Week #16 picks: Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right
Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
This is too easy. Week in and week out, NFL and college football players try to prove that Stealers Wheel had it right in their 1973 song, “Stuck in the Middle with You”. In the midst of watching the clowns to the left and jokers to the right act out their wildest fantasies publicly, there is always some sanity. This week, to me, that sanity comes from the New York Jets.
Dwayne Haskins has been here before. Pouting after losing his starting QB role resulting from his second NFL coach accusing him of not properly preparing to play, Dwayne Haskins just decided not to show up for a while to practice with the rest of his Washington Football Team teammates. Then, when the team allowed Haskins to travel with them in October, the benched former Ohio State star decided he had to go out and break the strict NFL Covid-19 protocol by having an uncleared guest in his hotel room. Now, in a move that Michael Plelps would have certainly discouraged, we have pictures of Haskins partying maskless after Washington’s loss on Sunday to Seattle.
This is not about the pros and cons of wearing a mask during this Pandemic. This is about common sense. The NFL has been very clear that it would have a no tolerance policy regarding Covid-19 protocols. Haskins is on thin NFL ice, and he’s not playing well enough to cause too much trouble. What could he be thinking? In a little over two months, Duane Haskins did little to prepare (according to his two NFL coaches), pouted over his demotion, walked out on his team, and has twice violated NFL rules about Covid protocols. All while throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns and compiling a quarterback rating well below league average.
Then, there’s JuJu Smith Schuster who insists on dancing on the home team’s logo (??) when his team is on the road. Not only that, he gets a teammate (Monday it was fellow Steeler wide receiver Clay Claypool) to film him so he can post his dance on TikTok.
What does Smith Schuster think opposing teams are going to think of this? If you do something like this, you’d better be darn good, and neither the Steelers nor Smith Schuster are good enough for other teams to think this act is funny. JuJu Smith Schuster, in my opinion, is an average NFL receiver, with good hands, average speed, little separation skill and poor willingness to battle for 50-50 balls. When Muhammad Ali wrote poems degrading his opponents, they were well-received because Ali could back up what he said. People liked Terrell Owens when he celebrated, until there was nothing to celebrate. Remember the Ickey Shuffle, The Dirty Bird and the Sosa bat-flip? How about Cam Newton’s Superman? All popular only as long as the athletes were successful. As Smith Schuster was dancing Monday, you can see a couple of Cincinnati Bengals in the background stretching and they were definitely not laughing as Ju Ju jerked. If that had anything to do with the ferocious hit Bengal safety Vonn Bell leveled on Smith Schuster that caused JuJu to fumble, I don’t know, but several Bengals claimed it did. Either way, after the game Steeler Head Coach Mike Tomlin for the first time admitted that he was aware of the “Schuster Shake”, and that he would speak to JuJu about it.
Finally, there are the fans of the New York Jets. I can see why Jets’ fans wanted their team to lose and “earn” the right to draft talented Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. But did they really think the Jets’ players and coaching staff were going to go out and try to lose? The average career length for an NFL player is 2 ½ years, so they can be excused for failing to see the “big picture”. Did they think Sam Darnold wanted to lose so someone else can come in and take his job? Did they think Head Coach Adam Gase, who is going to get fired, wanted to be the third NFL coach to finish a season winless? Did they think Frank Gore wanted to end his career with a donut in the win column for a whole season?
There are, and should be, many changes coming for the New York Jets before next year. But to think that these world class athletes are going to quit on themselves is ridiculous, and to be critical of them for not quitting on themselves is not fair. They are going to play hard until the end, and I am happy to see, with all the clowns and jokers in the NFL, that some integrity remains intact in the NFL and that the New York Jets are not done yet.
Speaking of clowns and jokers, take a look at my record! I guess it takes one to know one. Oh, well, I’ll try again to pick NFL games against the point spread on vegasinsider.com
Indianapolis Colts (-1 ½) at Pittsburgh Steelers The Steelers are not the Steelers I know. Their receivers kind of battle for 50-50 balls, if they feel like it when not dancing or filming dances. Antonio Brown is not a nice guy or a good person, but he battled when he played for the Steelers. Both offensive and defensive lines do not control the line of scrimmage. Their passing game stinks, and I don’t know if I should blame the QB, the receivers, or the offensive line, which is appropriately named. What I hear from the locker room reminds me of a US Senate Committee hearing. How can any team go from 11-0 to this? The Colts, meanwhile, are either lucky, good, or a little of both.
LA Rams (+1 ½) at Seattle Seahawks The Rams’ defense dominated first time, and if ever a team needed to bounce back…
Tennessee Titans (+3 ½) at Green Bay Packers I think Derrick Henry will have himself a day, although there are some guys in green that may have themselves a day, too.
Buffalo Bills (-7) at New England Patriots Better beat up on the Pats while they’re down, because history says they won’t stay there long. Seriously, the Bills are red-hot.
Miami Dolphins (-3) at Las Vegas Raiders I believe in history, which shows the Raiders collapsing two years in a row.
Lines as of Thursday at William Hill
Oklahoma (+3) vs Florida (Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29): I never thought I’d say this in a game between top teams from the Big 12 and SEC, but I’m taking the Big 12 team because they have the better defense. Every year, picking bowl games is tougher than the regular season, because the games usually come down to motivation, not matchups. For that reason, I usually default to the team with an established senior quarterback, which in this case is Florida’s Kyle Trask. But this matchup is the first step toward a possible playoff run next season for Oklahoma, while Trask will be a first round pick in the next NFL draft. Trask is so good that he’s overcome the terrible Florida defense most of the season. But he couldn’t against Texas A&M, LSU or Alabama, and I don’t think he can here. Oklahoma’s defense has improved more than any other unit I’ve seen this season, and while it isn’t yet enough to be considered good, it’s better than Florida’s. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s redshirt freshman QB Spencer Rattler has also learned from the mistakes that caused Oklahoma’s losses to Iowa St. and Kansas St. earlier this season. I look for the Sooners to have a big offensive game against the feeble Florida defense, and to win this one, the Oklahoma defense just needs to make one more stop than Florida does.
Las Vegas (+3) vs Miami: It must be frustrating to be a Raiders fan. In the third year of Jon Gruden 2.0, the Raiders haven’t improved at all defensively, wasting what is one of the most potent offenses in the league. But this week they catch the Dolphins in a bad scheduling spot.
Pittsburgh (+1 ½) vs. Indianapolis: Granted, I haven’t been right very often about the Colts this season. Actually, I haven’t been right about much of anything. Even when the Steelers were unbeaten I didn’t think they were one of the top handful of teams in the NFL, but now that they’ve lost three in a row, I think it’s time to zig while the markets zag. Probably no team on the schedule this week will be more motivated than the Steelers will to get back in the win column, and off two wins over the divisional rival Texas in the past three weeks, with a win over the Raiders in between, I don’t think this week is high tide for the Colts.
Carolina (+1) at Washington: As good as their defense is, nothing comes easy for the Football Team. Even though he passed for 295 yards last week, Dwayne Haskins need 55 attempts to do so, a poor 5.36 yards per attempt. Then he got caught up in a controversy about violating Covid 19 protocols. The Panthers keep fighting hard and I think this time they’ll get rewarded.
Eagles/Cowboys over (49 ½): With Jalen Hurts breathing life into the moribund Eagles’ offense and the Cowboys finally figuring out how to use their outside weapons, I think this is a much different kind of matchup than the one the Eagles won 23-9 on Nov. 1.