Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
In 2008, the Detroit Lions’ record was 0-16. With the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Lions drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford, a “can’t miss” prospect out of Georgia.
Stafford didn’t miss. He was a bright spot on some very bad Lion teams. He became the fastest NFL QB to throw for 40,000 yards, was a two time All-Pro, and was the NFL Comeback player of the Year in 2011. Off the field, Stafford and his wife, Kelly, led several Detroit area philanthropic efforts and his family donated more than two million dollars to Detroit area causes. While starring on the field and generously giving of his time and money to the Detroit area, he seemed to be a family man as well, supporting his wife during her battle with cancer and raising four children.
In 2021, after 12 years of losing and seeing no quick way out, Matthew Stafford asked to be traded to a contending team. It should be noted that no one in the Stafford circle ever said anything disparaging about Detroit, the Lions, or Lion teammates. His father did not post videos showing Lion incompetence (and there was plenty). He showed up on time and in shape for training camps. He played while obviously hurt in games that were, really, lost causes. He did not show up his less talented teammates on the field. He did not throw his helmet in disgust after yet another bad series. He did not publicly berate his coaches, and not many of them were deemed fit to be hired by the rest of the NFL. He did not blame the refs. You cannot, as far as I know, find any former Stafford teammates willing to publicly say anything but good things about him.
No, he was a great player, teammate, and member of his community. It seems we want to recognize fools over genuine good people when it comes to the NFL.
When the Lions granted Stafford’s wish and traded him before the 2021 season, I was happy for him and genuinely hoped he would help the LA Rams win a Super Bowl. In part because of Stafford, the Rams did win the Super Bowl after the 2021 Season. Many people in Detroit spent money to post ads congratulating Matthew Stafford for his success in Los Angeles, and I was happy that my former home seemed pleased about Matthew Stafford’s good fortunes. Also, the Lions got a shipload of good players from the Matthew Stafford trade, including QB Jared Goff, and, indirectly, TE Sam LaPorta, RB Jamyr Gibbs and others.
It seemed win-win for everyone.
That is why, when I heard boos that seemed to be directed in Stafford’s direction in his return to Detroit last Sunday night, I thought that behavior was very classless. Stafford’s wife believed that people were even booing her and her children.
Come on, people, I know you wanted to win a big game, but it still is just that-a game. You cheer Barry Sanders, who quit on the team with no notice but boo a really good player and good Lion?
I am ashamed of the Detroit people at the game who chose to act that way. Matthew Stafford and his family deserve far better from a place they truly made better. To me, it put a stain on what was otherwise a great night.
Speaking of bad, or short, memories, there are many developments on my subject last week-NFL coaching changes. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll either “mutually parted ways” or retired, depending on whom you choose to believe. And, after their teams’ miserable performances last weekend, Mike McCarthy and Nick Sirianni are reportedly sitting in hot seats while Mike Tomlin might need some time away from the game.
What, did all these former Super Bowl coaches suddenly forget how to coach? I guess it’s not only fans who have memory issues. How long ago was it that Nick Sirianni and his ear pens were perfect for Philadelphia? Monday night, even the “unstoppable” tush push failed. The Cowboys all season were bullies, beating up on bad teams and struggling against good teams. Was Mike McCarthy the cause of CeeDee Lamb’s alligator arms? Remember that the Cowboys, while having great won-lost records, have not been a postseason threat in 30 years, coincidentally (or maybe not) the same amount of time that owner Jerry Jones has been in charge of talent acquisition. Of all the NFL coaches that have been or may be fired, only Bill Belichick deserves most of the blame because he was in charge of talent acquisition. But he seems to be the hottest NFL coaching commodity.
I think our society has modified what Barbara Streisand sang back in the ‘70’s. “What’s too inconvenient to remember, We simply choose to forget.”
I believe, in sports, history, politics, and betting, it is best to strive to remember what really happened. And in sports, I think God tends to cheer for the team with the best players.
What teams have “it”? Clearly, Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Cleveland did not have “it”, whatever “it” is. It also seems that Houston, Detroit, Kansas City, and Buffalo do have “it”, but we won’t know for sure until the two teams that had “it” all season (San Francisco and Baltimore) rejoin the fray this weekend. Did Houston win because they’re on their way, or because Cleveland wasn’t as good as advertised? For that matter, that can be said about all the Super Wild Card winners.
The Wild Card Weekend (Super or not) has traditionally had upsets. We’re past that now, we’re in Divisional Weekend. And, for whatever reason, history tells us that the Divisional Weekend successful betting strategy has been to bet the favorites.
The way I see it, the problem with that strategy is that the bettor has to give more than six points in three of the four games this weekend.
I will give points if I think a good NFL team is playing a bad one, like Buffalo and Pittsburgh last week. But I have always thought that if you’re giving a lot of points, which in the NFL I define as more that 7 points, you win your bet with defense. If Baltimore gives up 24 points to Houston, they have to score 34 for you to cover your Ravens’ bet this week. Same with the 49ers. Detroit is currently giving 6 1/2 , and are facing a wideout, Mike Evans, who can really take advantage of Detroit’s biggest weakness. During the season, these would be easy choices for me-I’d take the points. But this isn’t the regular season, and in the playoffs the best teams usually get better.
With all that in mind, here are my picks for this week against the spread. Lines are from sportsline.com on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
Houston Texans (+9 ½) at Baltimore: A dangerous pick historically, I know. The Ravens will score, but I think Houston will, too, and I explained my logic on that.
Green Bay Packers (+9 ½) at San Francisco 49ers: Another dangerous pick, because the Cowboys REALLY stunk, and the Packers are going to have to elevate their game to win. But again, this is a big spread and I think the Packers will score.
Detroit Lions (-6 ½) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I said last week that the Bucs are not a legitimate playoff team, even as I was picking them to win. I still think that, but I warn you I am a Lions fan.
Kansas City Chiefs (+2 ½) at Buffalo Bills: The last time the Bills lost was Dec. 10, and the team that beat them then was-the Kansas City Chiefs. Since then, the Bills have beaten the Cowboys, Chargers, Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers. The Chiefs, and Patrick Mahomes, are not those teams. The Bills will score, but not at will, and the Chiefs will score a little bit more.
Last week: 4-1
Ravens (-9 ½) vs Texans: I really tried to talk myself into the Texans here, but I just can’t do it. Until resting a bunch of guys against the Steelers in week 18, the Ravens have been on a rampage, and while I think C.J. Stroud is legit, the Texans are still a step or two away from winning games like this.
Packers (+9 ½) vs 49ers: Both of these Saturday games have real blowout potential, which is why the point spreads are where they are. But with Aaron Jones finally looking healthy, I think the Packers have the best shot of the two Saturday teams to keep the game close.
Buccaneers (+6 ½) vs Lions: Maybe what happened Monday was more about whatever is wrong with the Eagles, but to beat the Eagles the way they did without the benefit of turnovers was impressive. I expect the Lions to ultimately win this one, but this looks like a battle.
Bills (-2 ½) vs Chiefs: I bet the Bills to win the AFC a few weeks ago, and one of the reasons was because I thought they could beat the Chiefs again. So here we are, and nothing has happened to change my mind.
Last week: 5-1