I understand why so many NFL coaches don’t want to talk to the press. Or, why Bill Belichick gives ridiculous answers like, “On to Cincinnati”, or “It was the best thing to help our team win” to real questions after a questionable strategy failed.
I understand because if a coach explains a failed strategy, the press immediately debunks the reasoning as well as the decision. “Experts” like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (who qualifies as an expert only because of volume) will say that the coach’s reasoning proves not only that the coach made a bad decision, but that the coach is not up to his job.
So it goes for new Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett. Monday night the Broncos were trailing the Seattle Seahawks by two points and had the ball on the Seattle 46 facing a fourth-and-five. The Broncos had all of their time outs and time for at least three or four more plays. After their third down play, Denver decided not to use a time out and allowed the play clock to almost expire before calling their first time out of the second half. Brandon McManus made the questionable strategy look really bad when he missed the 64-yard field goal attempt and allowed Seattle to end the game with a couple of victory formation snaps. Ironically in what was really a case of way too little way too late, Hackett did use the Broncos’ final two timeouts in between victory formation snaps.
After the game, Hackett did what at least one ex-president, many politicians, and Bill Belickick would NEVER do: He admitted he did not do the best thing by going for the field goal. He also revealed the “logic” of his decision-that kicker Brandon McManus had told him that he could make the field goal if Denver got the ball to the Seattle 46-exactly where the Broncos were. Hackett further said that if the Broncos had only advanced to the Seattle 47, he would not have gone for the field goal.
Hackett didn’t say if he consulted with new Denver superstar (and superpaid) QB Russell Wilson about what he wanted to do, so apparently he left the decision to McManus.
Oh, my gosh. In my former job as a teacher, that would be like bypassing what the principal wants to do to improve student performance and going straight to the janitor for his input. Or the Air Force not listening to generals about what new plane to buy, choosing instead to go to former Sgt. James Vallet for his opinion. Or an airline pilot ignoring his navigator and asking a passenger for his opinion about the best route to take.
Then, there’s the facts. McManus, before the kick, was 1-8 on kicks of 60 yards or more. I am 100% positive that Wilson had a much better chance at getting the five yards needed for a first down than that (which, I admit, would still not have won the game). Only two kickers, neither of them named Brandon McManus, had ever made a kick of 64 yards or longer. And, Russell Wilson has 24 fourth-quarter comebacks, and 32 game-winning fourth-quarter drives, third most in NFL history, under his belt. And then there’s this–kickers are not football players, coaches that put their jobs on the foot of kickers learn that NFL stands for not for long.
I do think that having a plan and sticking to it is a good idea for a coach. But I think that the plan itself was not good. I also admire Hackett for speaking the truth. The problem is, apparently for an NFL head coach, speaking the truth is about as good for job security as having bad players.
Here are my picks for this week against the spread. Lines are from espn.com on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
Los Angeles Chargers (+4) at Kansas City Chiefs: Two good teams. I think it will be very close.
Detroit Lions (-1 ½) vs. Washington Commanders: The first time the Lions have been favored in almost two years! Go LIons!
New Orleans Saints (+2 ½) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Going on regular season history here, and those who ignore history…
Carolina Panthers (+2) at NY Giants I think the Panthers are better.
Cincinnati Bengals (-7 ½) at Dallas Cowboys: This line has moved an incredible 8 ½ points since it opened Sunday night, before Dak Prescott’s injury. But, also before people saw how bad the Cowboys looked even with Prescott. I think Dallas will perform without a real #1 QB as they have in the past when they had a good running game and strong offensive line, both of which they don’t have now.
Green Bay Packers (-10) vs. Chicago Bears A lot of points, I know. But the Packers have pulled the bounce back act before, albeit with Davonte Adams and their entire offensive line.
Last week: 4-3
When fantasy football and betting intersect
Stuck at home this week on Covid quarantine, I was scrolling through my fantasy league’s waiver wire when something I had never thought of before occurred to me.
One week into the fantasy football season, I’ve already lost my quarterback and my kicker to injuries, and while pondering potential replacements and their projections for the coming week, I started to wonder if I could use these weekly projections to help with forming opinions on the outcome of games. I do the opposite of that all the time, using my betting opinions to decide on lineup changes or free agent pickups.
But, I wondered, what if I took the projections of the quarterback, top couple receivers, top running back, tight end, defense and kicker for each team, and matched them up against their opponents, to find variations against the betting line?
So with the time on my hands while I’m stuck at home for at least a couple more days, I think I’m going to add up some totals and track what happens this week. I know one week is not a sample size, but if I find enough variance between the projections and the pointspread to carry it out further and see if it turns into something useful.
Meanwhile, I’ll stick to the methods I’ve used for 34 years, and hope they work better than the last two weeks.
Miami (+5 ½) at Texas A&M: I’ve heard that the last four Miami coaches were the savior that was going to bring the Hurricanes back to glory, but neither Al Golden, Mark Richt and Manny Diaz were up to the task. Now they’re saying the same thing about Mario Cristobal. I have a feeling his tenure will be about as successful as theirs overall. Time and again Miami has come up small against the big boys, but I think this will be an exception. I’m usually hesitant to bet against a team that was the victim of a high-profile upset the week before, like Texas A&M was my Appalachian St. last week, but the Hurricanes have the clear advantage at quarterback, and the A&M offense was downright offensive last week and the Aggies didn’t run very well the week before against Sam Houston St. I think Miami can at the least take this game to the wire.
Troy (+12 ½) at Appalachian St.: Think of the last two weeks Appalachian St. has had. First, they almost upset North Carolina, but lost 63-61 in a game were 40 points were scored in the fourth quarter in probably the wildest finish in college football history. Then they did pull off an upset last week against Texas Tech, but their plane home had mechanical issues and they had to sleep on the floor of a hotel. Now they face their conference opener off of two consecutive emotionally and physically draining games, and it’s against a team that has a vendetta against them for a 45-7 blowout last year when Troy was in a late-season collapse. Troy is typically one of the Sun Belt’s better teams, and they’ll be looking to reestablish themselves here, against a team that gave its all two weeks in a row.
LSU (+2 ½) vs. Mississippi St.: I don’t think LSU is any great shakes, and over the season, Mississippi St. will probably prove to be the better team, or at least have the better season. But a night game at LSU is the toughest environment for a visiting team in college football, and even with LSU still trying to find its footing with a new coach, Mississippi St. will be going in there hoping to win, not expecting to win.
Patriots (-2) at Steelers: The Steelers needed every one of the Bengals’ five turnovers to squeak out an overtime win last week. The Patriots aren’t going to self-destruct that much.
Seahawks (+8 ½) at 49ers: I’d like this a little better if the Seahawks weren’t coming off an emotional primetime win in the return of Russell Wilson. But ultimately, I think the 49ers are an overvalued commodity. Some 49er fans think they went as far as they could with Jimmy Garoppolo, and others think they’re wasting a Super Bowl window by starting an inexperienced quarterback. I think teams with a bad offensive line, an unsettled secondary and inadequate quarterback play are not Super Bowl contenders.