To score or not to score: Week 3 picks

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Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Editor’s note: Robert’s picks will be added Thursday evening.
If you have ever coached at any level below the professional level, you can relate to the title of this article. You have a good team and are playing a team that’s not near your team’s level. Your team has worked hard, it it’s high school, several are hoping for athletic scholarships. You’re up by a lot of points against a team that has neither the will nor the talent to come back and win. What do you do?

Or, you’re on the other side. You’re losing by a lot, and you know your team can’t come back. You just want the game to end, but the other team is pouring it on. What do you do?

This week in college football according to sportsline.com, both Georgia and Alabama are favored by more than 40 points, and there are several other games where the spread is north of 30 points. Since winning is important, but impressing even more important, this week there are again several opportunities for a Division I football coach to be confronted with one of the dilemmas mentioned earlier in this article. In high school, middle school, and peewee football, there are no doubt thousands of coaches who will have to face this Friday and Saturday, one of sports’ uglier sides.

A buddy of mine told me that when he was coaching 6th grade football, the other team’s coach told him that if my buddy’s team scored any more points, he would pull his team off the field and go home. While coaching flag football, the Durango High School coach called a timeout with his team ahead by 30 with 4 seconds left so he could try to go up by 36. In a Little League District semifinals game, I did all I could to 10 run the other team to save our pitchers for the final game.

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As someone who has been on both sides of these situations many times, I know it’s hard.

It’s not like that in the NFL. Your sole job is to win. After witnessing the late comebacks in the NFL in Week 2, any coach who does not let his team score as much as possible is just plain dumb.

Or is he? The Cleveland Browns were leading the New York Jets 24-17 with less than two minutes to play and had the ball on the Jets’ 12 yard line. The Jets had no timeouts left, and if the Browns got the ball to the 2, they could have knelt down 3 times and won. Nick Chubb made a great run and, rather than go down on the 2, went into the end zone for a score. In the last 1:57, the Jets scored twice and won the game.

To be fair to Chubb, other Browns certainly played a huge part in the Browns’ collapse. Kicker Cade York missed the extra point after Chubb’s score, the margin of the one point Jets’ victory. Amari Cooper, on the field for his hands, chose to watch the ball rather than jump on it during a Jets’ onside kick attempt. The Browns’ defensive backfield looked like they were defending by ignoring rather than covering.

But if Nick Chubb would have just fallen down on the 2, the Browns still would have won.

“I was never so happy to see a missed tackle in my life. It was our only chance to win”, Jets’ coach Robert Saleh said about Chubb’s late touchdown. To their credit, both Cooper and Chubb accepted blame for their actions, and it would be tough to intentionally fall down far enough for a first down, but short of a touchdown. The bottom line is the Browns  lost.

Here are my picks against the spread. LInes are from sportsline.com on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+4 ½) at Cleveland Browns I don’t know how the Browns are going to react to their historic collapse last week, but I do know that their defense is bad, and if you’re giving more than 3 points in the NFL, you need to limit the other team’s scoring.

Baltimore Ravens (-3) at New England Patriots I don’t think the Pats can score enough to keep up.

Miami Dolphins (+6) vs Buffalo Bills The game of the week. Unfortunately, this area will be watching the Raiders and Titans. Is Tua for real? I don’t know that, but I do know he has two big time receivers to throw to, and the only big time receiver the Bills have faced (Cooper Kupp) had a big game.

Detroit Lions (+6) at MInnesota Vikings I would not bet this one given the Vikings inconsistency and the Lions’ 65 year history of futility, but I am a Lions’ fan, and am drinking their Kool-Aid.

LA Rams (-3 ½) at Arizona Cardinals The only way you could go with Arizona is if you believe Kyler Murray can repeat last week’s performance against the Rams, because he did it by himself.

San Francisco 49ers (-1 ½) at Denver Broncos I think Denver will eventually get it together, but not this week, especially if George Kittle plays.

Dallas Cowboys (+1) at NY Giants Daniel Jones does not react well to pressure, and I think he’ll get a lot of it this week.

Last week 3-3

Season 7-6

Robert’s picks

Boise St. (-16) at UTEP: This Boise St. team is not as explosive offensively as we’re used to seeing from the Broncos. But two weeks ago, they completely dominated New Mexico, except for a 70-yard touchdown pass and a kickoff return TD, in pushing the line as a 17-point favorite. That’s the same New Mexico that blew out UTEP last week. UTEP won’t find much success offensively here, and Boise should grind its way to 30-plus points.

Michigan (-17) at Maryland: Under Mike Locksley, Maryland seasons have followed a predictable pattern. They blow out the patsies on their schedule, and they get blown out by the big boys. Michigan won 51-14 at Maryland last year. Michigan has shown in its first three games this year that it will keep scoring even if it gets a big lead, and good teams almost always get a big lead against Maryland.

Arkansas (+2) vs Texas A&M: My anti-A&M idea last week was a loser on Miami, but I’m not convinced the idea was wrong. Miami missed a field goal and had another blocked, and either one of those would have covered the spread. I finally turned the channel in the third quarter after seeing Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke stare down his receivers time and time again. But I think Arkansas can finish the job Miami couldn’t, and I’m still not convinced the Aggies’ offense is ready to beat a good team, even after they changed QBs last week.

Ravens (-2 ½) at Patriots: It was pretty amazing watching the Ravens blow a 21-point lead to the Dolphins last week, but I would expect them to bounce back with a good effort, and the Patriots don’t have anywhere near the big-play capabilities the Dolphins have. Bill Belichick’s defense is gnarly once again, but the Ravens are the more dynamic team.

Bengals (-6) at Jets: I don’t know if it’s a Super Bowl hangover for the Bengals or just that they aren’t as good as they’re perceived to be, but either way, here they are at 0-2. But they should come in here desperate to avoid being 0-3, and they catch the Jets off their own miracle comeback last week.

49ers (-1 ½) at Broncos: I came into the season thinking the hype about the Broncos and Raiders was overblown, and that the 49ers were going to struggle with Trey Lance at QB. But now it’s back to Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers, and this week he should have George Kittle back, too. Jimmy G is a flawed quarterback in his own right, but Mike Shanahan knows how to coach around his limitations. Russell Wilson isn’t in sync with his new receivers yet, and the 49ers pass rush should make sure it stays that way.

Last week

College 2-1

NFL 1-1

Season

College 3-7

NFL 3-2

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