Week 18 picks: Professionals vs amateurs

Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

It was the golfing round of my life. I had birdied four holes in a row on the back side at Fernley Golf Club and needed a par on the last hole to achieve my goal of breaking 80 on a real golf course.

I remember thinking, “How long can I continue this?” in the middle of my birdie streak and I knew, I just KNEW, that bad golfing things were imminent.

Sadly, I was right. I got an 8 on the 18th hole and my self fulfilling prophecy left me with an 83.


In his 1968 book “The Bogey Man”, George Plimpton opines that the difference between amateur and professional golfers is not ability, but their mindsets. When things are going well for professionals, they see no reason why the good things cannot continue. When things are going poorly, the pro knows he can turn things around, and that turnaround is but a matter of time. When things are going well for amateurs, they KNOW it will all come crashing down. Like me, amateurs believe it is but a matter of time. When things are going poorly for amateurs, they (we) believe that is how it should be, and the universe makes sense.

Observing the National Football League as I have, I am always flabbergasted at the number of teams that seem terrible at the beginning of the year that turn their seasons around and become competitive. Back in October, who would have thought that the Broncos, Giants, Steelers, Browns, Bears, Packers, Raiders, Rams, Buccaneers, and Saints would have turned their seasons around the way they did? Geez, the Browns and the Rams have already made the playoffs and the Packers and Buccaneers should. How did they do it?

I think that while there are several factors (coaching, injuries, luck, systems, opportunities) it’s the attitude that professional athletes have that separates them from non-professionals. This attitude often makes me mad, but pros believe that, with the right opportunity, they will succeed. Some professional athletes can turn that attitude off when they are not playing, and some cannot. And, if you personally know any athletes that can’t turn it off, you know that they can be a real drag to be around. But that very attitude that makes them able to compete at the highest levels in the world can be a real detriment in everyday life. Who wants to hang out with someone who sincerely believes he is the greatest thing since sliced bread? 

When amateur teams start badly, that generally is the way the season goes. But, as evidenced by nearly ⅓ of NFL teams that were able to turn their seasons around this year, pros are able to turn a bad season into a good one. Sometimes their attitudes turn people off, but the professionals’ belief in themselves gives them a huge step up over amateurs. Remember that when you scream for some NFL coach’s or quarterback’s head early next year.

Boy, do the Chicago Bears have some important decisions to make. They are one of the teams that turned a lost season into a much better one. With their late season resurgence, the Bears have blown what was once a realistic chance that they would have the first two picks in the upcoming draft. The Carolina Panthers, who did not turn their miserable season around, have pretty much guaranteed the Bears the overall first pick. And the Bears still have their own first round pick, although currently that is the 10th pick.

What do you do if you’re the Bears? In three years, Bears’ QB Justin Fields has proven to be very inconsistent. Would you draft one of this year’s “can’t miss” (like Justin Fields was three years ago) college QBs, or do you draft another position? Do you trade away your picks for lower picks, and hope quantity turns into quality?

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I do know Bears’ General Manager Ryan Poles’ future with the Bears depends on how well the players Poles goes with perform on the field. And that talent evaluation is the single most important factor in an NFL team’s success. 

I wish the Bears luck, but not too much since they are in the Lions’ division.

Here we go again: Week 18.

Right now, the Ravens are 4 point underdogs to the visiting Steeler juggernaut. The Dolphins are 2 ½ dogs to the visiting Bills. The Bengals are 7 point favorites over the Browns. And the less-than-mighty Chargers are 3 ½ point favorites over the Chiefs.

As of this writing, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson, and Matthew Stafford are all healthy scratches. There may be more as the week goes on. If quarterbacks aren’t playing, other players probably won’t play, either. How does the bettor know which teams are going to give their best efforts and which teams have players more interested in tee times? A phrase I hear players talking a lot about is “business decision”, and I know I want to bet on guys that are playing their hardest, not on businessmen disguised as pro football players.

So, what to do?

My suggestion is to not bet on games where teams are playing backups. (Yeah, right) But since we are getting two games here at the 1:25 time slot (Chiefs/Chargers and Rams/49ers) that fit the starting non-starters criteria I stated, I’m going to not practice what I preach and bet games I advised people not to bet on. 

Maybe I should pay attention to my family this Sunday afternoon…

Anyway, here are my picks for this week against the point spread. Lines are from on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Baltimore Ravens (+4) vs Pittsburgh Steelers: The best team in the NFL would normally be giving a low character Steelers team 7 or more points. The Ravens can’t sit everybody.

Houston Texans (+1) at Indianapolis Colts: C.J. Stroud is back.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4 ½) at Carolina Panthers: The Bucs are in a “win and in” situation, while the Panthers are left, again, wondering what to do. Too bad there’s no points for team owners’ arms, as that’s the only advantage I see the Panthers having.

Green Bay Packers (-3) vs Chicago Bears: On the surface, this game looks like a repeat of last year’s final regular season game, when the Packers, in a “win and in” situation, lost to the Lions. But I think that Packers’ coach Matt LaFleur has finally taken control of what was an out of control Packer team by disciplining Jaire Alexander. I think that sometimes addition is made by subtraction, and subtracting Alexander was the right thing to do.

Buffalo Bills (-3) at Miami Dolphins: This game is for the AFC East title. I think the Bills are better right now.

Last week: 3-4

Season: 54-56-6

Robert’s picks

Washington (+4 ½) vs Michigan: Both teams got here last week by doing what they do best – Washington with a spectacular offense and Michigan by gutting out a game in which they didn’t do a whole lot well except rush the passer. Michael Penix will beat that pass rush. Washington has been in one gut-wrenching game after another and they won’t flinch if this one is tight late.

Ravens (+3) vs Steelers: I think you could take any random 100 guys off the street and put them in Ravens and Steelers uniforms and the game would somehow come down to the wire. Even though they have nothing to gain for themselves, whoever suits up for the Ravens will be motivated to knock their rivals from the playoffs, and the reason the Ravens win so many preseason games is because they always have great depth. That will show here as well.

Texans (-1) at Colts: Winner in, loser out. CJ Stroud is a winner, and Gardner Minshew is inconsistent and I’ll take Stroud and the Texans to make one more play.

Patriots (-1 ½) over Jets: Bill Belichik has beaten the Jets 15 consecutive times. I can’t see him losing what might be his final game with New England to the team he hates most.

Last week

College: 1-1

NFL: 1-2


College: 32-30

NFL: 27-21-3

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