Week #13 picks: Celebrate Good Times…

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Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

Jim’s picks

One of my friends married the daughter of Hockey Hall of Famer Bill Gadsby. “Gads” played 20 years in the National Hockey League, the last five of them for my Detroit Red Wings before retiring after the 1965-66 season. Gadsby then coached the Red Wings for two seasons.

Several years after Bill Gadsby’s retirement, at my friend’s bachelor party, the talk turned to the hockey talents of then rookie and future all time NHL scoring leader Wayne Gretzky. Someone asked the bride’s father and former NHL All-Star defenseman how he would try to stop Gretzky.

“I’ll tell ya what, he wouldn’t be able to make me look stupid twice, because after he made me look bad once, he wouldn’t be able to play anymore,” one of the greatest players ever to play defense in the National Hockey League growled. “We’re playing for keeps out there, and if someone can make me look bad, someone else is going to try it, too.”

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I thought it was an attempt at humor, but the look in Gadsby’s eyes said he meant business. He would intentionally hurt someone rather than be embarrassed while playing hockey.

I have thought several times of Bill Gadsby these last couple years, and I thought of him again Sunday afternoon as I watched Tyreek Hill somersault backwards into the endzone in celebration of scoring a touchdown. Hill’s coach, Andy Reid, had stated less than two weeks before that the Las Vegas Raiders’ bus driving around the Chiefs home stadium in celebration after a win there, “…Is not our style…”, but I guess a backflip WHILE THE PLAY WAS CONTINUING in front of a national TV audience is OK. I thought of him as I watched Tyreek Hill waving two fingers at a chasing defender as he ran for his second TD of the day. I thought of him on Sunday night when I watched the Green Bay Packers posing in celebration and watching their own celebration on an on-field big screen. (When did these on field big screens make their debut, anyway? Is this the NFL’s idea of encouraging mocking the other team?) I think of him when I see defenders flexing their muscles over the fallen and often broken bodies of someone they just tackled. How about mocking the other team’s mascot, or stomping their on-field insignia, or even locking arms and bowling over opposing players during pregame warmups? I think of him every time I see a celebration cross the bridge and turn into mocking an opponent who’s down.

I think that many athletes have forgotten that they should respect their opponents’ efforts, if not their abilities. They are lucky, they get to get paid for playing a game, and many don’t seem to have any idea of what it’s like to live in the real world. Can you imagine going to the cubicle of a co-worker over whom you just got promoted and screaming in his face while making demeaning gestures? How about pretending to drop your pants and “moon” a fellow employee because your idea got chosen and hers didn’t, like Randy Moss did? Or celebrate your child’s goal by pretending to urinate like a dog, like Odell Beckham did? Can you see a teacher celebrate a student he just failed? Celebration is cool, mocking a fellow human for competing is not.

I don’t know, maybe if athletes don’t respect each other willingly, they will do it because of the possibility of receiving the Bill Gadsby treatment. Maybe the best way to ensure athletes treat each other with respect is to let the athletes settle their issues between the lines. Are we encouraging obnoxious behavior by not allowing retaliation in what may be the most effective manner?

To be clear, I am against my childhood hero Bill Gadsby’s method of retaliation. I am also against what I consider to be the blatant disregard of respect for opponents. I am in favor of teaching our young athletes that competition, not winning, is the essence of sports, and the attitudes and values of that idea may carry over to those lucky enough to become professional athletes.

On a different note, what the heck was Eagles’ Coach Doug Pederson thinking Monday night? In the 4th quarter, trailing by 11 and facing a fourth down and 4 from around the Seahawks’ 20 yard line, Pederson decided that the highly suspect Eagle offense should go for a first down, rather than kick the also-needed-to-tie field goal. (The Eagles failed to get the first down) Then, even more strangely (especially considering the 6 ½ point spread) Pederson went for a two point conversion with 6 seconds to go in the game and trailing by 8, rather than kick the 90 percent chance extra point. The Eagles made the two point conversion, thereby covering the 6 ½ point spread… Hmmmm, conspiracy theory, anyone?

I respectfully submit my picks against the point spread, although considering my season record, flipping a coin or throwing darts blindfolded is just as good. Lines are from vegas.com

Baltimore (+10) at Pittsburgh I am NOT betting this game, and I advise everyone else to do the same. How can Baltimore possibly field a competitive team? This is normally a close game, and if you believe the NFL is concerned about competition, you’ve got to take the Ravens. After what happened to Denver, though, I don’t believe that. This article was written on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Rams (-3) at Arizona Cardinals I think the Rams defense will be too much for the Cardinals

New England Patriots (-3) at Los Angeles Chargers The Chargers could win, but they have a knack for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory

Indianapolis Colts (-3) at Houston Texans The Colts are better and need this game

Tennessee Titans (-5.5) vs. Cleveland Browns It seems true…the Browns beat up mediocre teams. The Titans are not mediocre.

New Orleans Saints (-3) at Atlanta Falcons The Falcons are playing well, but the Saints are good

San Francisco 49ers (+2.5) vs Buffalo Bills If I lose this one, I SWEAR it will be the last time I pick for OR against the 49ers.

Last week

College 0-0

NFL 3-3

Season

College 0-0

NFL 32-31

Robert’s picks

One of the concepts I used when I first started betting on sports, which was almost as long ago as the Stone Age, was to bet against bad teams whenever possible. But it didn’t take me long to realize the folly, or more accurately, many follies, of that strategy. For one, when everyone knows a team is bad, the point spread against them gets set so high, it’s difficult to win betting against them. For another, most teams rarely bring their A game when they’re playing a bad team, so even if you think a team should absolutely destroy another, it sometimes doesn’t happen just because the other team is looking past them to a more important game.

That leads to an interesting contradiction, which I’ve used to advantage in the few situations a season it comes up, and that is that most bad teams are even worse than they appear to be. For many years I struggled to define that situation, although I recognized it, until I read the writings of a professional handicapper a few years ago named Dave Malinsky. Malinsky used to host the old Stardust Line radio show on Sunday nights, which I listed to every week during football season for about 20 years.

The theory is that most bad teams rarely face teams that are trying their hardest for a full 60 minutes. A team that allows 40 points per game on defense often faces teams that start trying to run the clock out and put backups in the game once the game is in hand, otherwise they might allow 60 points per game. Likewise, a team that can’t score will often get a late touchdown or two when the other team goes into a “prevent” defense that pads their stats and makes them look better than they would if the other team had kept attacking.

The time to take advantage is that rare situation that happens only a few times a season when a bad team is facing a team that has reason to be motivated to play their best. That could be because it’s a rivalry game, or maybe because the other team is coming off a loss or two and is looking to take out some frustrations.

This situation applies in college, where there are physical and athletic mismatches, and is not so useful in the NFL, where team are so evenly matched in comparison that statistical profiles are generally pretty accurate.

The key, late in the season, is to look for teams that are playing against bad teams and also have a reason to bring their A game.

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

Virginia (-4) over Boston College: The key to both of these teams seasons have been at quarterback. Boston College has ridden Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec to some upset wins and competitive efforts. But Jurkovec has dealt with a shoulder injury for the past few weeks, and last week left with a knee injury. He’s listed as questionable and might even start, but I don’t expect to see him near his best even if he does, and there’s a huge dropoff to his backup. Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong, however, has returned from an injury of his own, and the Cavaliers have been strong in every game he’s played.

Missouri (-3) vs Arkansas: Both of these teams have had some impressive moments and showed tremendous improvement under first year coaches, especially when you consider they didn’t get a regular offseason program. Missouri has been especially good at home, while Arkansas is dealing with a depleted defensive line, which has been the team’s strongest unit.

Texas Tech (-27 ½) vs. Kansas: I didn’t expect Kansas to win a game this season, and they haven’t, and the only game they’ve covered was by a half point wen Pooka Williams returned a kickoff for a touchdown with less than two minutes left against West Virginia. At 3-6. Texas Tech isn’t going to a bowl game, and this is their last game, so I’ll bet they’ll want to end on a good note, and Kansas is the perfect foe to do it, the epitome of a bad team that’s even worse than their stats.

Las Vegas (-8 ½) at NY Jets: Although I didn’t see a 43-6 beatdown coming, I expected the Raiders to struggle last week in Atlanta, coming off of three divisional games. This week should be different, as the Raiders will try to avoid a repeat of last season, when they collapsed down the stretch after they were 6-4.

Arizona (+3) vs. LA Rams: Both of these teams lost on walk-off field goals last week, and both of these teams need to win to keep in solid position for the playoffs. These are pretty even teams overall, although they get it done in much different ways. I expect this game to become a shootout, and I expect Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to find a way to pull it out at home.

Last week

College 2-2

NFL 2-0

Season

College 14-24-1

NFL 15-16-1

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