Patriots could be the first teams to clinch playoff spots on Sunday.

The Bengals could do it with a win plus a combination of other scenarios.

Despite losing their first game of the season and a rash of injuries to key players, I think the Patriots are still in good shape at make the playoffs as the AFC’s 1-seed but cannot afford another loss going forward.

The Broncos has found a new spark since Brock Oswiller has started under center for two games. A third straight win will increase the calls for him to take over the job permanently. The overtime win in the snow in Denver last Sunday night has put Denver into the race for the AFC 1-seed. The Broncos have a Week 16 showdown against the Bengals in Denver and could overtake them. Then if Denver and New England are tied, the AFC road to San Francisco goes through Colorado… literally and figuratively.

Panthers at Saints
So that leaves the Panthers as the only unbeaten team remaining. And they are not the best team to start 11-0 in the Super Bowl era.

Hey, that’s what the nerds at FiveThirtyEight say. Doubt them at your own peril… like these guys did in November 2012.

As for success starting 11-0, it is a mixed bag in terms of post-season success. All the teams that started 11-0 made the playoffs.

The 1969 Rams were the only team to start 11-0 in the Super Bowl era (1966) that was pre-merger (1970) and lost their final three regular season games. The Rams lost in the playoffs to eventual NFL champion Minnesota who lost in Super Bowl to AFL champion Kansas City.

In 2005 the Colts looked like they could finally win it all. The Colts had two back-to-back losses in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Chargers and at eventual NFC Champion Seattle to drop their record to 14-2. The Colts lost in the divisional round to the Steelers as they became the first 6-seed to win the Super Bowl.

Green Bay started 11-0 in 2011. Kansas City in Week 15 was their only loss in the regular season. The Packers lost in the NFC Divisional Round to eventual Super Bowl champion New York and became the fourth team to win at least 15 games to fail to win the Super Bowl.

One of those teams to win at least 15 games and fail to win the Super Bowl was the 2007 Patriots. New England was 11-0 and their next game was close call against the Ravens in Baltimore. The Patriots would complete a perfect regular season with a win at the Giants. Nearly a month later it was the Giants who would end the Patriots quest for perfection in Super Bowl XLII. Per Elo ratings through 11 games, the 2007 Patriots have the highest score of 1806 as well as highest opponent Elo.

In 1984, the Dolphins looked like they were going to repeat their 1972 season. The quest for perfection ended with a loss at San Diego in their 12th game. Miami made it to the Super Bowl but a botched kick by former kicker Ray Finkle (now Lois Einhorn who is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for kidnapping quarterback Dan Marino in 1994) cost the Dolphins a championship were dominated by the 49ers.

2009 had two teams start 11-0: Saints and Colts. The Saints were the first to lose, a Week 15 home game against Dallas and finished 13-3. The Colts lost in Week 16 to the Jets and finished 14-2. Both teams had comfortably wrapped their respective conferences #1 seed and made it to the Super Bowl as the first 1 vs. 1 Super Bowl since January 1994. The Colts lost the game while the Saints won their first title and became the most recent team to start 11-0 to win the Super Bowl.

Other 11-0 teams to win it all: the 1998 Broncos in quarterback John Elway’s final NFL season, Washington in 1991 under Joe Gibbs, the 1985 Bears, and the 1972 Dolphins with their perfect season.

As of now, Carolina’s Elo might be the worst among teams to start 11-0 but it is the highest so far in franchise history who came into the NFL in 1995. Currently Carolina’s Elo is behind the 1972 Dolphins who started play in 1966.

Colts at Steelers
Denver might be elevating their backup to permanent starter status, but in Indianapolis Matt Hasselbeck is starter until Luck recovers from his injuries.

The Steelers are one of those bubble teams. Currently in 8th place, this game and their next two games could determine if the Steelers play past 3 January 2016. After this game is at Cincinnati for an early afternoon game against the Bengals and their home finale against the Broncos in Pittsburgh followed by their final two games on the road against the Ravens and Browns. Right now FiveThirtyEight has the Steelers playoff odds at 51%.

Cowboys at Washington
Late season Monday Night Football games are proof that the when the schedule comes out in April, the quality of the matchups are really a crapshoot.

I’m sure when ESPN saw the Monday Night schedule they thought: Dallas at Washington in December, we’ll get Robert Griffin III and Tony Romo in a late season matchup with all kinds of playoff implications.

Nope: it’s Curt Cousins and whoever Dallas can put under center.

Are there playoff implications? Sure. For Washington, their remaining schedule is at Chicago, home finale against the Bills, a Saturday game in Philadelphia, and regular season finale at Dallas. Washington could win the NFC East given how putrid it is this season. FiveThirtyEight puts their odds of winning the division at 33%; just making the playoffs is 34%.

As for the Cowboys, they are still holding out hope they will make the playoffs and have not put quarterback Tony Romo on season ending injured reserve. 7% chance of making the playoffs says otherwise.

And now the picks.

Kickoff times are Mountain Time
Sunday afternoon games airing in Denver are noted by (DEN)
Picks are in BOLD

Packers at Lions

Bengals at Browns (DEN)
Cardinals at Rams
Falcons at Buccaneers
Seahawks at Vikings
49ers at Bears

Jets at Giants
Texans at Bills
Ravens at Dolphins
Jaguars at Titans

Eagles at Patriots (DEN)
Panthers at Saints

Broncos at Chargers (DEN)
Chiefs at Raiders

Colts at Steelers

Cowboys at Washington

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