There are a few teams in the NFL that don’t seem to get any breaks. I’m talking about the Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and New York Jets. If something can go against these teams, it does. When it comes to draft picks for all these teams except the Chargers, there are more swings and misses than home runs or even foul balls. When it comes to late game heroics, I seem to remember far more for the teams playing against the ones I mentioned than for them. These teams seem to have more injuries and bad calls that go against them than all the other teams. These teams regularly snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.
In the last few years the Chargers in particular have had more than their share of losses that could have been wins. Sunday night against the Chiefs was just the latest loss that could have been a win. The Chargers have a whole shipload of injuries, but their game breaking wide receivers are back! Ooops, not so fast, one of them obviously reinjures his high ankle sprain on the very first pass thrown his way, and he leaves, not to return. On top of an injury report that includes an incredible 18 of their 53 rostered players, the Chargers lose three more players to injury during the course of the game. But, somehow, the Chargers hang tough and score a touchdown with 1:46 left in the game to take a 27-23 lead. Sadly for the Chargers and all their fans, an NFL game has 60 minutes in it and not 59, and, in just 1:15, the Chiefs scored the winning touchdown to send the Chargers into hoping for a Wild Card spot mode.
It’s just the latest in a string of improbable losses for the San Die…, ahh Los Angeles Chargers, leaving me wondering if one of the forgotten San Diego fans that used to be for the Chargers maybe has a billy goat or Bambino curse up his sleeve. At least the Chargers have made pretty good use of their recent draft picks, selecting stars like Justin Herbert and Joey Bosa, while teams like the Jets wonder what a real NFL quarterback looks like when he is still in college. And, the Chargers have had lots of pretty good years, always to come up short in the end. Even the other teams mentioned have all seen better days, although lots of people today aren’t old enough to remember the Lions’ last championship (it was in 1957, before the AFL even existed and thus, before the Super Bowl era) The Jets used to have a really good QB who correctly guaranteed a Super Bowl victory and now pitches free rides to Medicare appointments. The Texans once had DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson, and JJ Watt at the same time! If you know anything about Cleveland Browns football, you know all about Jimmy Brown, The Drive, and The Fumble. In short, even the worst NFL teams have something to be thankful for. That’s something most of us in the United States have in common with bad NFL teams.
That is definitely not the case for everyone in the world. I have recently begun teaching English to a class that includes two refugees from El Salvador. Neither of them is a rapist, nor a murderer. Jorge heard banging on his door in the middle of the night, and never saw his brother alive again. Jorge’s brother had committed the crime in El Salvador of associating with anti-government people. Or, maybe it was one of the many gangs that make the laws in El Salvador, Jorge doesn’t know for sure. Logically figuring he might be next, Jorge and his family were able to come to the United States legally. Now Jorge makes 13 dollars an hour working over 50 hours a week with no overtime, and he thinks he’s lucky because he’s still alive. He can’t speak English and he can’t get promoted at his job until he can, so Jorge rides his bike both to work and to 2 ½ of English class at night. Jorge loves the United States and believes he would be dead if it were not for the asylum laws here.
Mirna’s husband had a very good job in El Salvador, which is why he and his wife were legally able to come to the United States when he ran afoul of “the gangs”. Now, he cuts grass in the summer and does what he can when the grass doesn’t grow, often working 70 hours a week. He has an education and can speak passable English, but his wife walks to English classes because he needs the car to work all those hours. Mirna and her husband love Donald Trump, believing Trump is the reason they were able to come to the US.
Both of these refugees would rather be in their homeland, but believe they would no longer be living if they were. Learning English for them is difficult at their ages, but it doesn’t compare with the pain they feel for leaving. Yet, they both feel lucky and were more than willing to share the many reasons that they are thankful this Thanksgiving. I asked them to share 20 and they both came up with dozens of reasons more than that before class time ran out. They are both very optimistic about their futures.
It seems to me that many Americans can learn a great deal from Jorge and Mirna. In spite of many hardships that most of us can’t even imagine, they love the United States and are thankful to be here. They don’t like to talk about politics, I guess because old habits die hard. I have never heard that banging on the door in the middle of the night. I have never had to look around suspiciously before I criticize the government. And if I call the police to report a crime, I have never felt the fear that there are groups better armed and more powerful than the police are going to come after me. I also firmly believe that although riches are not equally distributed here, the opportunities are.
I have a great deal to be thankful for even though my fantasy team stinks and I am down a few dollars from betting. Most Americans, and even the worst NFL teams should feel the same way.
If anyone is following my betting advice, I’ll bet that person is not thankful for my “tips”. I’ll try to do better this week, and here are my picks against the spread. Lines are from sportsline.com on Monday, Nov. 21.
Detroit Lions (+ 9 ½) vs. Buffalo Bills: It’s worked so far, so, GO LIONS!
NY Giants (+9) at Dallas Cowboys: Too many points for an inconsistent team like the Cowboys to give
Tennessee Titans (+1 ½) vs Cincinnati Bengals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) at Cleveland Browns: The way to beat the Bucs is to throw because Tampa Bay is really tough against the run. Cleveland has a good running game and a so-so passing game. Plus, Cleveland’s defense is bad.
Kansas City Chiefs (-14 ½) vs. LA Rams: Lots of points, but the Rams are done.
SF 49ers (-8) vs New Orleans Saints: The Saints can beat teams that are a little bit soft, but that’s not the 49ers.
Philadelphia Eagles (-7) vs Green Bay Packers: This one might get ugly
Last week 4-3
Coastal Carolina (+14) at James Madison: A 7-3 team in its first season in the FBS has to win by three scores over a 9-1 first place team that has already clinched a spot in the conference championship game, and gets that game at home if they win. Quarterback Grayson McCall is likely out for Coastal Carolina, but similar doom was forecast a couple of years ago when Fred Payton was out and McCall had to make his first career start. The Chanticleers do most of their damage by running the ball anyway with a creative option offense, and the Dukes have seemed to wear down in the second half of their first season in the FBS.
Marshall (-6) over Georgia St.: Marshall has a great defense, at least against foes of their own level, and last time I rode them, they pitched a shutout. I don’t expect that again, but they should be able to limited one-dimensional Georgia St. attack enough that a couple of scoring drives of their own can make the difference.
Notre Dame (+5 ½) at USC: This is a game where the game flow has to break right for Notre Dame to have a chance. They can’t fall behind and become forced to throw the ball, or else they’ll get run off the field by the prolific USC offense. Instead, the Irish need to win the line of scrimmage, avoid turnovers and take the fight to the Trojans. That can work because they’re the more physical team, and because USC gave all it had to come back to beat UCLA last week, and it will be tough to get back to that emotional level this week.
Washington (-2) at Washington St.: Washington has won five straight since losing two in a row, a case of losing the UCLA game twice, by following it up with an upset loss to Arizona St., which is the reason they aren’t in the conference championship game, unless Oregon St., Colorado and Cal all pull upsets this week. But a win here in a rivalry they’ve mostly dominated puts Washington in a pretty prestigious bowl game. One of their losses in this series was last season when their season went off the rails and the coach got fired, so this is an atonement.
Ravens (-4) at Jaguars: The Ravens have interestingly enough played better on the road than at home. They’ve also had a double digit lead in every game this season, but some late collapses have led to their three losses. But this line is low enough and the defense is rounding into shape.
Seahawks (-3 ½) over Raiders: The Seahawks have been mostly steadily efficient this season. The only thing steady about the Raiders has been steady mediocrity. Pete Carroll against Josh McDaniel is about as big as coaching mismatches get.