Week 15 picks: Growing up
Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
When do we “grow up” in our society? When we get our driver’s license? Having spent a lot of time in high school parking lots watching the high school “grown ups” drive away after school, I sure hope not. Does it magically happen on our 18th, or 21st birthday? Listening to many that are a lot older than that speak, I am confident that’s not when either. Is it an experience, like joining the military? Having been in the military myself for four years, although I was certainly more mature after my military service than before, I was still pretty immature after my discharge.
In many societies and religions, there are rituals where a child becomes an adult overnight, but that doesn’t work for me, either.
I believe an individual grows up when he acquires the ability to see beyond himself. He acquires the skill of empathy and realizes that there is more than his own interests in the world, and acts accordingly. It is at this point that the student becomes the teacher, the child the parent, the boyfriend the husband, the citizen the role model.
For me, that happened when my wife and I had our first child. I was 36. For the first time, I was forced to think of someone besides myself first. For the first time, I had to consider others in every single decision I made. I couldn’t go out every night after work, because I had responsibilities at home. I couldn’t just quit a job if my boss made me mad, because I had people depending on me to support them. I couldn’t even watch every TV show I wanted, because other people liked different shows.
I bring all this up because last Thursday night Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool proved yet again that merely playing in the NFL is NOT an indicator of a person “growing up”. After publicly suggesting to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin that playing music during practice would make the Steelers play better football, Claypool was in the midst of a disinterested, up and down performance against the Vikings last Thursday. It looked to me like Claypool was miffed at his coach for having the temerity to put the player in his place after his music suggestion. With time running out in the game and the Steelers driving to tie the score, Claypool, with the clock running, decided that the official signaling a first down was not enough. The Steeler wideout decided that he needed to signal a first down, as well, after he caught a first down pass. (Isn’t that what a receiver in the NFL is supposed to do?) When a teammate attempted to get the ball away from his misunderstood skill player, the ball fell to the ground and a few (about 5 or 6) seconds needlessly ticked off the clock. As the officials scrambled to get the ball ready for play as quickly as possible, Chase Claypool appeared to casually saunter to his place, costing the Steelers more time, time that eventually would run out on the Steelers.
My original title for this article was going to be, “Chase Cwaypowoo”, and I was going to attack yet another professional athlete for not appreciating what he has. But, when I searched for background on Claypool, I did not find the trouble making, spoiled football brat. Instead, I found a son who was the first in his family to graduate from college, in this case, Notre Dame. I found a mother who worked two jobs to support her children, and tragically, a family that lost a sister to suicide when Chase was only 13. I found a nice Canadian kid, with lots of friends, who was a good enough athlete to beat the odds and make it to the NFL. I found a family that gets together every Steelers game to cheer for one of their own who made it. Not what I expected.
Still, what’s up with the incredibly immature behavior of so many NFL players? Antonio Brown (Buccaneers, if you are dumb enough to keep this cancer named Antonio Brown around after his latest apparently criminal act, you are as stupid as Bruce Arians looks in that face shield) players (AGAIN!!) dancing on an opponents logo (why can’t players leave dancing, and first down calling, to the professionals?) Henry Ruggs drinking and feeling the need to drive 156 mph (!!??) on a city street, Richard Sherman drunkenly crashing his car in a construction zone, then attempting to break into his girlfriend’s parents’ house, and on, and on, and on. With all of this, I really don’t want to hear about “that study” that found NFL players actually were arrested at a rate half that of the general population. I watch them, I listen to them, they do a lot of very immature things.
Come to think of it, I did a lot of things that I regret when I was young, too, and maybe the only reason I never drove 156 mph when I was younger is that I didn’t have a car that could go that fast. I put down opponents and excessively celebrated, but no national media cared. I shudder to think that maybe the only reason I never beat up a bunch of the people that aggravated me is that I never was physically strong enough to do it. And boy, am I ever lucky there was no social media for me to misuse a couple of decades ago.
So, I guess the message here should be that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. But, you’d have to be mature enough to see that.
Critics cannot throw stones at my 4-1 record of last week, until I confess that I parlayed ALL OF MY WINS TO MY ONE LOSS!! I thought sure the Rams were toast, and the Cardinals would romp. OBJ was done and Hopkins was back! I hate parlays. I’m not gonna bet another one, until at least next week.
But, like George Washington, I forge ahead. Here are my picks this week against the point spread. Lines are from vegasinsider.com on Tuesday, Dec. 14.
Indianapolis Colts (-2 ½) vs New England Patriots: This, as John Maddon would say, should be a real slobberknocker.
Tennessee Titans (-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Houston Texans (+ 3 ½) at Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags are giving more than a field goal against any NFL team??!!
Arizona Cardinals (-13 ½) at Detroit Lions: This one hurts. A lot.
Buffalo Bills (-10 ½) vs Carolina Panthers: A lot of points, but the Bills will get back on track against this team.
Cincinnati Bengals (+ 1 ½) at Denver Broncos: The Bengals have to win.
Last week 4-1
For college football bettors who like the challenge of picking bowl games, one of the worst things that could have happened is the recent high profile coaching changes, particularly Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for LSU, and here at home, Jay Norvell leaving Nevada for Colorado St.
That’s because it’s brought to the limelight something we college bettors have been taking advantage of for years. I’ve been saying since I first started watching college football games that bowl games are not big games for the players and coaches, except for the handful of high profile games each year. For most players, the reward of a bowl game is the trip to a cool locale, the weeklong festivities leading up to the game, and the big swag bags the players get. For others, bowl games are actually a disappointment, if they had hopes for a bigger, more high profile game.
For as long as there have been bowl games, there have been coaches who abandon their teams for other jobs before the bowl games. To give you an indication of how important the bowl games are for the schools, teams with coaching vacancies going into bowl games rarely have the newly hired coach lead his new team in the bowl game. Instead, he hits the road recruiting and begins putting together a staff and planning for spring practice. Meanwhile, the teams that lose coaches just as rarely insist that the coach leaving stay and coach through the bowl. I can only remember one or two instances of either of those scenarios happening.
As a bettor, that’s led to tremendous opportunities, because bowl games, particularly those before New Year’s Day, rarely come down to which is the better team. Usually, it’s which team is more excited to play. Sometimes that is easy to determine ahead of time. Most times it’s not. In general, if you can determine which fan base is buying more tickets to the game, that will give you an idea of which team will be more excited to be there. Sometimes teams that are playing at home, or close to home, have a big advantage, because more of their fans show up. But sometimes, it’s actually a disadvantage, because there’s no reward in traveling to a cool locale.
A prime example of this could be the Nevada-Western Michigan game in Detroit. Maybe a few thousand fans will make it from Kalamazoo to Detroit, but don’t you think the Broncos’ players would rather be in the Bahamas, where fellow MAC foe Toledo is playing, or Orlando, where MAC champion Northern Illinois gets to play?
Unfortunately, the departures of Kelly and Norvell have led to a major outcry among fans and the media, which shines a spotlight on what has been a rather under-the-radar angle in handicapping bowl games. So much so, that there might even be some value in betting against the angle now and taking the team that lost its coach. The line in the Nevada-Western Michigan has moved 11 points since Norvell left and Carson Strong and several other players announced they are not playing. Now a team that was only fifth in its division in a not very strong league is laying 4 ½ points. Fortunately, there’s still another week to determine whether Nevada is worth a play, but there are a couple of situations this week that will have me pulling out my wallet.
BYU (-6 ½) over UAB: UAB won the Conference USA championship last year and was favored to repeat this season, but didn’t even make the championship game this year, because of the breakout season by Texas-San Antonio. Until this year, UAB has dominated the conference since restarting its program in 2017, but they have faltered badly when stepping up in class. Granted, BYU is not Texas A&M or Georgia, but it is favorably comparable to the Miami and Tennessee teams that have blasted the Blazers the past two years.
Utah St. (+7 ½) vs Oregon St.: Kudos to Oregon St. for getting to seven wins after going 2-5 in last year’s COVID season. But the Beavers were 6-0 at home and only 1-5 on the road, and I’m not sure they are even the better team here. Granted, Utah St. got a big break in the Mountain West championship game because San Diego St. had a bunch of players out due to COVID protocols, but there is no evidence based on this season’s results that the middle tier PAC-12 teams are any better than the top teams in the Mountain West. In fact, Utah St. won at Washington St., which finished ahead of Oregon St. in the PAC-12 North. This game is one where both teams figure to be excited to be there and to play, and where the matchup should come down to the relative merits of both teams. Utah St. brings the more explosive offense, the better quarterback and a strong enough run defense to keep the Beavers from dominating on the ground. They’re good enough to take the game down to the wire with a chance to win it.
Colts (-2 ½) over Patriots: I’m not sure the Patriots’ recipe of the past few weeks is going to work this time. While their defense will probably end the Colts streak of scoring 30 or more points in seven of their last eight games, this looks like the situation where Mac Jones is going to have to make some plays to win the game, rather than just manage the game. He’s done fine so far, but he hasn’t yet been forced to have to carry the team. If he’s put into that situation, I don’t think he’s ready yet.
Bengals +2 ½ at Broncos: Most NFL bettors seem to react as if the last thing they saw is the only thing that can happen. So when a team wins a big game, they’re surprised when they lose the next one to a weaker team. Or when a team loses two in a row, they get back up and knock someone else down. After losses to the Chargers and 49ers, which followed big wins over the Raiders and Steelers, I expect to see the Bengals “A” game here. I don’t expect that from the Broncos, who took advantage of a Lions team last week that was coming down off their own big bounce the week before. I think Joe Mixon gets back in the end zone, Joe Burrow hits Tee Higgins and Jamar Chase for a couple big plays and the pass rush hounds Teddy Bridgewater.