By Robert Perea and Jim Vallet, The Fernley Reporter
Both Jim and I have yet to hit a hot streak, but we went a combined 7-3 last week, so hopefully we’re hitting midseason form, as the season reaches its midpoint. More importantly, I hope we’ve provided a little entertainment. After all, if it’s not fun, why do it?
What criteria do you use to pick NFL games?
I like to think I use all the relevant, intelligent information I can to make my picks, although if you look at my record you have the right to wonder what my record might be if I used irrelevant, unintelligent information to make my picks.
Obviously, the key is deciding what information is worthwhile, and what information is trivia. Does it matter that Tom Brady has beaten rookie opposing quarterbacks 1,999 straight times (jk), since Brady and the opposing quarterback are never on the field at the same time? Does it matter that Bill Belickick’s defense has beaten rookie opposing quarterbacks 1,999 straight times (jk)? Does it matter that the home team has had a huge advantage on Thursday night games? Is it important that Andy Reid’s teams have done exceptionally well the week following their bye week?
With the overwhelming amount of information we all have access to, we have to decide what we pay attention to, and what we will disregard. Sadly, as many have done with seemingly contradictory and sometimes downright untrue political information, many of my friends seem to have checked out from the world of relevant information to the bizarro world of irrelevance and sometimes nonsense.
I used to work with a lady who made her picks by the stronger team mascot. Clearly then, the Lions would maul the Dolphins, the Eagles would strafe the Cardinals, and the Bears would slaughter the Broncos, and so on. When I asked this lady (let’s say her name is MaryAnn) what would happen when two equally maleficent mascots (like the Giants and the Titans) played each other, she said her tiebreaker was the mascot with the most letters in the mascot’s name would win, an obvious problem when the Titans and Giants played which she never solved for me. Another issue with this method was when two teams with nonviolent mascots (like the Packers and the Texans) met. Then there’s the issue of, “What’s a Bill?”
This method does not work for me. Although, as a former middle school teacher, I admit that to wake up some somnolent 11-year olds I did resort to asking, “Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?”, I see no satisfactory results from this “mascot mayhem”. If this method worked, the Lions would have more Super Bowl rings than the Patriots, the Bears would have ten times their one Super Bowl championship, and the Titans would have made multiple Super Bowl appearances. Sorry, MaryAnn.
My friend Shelly picks teams by their colors. Her favorite color is blue, and she defends her prognostication process by correctly pointing out how successful the blue-clad Patriots have been. She also claims success for picking the Giants, Bills, Vikings (close enough), and Ravens, all of whom wear some shade of blue (or close enough). Shelly, I only have to name one team -Detroit Lions- to show the folly of this method.
My buddy, Don, picks games by the city a team represents. “I really like the weather in San Diego”, “The food is great in Seattle”, “I met lots of girls in New York”, and “It’s too hot in Phoenix” have all led to Don picking for or against NFL teams. This method also leaves me wanting, as I tend to credit or blame myself and those around me for good and bad times instead of that city’s professional football team. Keep trying, Don.
My brother’s friend, Tommy, used what he called a “systems play”. As I understand it, in this method the opposite of what happened the first time two teams meet will happen the second. So, if Washington beats Dallas and the point total goes under the first meeting, the next time these two play, Dallas will win and the total will go over. Tommy never explained to me what happened if two teams met only once in a season, or if they met three times.
Incredibly, I witnessed Tommy’s “systems play” method work for a couple of seasons, and I actually used his method with some success when I was losing using my normal means. But, the whole illusion of Tommy’s knowledge was shattered when I witnessed Tommy trying to make a bet on a cricket game in India after a bad beat Monday Night Football loss. Tommy’s understanding, but greedy bookie wisely told my expert friend to go to bed. Come on, Tommy!
My wife, when I told her of this story, said she thought the worst method of picking NFL games was to listen to me. Melanie!
Anyway, my picks for this week against the spread. Lines are from espn.com/dailylinesnfl as of Wednesday, Oct. 14.
New England Patriots (-9.5) vs. Denver Broncos. Vic Fangio, the Broncos head coach, looks like he just woke up on the sidelines during games. With some of the decisions he makes, it’s probably better for Denver if he stays asleep. Better hope Brett Rypien will work out as QB, because you KNOW Drew Lock, Blake Bortles, and Jeff Driskel won’t.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) vs. Cleveland Browns. The Browns aren’t bad, and Mayfield is way better than I thought before, but the Steelers are great against the run and great at home.
Green Bay Packers (-1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers The best team in the NFC coming off a bye. The Bucs are beat up.
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at San Francisco 49ers. After last year, if I were on the Rams, I would want the 49ers. Bad. The 49ers are REALLY banged up, and whoever is playing QB looks terrible.
Dallas Cowboys (+2.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals. The Cowboys and the Jets are the only NFL teams 0-5 against the spread. The Cowboys lost two of their best offensive linemen as well as their franchise quarterback. The Cowboys could well be 0-5 straight up but for, to my eyes, going to church regularly. So, I’m picking the Cowboys. Go figure!
I made my first bet on a football game when I was 7 years old. It was Nov. 24, 1974, and I bet my dad $5 that the Minnesota Vikings would beat the Los Angeles Rams. I don’t remember why I thought the Vikings would win, but what I do remember is the Vikings were ahead 17-6 at halftime, that I calculated that meant the Vikings were going to win 34-12, that my dad told me that’s not how it works, and that the Vikings didn’t score in the second half, and lost 20-17.
Mostly, I remember how I cried when I handed my $5 to my dad. I’ve felt that same feeling all too often. As long as I can remember, losing has felt devastating, while winning feels like a relief. To be sure, I’ve had a few significant wins. But no matter how often I win, or how much, every loss I have feels more bad than a win feels good, if that wording makes any sense. That’s the way it was for me playing sports as a youth, and how it’s been when I’ve coached as an adult.
I have learned over the years to become more impassive, to where betting has become almost completely unemotional. My confidence does wax and wane, but not so much on wins or losses, but more on whether I was right or wrong about the sides I bet. I now feel worse if I’m wrong about the reasons I make a bet and still somehow win than if I’m right about it and lose.
I’ve come to believe that as a competitor, whether as a player or as a coach, when your efforts can have a determination on the outcome, it’s necessary to hate to lose in order to win.
But betting works much differently. It’s hard enough to win as it is, but it’s impossible if you let wins or losses affect your emotional state. I’ve learned that the hard way, starting when I was 7 years old.
Liberty (-3 ½) at Syracuse. I lost a bet on Liberty a couple weeks ago when they allowed a backdoor cover, so I’m a little bit concerned about their maturity to handle the situation as a road favorite, but they did take care of business as a favorite last week. Syracuse has been absolutely decimated by injuries. They were already missing All-American safety Andre Cisco and started five freshmen on defense last week against Duke, then had four other defensive starters out by the end of the game. Then quarterback Tommy DeVito went to the injury tent, and came out on crutches with a broken foot that will probably sideline him for the rest of the season. They have a cluster of injuries on the offensive line and have been unable to run the ball. Liberty has the best player on the field in Auburn transfer quarterback Malik Willis, and they rank seventh in the nation in rushing offense. Liberty’s defense won’t be confused with Georgia, but the limited Syracuse attack shouldn’t be able to keep up.
West Virginia (-22) over Kansas. Not continuing to bet against Kansas two weeks ago against Oklahoma St. was my biggest mistake of the season. I’ve gone against them twice, taking advantage of a team that just doesn’t have the talent, experience or preparation to play at this level. Theoretically, a bye last week could help on the preparation front, but even that was disrupted because head coach Les Miles tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine. He is coaching remotely. Kansas will cover a game sooner or later, but I’m staying on the train until they do.
Mississippi (-2 ½) at Arkansas. The Lane Train has hit high speed in each of the first three weeks, as new Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin has installed an offense that even Alabama couldn’t stop. Ole Miss lost to Florida and Alabama teams that could outscore them, but I don’t think the Razorbacks can.
Boston College (+12) at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech would be pretty good if they had their full team. But last week they were missing 15 players, after missing 21 the week before. Even if some of those guys come back, they haven’t been practicing. Meanwhile, Boston College is an ascending team, with quarterback Phil Jurkovec getting more comfortable and more productive by the week. I think they can absolutely hang in this situation, and an outright win is a possibility.
Minnesota (-4) vs. Atlanta. If the Falcons’ players are as excited as the Texans were about their coach being fired, then maybe we see a kamikaze effort here. But considering how they rallied around Dan Quinn last year when rumors were flying that he was on his way out, I’d guess most of them hate to see him go. The injury to Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook last week is a concern, and I would argue that if he were in the game, he would have hit the hole on the decisive 4th down try that his backup Alexander Mattison didn’t see, and the Vikings would have beaten the Seahawks. I don’t think that loss will slow down the Vikings momentum, though, and I don’t think the Falcons can hang with their defensive issues.
Los Angeles Rams (-3) at San Francisco. Sometimes in the NFL, teams in seemingly hopeless situations are actually the best bets, because it’s true that at any given time, the worst team in the league can beat the best team. I can actually see a path where the 49ers, even with all of their injuries and problems, can get a big game from 3 of the 4 of George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Raheem Mostert, and pull out a win against the Rams. But if this version of the Rams played this version of the 49ers 10 times, the Rams would win 8. I think this is one of the 8.