Week 13 picks: Wide receivers

Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

There are wide receivers, and then there are real wide receivers. 

In my experience, kids below 15 who call themselves “wide receivers” are really not football players at all. They are the ones who are most likely to build a fort out of tackling dummies that they can hide in so they don’t have to participate in scrimmages. They are the ones who get the last of the equipment, so their helmets are likely to sit at a weird sideways angle, or get pants that are too big and then fall down. They are the ones most likely to forget key pieces of equipment, like a helmet or shoulder pads, so they don’t have to play and prove correct the rumors that they stink at football. 

Young kids who claim to be wide receivers are frequently kids that don’t like the physicality of football. They want to be a football hero so they can get the hand of the beautiful girl, but they don’t want the most important part of football – hitting and getting hit. And so they choose the position they see as getting hit the least, the wide receiver.

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I know all this because I was the kid who got the way-too-big football pants, and then suffered the indignity of having them fall down when I tried to practice in them. The coach said he would make me into a wide receiver if I stuck with it, then gave Pee Wee Herman (me) The Incredible Hulk’s pants. I know now that he saw there was no way I would ever help the team that year, and probably even doubted that I would make the next practice. He was right about that. I quit and played hockey instead, where suspenders keep everyone’s pants up.

But, the unfortunate fact was, I was a kid that really didn’t want to play the brutal sport of football. Over the years, I have witnessed this same basic scenario play out with different actors and different situations. I have seen wide receivers/fort builders that really don’t want to play football. I have seen wide receivers/equipment forgetters that really don’t want to play football. I have seen wide receivers/father pleasers that really don’t want to play football. And, like me, I have seen wide receivers/girl chasers that really don’t want to play football. I have also seen wide receivers that are injury fakers, rule breakers, late arrivers, and coach contesters all attempting to avoid playing football while appearing to do so.

But it’s not like that in the NFL. In today’s NFL, wide receivers are game breakers. They are fast, tough, athletic, strong, and they will absolutely rip your head off to catch a football. For the good ones, they KNOW they will come down with all 50/50 balls. They KNOW one defensive player has no chance of covering them. I don’t know if any of them ever built a fort during practice or purposely forgot any piece of equipment, but I know they’re all in now. The more I watch NFL football, the more I realize the importance of wide receivers.

I remember watching one Sunday night game where Ben Rothlisberger threw a pass to Antonio Brown when he was triple covered! You could barely see Brown because of all the defenders around him. But, somehow, AB wrestled the ball away from all three defenders for a touchdown. I have since seen Justin Jefferson, DeAndre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, Jamar Chase, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and countless others do the same thing. I hear a lot of talk about quarterbacks and wide receivers being, “…on the same page”, but it really appears to me that frequently QBs just put the ball up and hope their guy comes down with it. And the good ones usually do.

That brings me to Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Justin Herbert, and Russell Wilson. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Rodgers do the exact same thing I saw Rothlisberger do and throw to a triple covered receiver-and it was intercepted. Without Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brady looked average. Justin Herbert has only had both his top two wideouts in the game at the same time for about ½ of one game. It seems every 50-50 ball I see Wilson or Ryan throw this year turns out badly for the offenses, although I see other problems with those two.  And the common thread connecting all the quarterbacks that I mentioned before is they are all being perceived as underperforming this year after having very good careers previously. Could the real reason be not age, but wideouts?

The good news for all Pop Warner wideouts is that participation in youth football has dropped dramatically in the last 10 years, so youngsters like me that played football only to be popular don’t have to do that anymore. The bad news for NFL quarterbacks is that their careers still tend to be short, and to be stuck throwing to wideouts that like to dance more than they like to fight for the ball is not a good path to QB success. As proof, I offer the case of Aaron Rodgers. 

Aaron Rodgers has  gone from MVP to an average quarterback in the span of nine months. How could this be? Although a lot of the blame has to go to the Packer defense, I believe it’s because Davonte Adams was a Packer last year, and a Raider this year. Rodgers has complained (whined?) for several years about the Packers not getting a quality NFL receiver, and ironically, it may be that one of the picks Rodgers was upset about was used on a guy who looks like he may replace Rodgers soon. If I was Aaron Rodgers, I would not be happy at all watching great catches all over the league while my guys can’t catch a cold. Not only that, now there’s talk of replacing me one year after my last MVP?! When you look at the successes of Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Tua Tagovailoa, and Kirk Cousins, it just doesn’t seem fair. But, neither is it fair that a seventh grader loses his pants trying to play football. Snot-nosed wide receivers all over Pop Warner can empathize, Aaron.

Fair or not, here are my picks against the spread. Lines are from sportsline.com on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Detroit Lions (+1) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: The only problem with this line is that the Lions are going to have to win a game, not just cover the point spread. Still, GO LIONS!

Green Bay Packers (-4) at Chicago Bears: NFL Network had this one at Packers -3 this morning. Better bet this one early if you like the Packers because people are realizing that I could have success as a QB against this Bear defense.

Tennessee Titans (+5) at Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are going to have to throw to win.

NY Jets (+3) at Minnesota Vikings: The Jets will pressure Kirk Cousins with only four rushers, leading to more “Cousins can’t play in big games” talk.

Kansas City Chiefs (-2 ½) at Cincinnati Bengals: The only problem with betting the Chiefs is you usually have to give a whole shipload of points. Not this week.

Las Vegas Raiders (+2) vs LA Chargers: I’m on the Raiders until they fail.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3 ½) vs New Orleans Saints: The over/under for this game should be 10. 

Last week 4-2-1

Season 38-32-1

Robert’s picks

Yep, it’s possible. As bad as I’ve been doing all season, it can get worse. I was 1-5 last week, and somehow haven’t fallen below 33 percent yet for the season. But there’s still time. At this point, I’m more curious how bad it will actually end up than I am frustrated about it.

USC (-2 ½) over Utah: It took one drive last week to realize I wasn’t going to get the game flow I needed for Notre Dame to cover. But I’m pretty sure how this game flow is going to go. It will probably look at lot like USC’s 43-42 loss at Utah on Oct. 15. In that one, the teams combined for 1.118 yards of offense, 59 first downs, and only one turnover. In other words, a total shootout, that Utah won with a touchdown and two-point conversion with 51 seconds left in the game. Caleb Williams threw five touchdown passes in that game and USC twice failed to hold on to 14-point leads. But that game was at Utah, and USC covered the spread. This game is in Las Vegas, and I’m betting (a very small amount) that USC will do enough to walk away with the win and a place in the playoffs.

Dolphins/49ers (under 46 ½): Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel will probably play for the 49ers, but both have been out of practice this week for the 49ers. But left tackle Terron Armstead won’t play for the Dolphins, and that’s really bad news against the 49ers voracious pass rush. I think this game will be a tight, low-scoring battle.

Chargers (+1) over Raiders: Justin Herbert is starting to get his weapons back, and I’m not buying the too-little, too-late resurgence of the Raiders.

Saints (+3 ½) at Buccs: The Saints got shut out by the 49ers last week, but they actually were awfully close to winning that game. Alvin Kamara might have scored had he not fumbled on the goal line, and the Saints had other chances inside the red zone and couldn’t complete a pass. Now they come to a divisional rivalry against a Buccs team that is struggling mightily on offense. I look for a better game from Kamara and a creative play or two with Taysom Hill for the Saints to take this game to the wire.

Last week

College 1-3

NFL 0-2

Season

College 17-32-1

NFL 11-17

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