Week #10 picks: If it weren’t for bad luck…

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Robert Perea and Jim Vallet, The Fernley Reporter

Jim’s picks

Let me give you some unsolicited advice. If you are boarding an airplane and see the Los Angeles Chargers also boarding your plane, get off that plane right away.

If you are at a blackjack table and some Los Angeles Chargers sit down at your table, leave that table as fast as you can collect your chips.

If you see a Los Angeles Charger betting a horse, DO NOT bet that horse!

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If a Los Angeles Charger offers to set you up on a blind date, DO NOT accept!

To say the Chargers have had a streak of bad luck this year is akin to claiming the Titanic had a couple of problems in 1912.

The Chargers have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory so many times, they are trying to outLion the Lions.

I thought much of the Chargers’ luck would change when they let  Philip Interception! Rivers go to Indianapolis, but that has not been the case at all. When the Chargers’ team doctor punctured starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s lung (???!!!&&& WHAT???!!! Is this Bizarro World?)) it seemed the Chargers’ season was doomed, but NO!!, rookie Justin Herbert stepped up, played great, and, still, the Chargers lost.

The Chargers are 2-6, and could easily be 7-1, as 5 of the losses were by 5 points or less. Before Sunday’s latest heartbreak, the Chargers had blown leads of 16 or more points in the second half in three straight games! The Chargers lost in overtime to the Saints (did you catch how good they looked Sunday night) on a Monday night in the Superdome when kicker Michael Badgley (who patented the nickname “The Money Badger” for himself) missed an easy field goal at the end of regulation, and then in overtime the Saints’ kicker did not miss a tougher field goal. The Chargers have now lost two straight weeks on the final plays of both games, and both of those plays were in dispute. The Chargers outplayed, and should have beaten, the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, but lost when the Kansas City kicker, unlike “The Money Badger”, made three consecutive 53-yard plus field goals (the winner was actually from 58 yards). The Chargers looked like they had won on the last play on Sunday, but alas, upon review the fourth camera angle shot showed the Charger receiver had dropped Herbert’s 4-yard pass. The week before, the Broncos scored on the last play to beat Los Angeles.

Some teams, like the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers seem to consistently get the lion’s share of the breaks (ironic, isn’t it?). Other teams, like the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, and Seahawks seem to have more good than bad breaks. As I have written before, the Detroit Lions, on the other hand, have found more ways than anyone in the NFL to lose. But now ladies and gentlemen, I present, for your consideration, the Los Angeles Chargers for the title of “NFL Midas Touch in Reverse”. Could there be such a thing as “The San Diego Curse”?

Last week was tough, but like the Chargers, I plod ahead. How could I have been so wrong on my 49ers and Buccaneers picks? Here are this week’s picks against the spread as reported by espn.com on Wednesday, November 11.

New York Giants (+3.5) at Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants play hard, and could win this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5) at Carolina Panthers. I don’t like that this one is in Carolina, and the Panthers have not been easy. But, the Bucs will come back strong after last Sunday night’s debacle.

Denver Broncos (+5) at Las Vegas Raiders. This one is a schedule pick-the Raiders play the Chiefs next and it’s tough to be ready every week.

Cincinnati Bengals (+7) at Pittsburgh Steelers. How can the Steelers prepare with their QB at home?

Baltimore Ravens (-7) at New England Patriots. Can you imagine making this prediction just a year ago? 

Last week

College 0-0

NFL 2-4

Season

College 0-0

NFL 24-23

Robert’s picks

Even though all of the failures in high profile games the past few years have been the focus of the Jim Harbaugh Experience at Michigan, at least Michigan could be counted on to beat the teams they were supposed to beat in between flameouts. Until the Wolverines got boat raced at Indiana last week, only the second time in my life Indiana has beaten Michigan, and the first since 1984.

Harbaugh was widely expected to be the savior of the Michigan program, which has fallen somewhere into the middle of the pack in relevance in the Big Ten. In addition to the Wolverines’ main rival, Ohio State, the recovery of Penn State from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the rise of Wisconsin into a national power, you could argue that even Northwestern’s success in the last decade and a half and Iowa’s sustained excellence has them higher on the Big Ten’s pecking order.

I know Michigan has generally been good under Harbaugh, but he wasn’t hired to get Michigan back to being good. He was hired to get them back to great. He was hired to beat Ohio State, and now he can’t even beat Indiana.

Seeing the Wolverines get steamrolled last week got me to thinking about some other famous flameouts and flops.

  • The 1957 Ford Edsel. The ’57 Chevy might have been the most popular car ever made, but the ’57 Edsel flopped so spectacularly that even Bill Gates used it as a case study about what went wrong. Ford was so confident in its success that it invested $400 million into designing and marketing the Edsel. Especially when you factor inflation, Harbaugh’s disappointments at Michigan have cost Michigan pocket change compared to that.
  • Sony Betamax. Especially to people for whom DVD’s seem like ancient technology and VHS is a relic of the Dark Ages, it might be surprising to know that at one time VHS was cutting edge technology. Actually Betamax was better than VHS, but Sony kept the Betamax proprietary, meaning the tapes couldn’t be played on VHS machines, which had cornered the market and made Betamax obsolete.
  • New Coke. Ever wondered why bottles of Coke are labeled Coca-Cola Classic? It’s because, for a few months in the early 1980s, Coca-Cola decided to mess with perfection, before admitting defeat and going back to its old formula. This one obviously doesn’t have many parallels with Michigan, which hadn’t achieved excellence in a long time before hiring Harbaugh, but it was too good to leave off the list. Lets move on.
  • The Apple Newton. Before it hit the bullseye with the iPad, Apple marketed a PDA called the Newton in the early 1990s. You know you’ve flopped when there’s a Simpson’s episode making fun of your product. The Michigan fans who are clamoring to fire Harbaugh better hope the replacement works out as well for the Wolverines as it did for Apple.
  • The McDonald’s Arch Deluxe. This one might actually be the most closely comparable flop to Harbaugh. An iconic franchise comes up with a new product which happens to look just like the product produced by its closest and equally iconic competitor. In this case, it was McDonald’s answer to the Whopper. Like Harbaugh, the Arch Deluxe was actually pretty good, if you like fast food hamburgers, except in comparison to the product it was meant to supercede.
  • The Nook. This one also runs pretty parallel to Harbaugh. The Nook is the Barnes & Noble version of the Kindle, except not nearly as good, which isn’t surprising. Like Michigan, Barnes & Noble seems stuck in the past, and while the Nook had plenty of potential at the beginning, it got left behind by a competitor who understands the marketplace better. But hey, at least it’s better than the Kobo.
  • Windows Vista. Oops. Now I’m just being mean. Sorry.

By the way, reading Jim’s section of this column made me wonder, what would happen if the Chargers met the Falcons, the other team whose season has been defined by blown leads, a couple of them in spectacular fashion. Good news – they play Dec. 13 in Los Angeles. I’m sure I’ll be hitting refresh on the in-game lines all afternoon.

The picks (lines as of Wednesday at William Hill):

Minnesota (+3 ½) over Iowa. I’m going back to the well with a Minnesota team that did me right last week, and that even in a loss to Michigan a couple weeks earlier had plenty of fight despite being depleted because of Covid. I watched every play of Iowa’s first two games, and I put a lot more weight into those than I do into last week’s win over a Michigan St. team that was still celebrating its win over Michigan. Even in that win, Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras was not much more impressive than he had been in the two losses prior, and I especially like my chances if Minnesota can get a lead and force Iowa to rely on Petras throwing the ball. Minnesota wins my favorite college football trophy, Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze pig.

Wake Forest (+13 ½) at North Carolina. Sometimes, the Tar Heels put points on the board faster than the scoreboard operator can keep up. Almost as often, they give up points just as fast. As good as the North Carolina offense has been at times this year, it has had trouble keeping up with the damage the defense allows. Wake Forest doesn’t make many mistakes, and if you don’t turn the ball over and don’t commit penalties against Carolina, then your drives will ultimately finish in the end zone.

Penn St. (-3 ½) at Nebraska. Losing a heartbreaker to Indiana in the first game was a little surprising, but understandable. Losing a competitive game at Ohio St. was expected. Getting blown out last week by Maryland was mind boggling, but it was probably more of a function of being out of emotion for Penn St. after those two games. I’m betting that a proud program bounces back strong after hitting what should have been rock bottom in an embarrassing loss last week.

Tennessee (pk) over Indianapolis. I took the Colts over the Ravens last week because I didn’t think the Ravens would be at their best, coming off a big game against the Steelers. Even though I lost, I don’t think my idea was that far off. The Ravens didn’t do much on offense, but got a fumble return for a touchdown to take control. I thought that Phillip Rivers was a poor fit for the Colts before the season, and he showed again in that game that he no longer has what it takes to beat a top defense. The Colts schedule is getting tougher after a relatively easy slate to start the season, and I don’t think Rivers can lead them to a win against another top AFC team.

Arizona (-2) over Buffalo. The Bills surprised me last week in a game I thought they might be flat for last week, but this time they’re on the road, off another satisfying win. Their defense still hasn’t stopped a good offense, and this time, I think they’ll lose the shootout.

Chicago (+2 ½) over Minnesota. The Vikings have ridden Dalvin Cook to consecutive wins over the Packers and Lions, but Soldier Field on a cold night is where winning streaks go to die.

Last week

College 2-1

NFL 1-2

Season

College 11-17-1

NFL 13-13

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