Week 11 picks: Going back to the film
Robert Perea and Jim Vallet, The Fernley Reporter
During the fall of my high school senior year, my second period teacher, Jim Landreth, was our football team’s offensive coordinator. He had a third period prep, and I didn’t have a third period class, so I spent that hour every day in his room watching film and talking football. Sometimes the film was our team’s previous Friday’s game, sometimes it was the upcoming opponent, and sometimes it was film of the previous year or a past year’s game against that upcoming opponent.
Always, it was most illuminating to watch our own games, because it’s easier to tell what went right or wrong when you know what’s supposed to happen. Inevitably, there would be something on almost every play that you couldn’t see from the sideline, the stands or another part of the field, that caused the play to either work or fail.
What was surprising to me when I became a reporter was that it’s the same way for a coach. Many times, when I’d ask a coach about a big play during a postgame interview, the coach would say he’d have to watch the film to know what happened. That’s why, when I was working at weekly newspapers, I preferred to wait until Sunday night to interview the coach on the phone, so I knew he had watched the film and would have much more to say about how his team played.
Betting on football works much the same way. I typically bet on six or seven games on a college football Saturday, and rarely watch most of them. Instead, I usually watch the games that interest me most as a fan, or games that figure to give me the best insight into teams that have a game coming up that I might be interested in betting on. Then, after games are over, I scour box scores, play by play logs and sometimes the Twitter feed of beat writers of the teams in games I bet on trying to understand why I won or lost.
This season I lost a bet on West Virginia against Kansas when they gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown with less than two minutes to play after scoring to get ahead of the spread. I got a push on the Arizona Cardinals last week when the Cardinals completed one of the most unlikely touchdown passes I’ve ever seen, a Hail Mary to a single receiver who was surrounded by three defenders, after the quarterback made a great play to even get in position to throw the ball. But I didn’t win, because the Cardinals took a knee on the extra point, instead of kicking it.
But mostly this season, I’ve lost. I’ve lost on favorites, on underdogs, on teams that blew leads, on teams that got behind early and couldn’t come back, on good teams, on bad teams. I’ve lost on games when I didn’t know my team had players out for Covid protocols, and lost even though the opposing team had players out.
And unlike past seasons, where I’ve done better over the second half of the season, I’ve done worse as this season goes along. It feels like I’m finding the same kinds of situations I’ve always looked for, and betting on the same kind of situations I always have, but this year it hasn’t worked like it usually does.
It’s a lot like watching film all those years ago, when coach Landreth would get excited about seeing our quarterback make the right read, or a lineman drive a defender 10 yards backward. The challenge for him, as it is for me now, was to figure out how to make sure that happened more times than it didn’t.
The picks (Lines as of Wednesday at William Hill)
Cincinnati (-6) at Central Florida. Central Florida has been a betting darling the past couple years, because most bettors love them some high scoring teams. But Cincinnati is a much more well-rounded team. More physical on both sides of the ball, significantly better on defense, and this year their offense has blossomed under veteran quarterback Desmond Ridder. Cincinnati has beaten AAC challengers SMU and Memphis, and can show they are clearly the best team in the conference with a win here.
North Carolina St. (-3 ½) over Liberty. Liberty is 8-0, ranked in the top 25 for the first time and beat Virginia Tech two weeks ago in one of the wackiest finishes ever. But this will be the first time they’ve ever played an FBS foe who is focused on them. As an independent, every Liberty game is a nonconference game, and usually teams come out flat for nonconference games in the middle of conference season. But Liberty’s undefeated record, ranking and win over Va. Tech will ensure they have NC State’s attention, and a team with more depth, experience and a powerful offense should be able to come away with a win.
Fresno St. (+2 ½) over San Jose State. San Jose St. is undefeated, including a win over San Diego St. which has them favored here. Fresno laid an egg in its first game, but has rebounded with three wins, although the opponents were less than stellar – Colorado St., UNLV and Utah St. Still, Fresno has showed good balance in each of the last three games, and I think gets the win at home.
Kansas St. (+11) at Iowa St. Kansas St. has come through two of the three times I’ve tried them as an underdog, and here they are again in a game taking double digits in a game that looks like a tossup. The Wildcats have been a consistently strong underdog under coach Chris Klieman, because they’re a strong fundamental team that plays good defense, doesn’t make mistakes and has gotten good quarterback play.
New England (-2) at Houston. No matter that they are nowhere the team that have been the past few years, the Patriots continue to scrap and claw, while Houston hasn’t beaten anyone besides Jacksonville. Other than Jacksonville and in terrible weather in Cleveland, Houston hasn’t slowed down any offense they’ve faced.
When you believe in things
That you don’t understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain’t the way
Humans are a strange breed. It seems to me that when we have not understood something, anything, we invent explanations if we must to explain what we don’t understand.
Take the ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. It’s easy to use the pythagorean theorem to figure out measurements today, but who could possibly be smart enough to figure out the formula the first time? I use our decimal system today to figure out lots of things, but who was brilliant enough to come up with it in the first place? How could the Egyptians possibly know how to construct the pyramids, and align them so perfectly? Even the invention of the wheel amazes me.
Yet, these same people that imagined so many incredible and accurate formulas also explained many phenomena with very simplistic causes. They didn’t understand thunder, lightning, tides, the sun, and many other things, so, instead of seeking a scientific explanation they simply said there was a god that controlled these things. Since it appeared the sun moved and people couldn’t feel the earth moving, that was the way it had to be.
So, too with the misfortunes all of us are forced to encounter, and many of those beliefs are alive and well in our culture today. My mother, an otherwise very intelligent woman, would NEVER set a table for thirteen since she firmly believed that if she did, the next year one of the thirteen at the table would have passed away. Many tall buildings have no thirteenth floor. I never “count my chickens before they’re hatched” because I don’t want to be jinxed. How many athletes refuse to step on certain chalk lines, put on one sock before another, or even rub a certain rock on their way to the field?
If we don’t understand the cause of an event, we make one up because there always must be a reason for everything, right?
Let me say, THIS IS RIDICULOUS! There is always a reason for events, but we frequently don’t want to recognize it. There is no “bad luck god”. There is no such thing as “karma”. No one is watching my every move, waiting to retaliate against my favorite teams because of my transgressions.
But, still, there are things I don’t understand, like the NFL, and specifically, attempting to pick NFL winners and losers.
There is an explanation as to why picking winners and losers is so hard: The teams are so even, anything can happen. But, still…
Things were going great last Sunday morning. I correctly picked that Tampa Bay would beat Carolina by more than 7, and also was correct that the Giants would cover a 4 point spread against Philadelphia. My fantasy team was comfortably ahead after a five week losing streak. I had it figured out!
But then, something happened. The Raiders, who should have been looking ahead to this week’s game against the Chiefs, were instead all in throttling the Broncos. The Steelers, whose quarterback should have been rusty after a week of no practice against a team coming off a bye, were destroying the Bengals. And the Patriots, who had looked so hapless for four straight weeks, were easily handling the Ravens.
I couldn’t get it! I COULD NOT BE my fault, there had to be something else to go from so right, to so wrong.
And then, I saw it! My lucky hat had fallen from its lucky spot off the mantle! I can’t win with my lucky hat off its lucky spot! Quickly, I moved to return it, and although the Ravens came back some, it was too late. I lost, and it’s all my hat’s fault.
Here are my picks for this week against the spread, providing my hat can stay in its place, on espn.com/nfll/lines on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
New Orleans Saints (-5) vs. Atlanta Falcons After every week, I remind myself to PAY ATTENTION TO THE HOME TEAM!!!
Miami Dolphins (-3) at Denver Broncos Re above: Unless the visitors are better
Indianapolis Colts (-2) vs. Green Bay Packers The Packers’ defense struggles against good offensive lines, and look what Indy has
Minnesota Vikings (-7) vs. Dallas Cowboys The Cowboys are coming off a bye and get their second-string QB back, the Vikings are coming off a grueling Monday night win. It won’t matter.
Los Angeles Rams (+4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs remind me of a bully. They beat up so-so defenses and get beat up by good defenses. The Rams, especially on defense, are pretty good and getting more than a field goal.