By Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
I spend most of my Sundays watching professional football on TV.
My family and friends think I spend my Sundays enjoying mindless entertainment, but that’s not true. Let me share just some of what I learned from watching football the last couple of Sundays.
I learned that safe drivers save 40 percent on their car insurance if said safe drivers buy auto insurance from a certain insurance company. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I have a distrust of big companies, especially big insurance companies, and I wonder how an insurance company would determine if a driver was a safe driver or not. Since every auto insurance company I have ever had or applied for has been very interested in my driving record, I just assumed a person’s driving record would be good enough to separate “safe” from unsafe drivers. But the commercial implies a different rating method. I learned that apparently to qualify as a “safe driver” I must be able to drive my car while maintaining an occupied fish bowl or paper cup of tea on my car’s roof! Every time I have stupidly left something on my car’s roof when I drive, I have had whatever I left on my roof come sliding or crashing off within seconds of accelerating. If liquid, I also had a mess. Using these criteria, I wonder how many drivers qualify as “safe drivers”. Pity the poor fish that was in the bowl that I left on my car’s roof!
I learned that Aaron Rodgers can REALLY HEAVE a little red rubber ball a long way, something I probably should have known from watching Rodgers play football as much as I have.
I learned that a certain light beer is the best beer for watching football. One thing I don’t do while watching football all day is drink beer. If I did, unlike the people cavorting on the beach in beer commercials, I would crush the scales at 400 pounds or more.
I heard a lot about 5G networks, but I still don’t know what a 5G network is. It must be good, because three different companies touted their 5G Network. Is a 5G network better than a 4G network? It must be.
I learned that one chicken fast food place lets Ellie the dog pick up her owner’s food for him. The company says this is an example of caring for its customers, but I think it’s more indicative of a well-trained dog. My dog would not take two steps with a bag of chicken in her mouth before that chicken would be history.
I learned someone in political ads must be speaking with a forked tongue. I learned that Joe Biden wants to cut Social Security in one commercial only to be told that Donald Trump’s plan will mean the end of Social Security in another. Seems old people are shafted no matter who wins. I also learned quite a bit of gossip about both presidential candidates and their families. Do people really use these ads to decide which way they vote?
I learned Tom Brady shines his own helmet on the nights before football games, while Rob Gronkowski eats nachos.
I finally learned how to get the best prices from fast food places-you have to download and use their apps! A few weeks ago, I paid $11 for a Whopper with cheese, medium fries, and medium drink at a Fernley fast food establishment. When I informed the girl that I only wanted one sandwich, order of fires, and drink she replied that she knew that, and $11 was the price. But, from watching Sunday commercials, all I had to do was download the app for that chain and my bill would have been much lower. I can even get a double cheeseburger, medium fries, and a medium drink for less than $3 if I use the app. Sorry to all of you who don’t know how to do that app thing.
I learned that if you want to drink whiskey while watching football, it is VERY important to take a water break. Well hydrated drunks are way more reasonable and probably drive much better than dehydrated drunks, I guess.
I learned that pan pizza is comfort food, even though I don’t know what comfort food is. I like pan pizza, though I don’t always get comfort from eating it. I do get full, though.
Much to my relief, I learned that the NFL is against cancer. Way better than the alternative.
I learned that if I get official NFL Gear, I will be cool. But from looking at all the unhappy and angry faces of those wearing official NFL Gear in the commercial, I’m confused. If I could afford to pay for official NFL Gear, I would be happy, not mad or sad.
Enough of what I learned, here are my picks for Week 8 against the spread. Lines are from espn.com/nfldailylines on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Las Vegas Raiders (+2.5) at Cleveland Browns. Bad break for the Raiders not having their offensive line practice all last week. I think they’ll be ready against a so-so Browns squad.
Green Bay Packers (-6.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. The Pack seems back, and while the Vikings are coming off a bye week, the more Cousins throws, the more their chances to win go bye.
Kansas City Chiefs (-19.5) vs. the New York Jets. The best team in pro football against the worst. A good defense against an offense with no touchdowns in the last two weeks. Do you think Le’Veon Bell wants to show his old team something?
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5) at Baltimore Ravens. Should be a good game, and should also be close. I like a good Steelers team getting 3 ½, even against a good Baltimore team at home.
Chicago Bears (+4) vs. New Orleans Saints. The Bears aren’t as bad as they were on Monday night, are they?
San Francisco 49ers (+3) at Seattle Seahawks. Through six games, the Seahawks have allowed the most passing yards in the history of the NFL! I’m not 100 percent sure the 49ers can take full advantage, but I’ll take the better defense AND points every time.
When Jim and I started this column at the beginning of the season, I was pretty sure about two things. First, I figured Covid would add a high degree of variance to game outcomes, and second, was that I would be embarrassed if I did poorly on my picks.
I’ve been both right and wrong about the first, but right on the nose about the second.
My results so far in this column have left me bowing my head in shame. So far this season, I have a losing record both in college and in the NFL. In fact, I’m on track for the worst season I’ve ever had in college football, with real-world results that are even worse than my record in this column.
As far as the Covid effect, it has made the college season extremely difficult to decipher, but the NFL has been far less affected.
It’s not so much that Covid has impacted the outcome of college games, although it undoubtedly has, given that every week there have been teams missing huge numbers of players. For example, Virginia Tech had 21 players out for its first game and 15 for its second. Georgia Southern had more than 30 players unavailable for its first game this season. Last week, Florida Atlantic had 28 players out on Covid-related issues, and Florida International had 25 out., and there have been many teams with similar situations every week of the season.
And those were teams that were still able to play. There have been multiple games postponed every week so far this season because teams either didn’t have enough players overall, or enough in certain position groups, available to play.
I switched the channel last Saturday in time to watch my Minnesota-Michigan bet, just in time to hear the announcer say that Minnesota’s entire starting offensive line, its kicker, punter and several other players were out.
What’s made it difficult is that when college players are out because of Covid, it usually hasn’t been announced until after the fact.
The NFL, in contrast, has only had to moved two games back, which caused reshuffling of a couple of others, but that only affected the schedules of a handful of teams.
But when NFL players have tested positive, their teams place them on the reserve list, like when the Patriots were without Cam Newton, so you know ahead of time if someone will be out, and compared to college football, the numbers of players who have missed time because of Covid is very small.
Every week I do a thorough review of the box scores and the play-by-play logs of the games I bet, win or lose, trying to decipher what happened in the game to cause the outcome, and find something I can apply in another game down the road. But trying to figure out how much of those outcomes were affected by Covid, or how much any of the upcoming games will be, has been fruitless. After all, even without those 28 players, Florida Atlantic still covered the spread last week. Minnesota, meanwhile, allowed five sacks, turned the ball over twice, and got blown out 49-24.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of season left to turn my record around, as long as things don’t get shut back down.
The picks (lines as of Wednesday at William Hill):
Kansas St. (+3 ½) at West Virginia. The Mountaineers lead the nation in defense, but that’s because of two games against Eastern Kentucky and Kansas. Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech were able to do some business against them, and Kansas St. has been impressive since its season opening loss to Arkansas St.
San Diego St. (-7) at Utah St. Sure, it was only against UNLV, but the San Diego St. defense looked as dominant as ever last week, and in junior running back Greg Bell, the Aztecs have a better running back to lead their ground-oriented attack than they have had since Rashaad Penny left two years ago. The Aggies didn’t do anything on offense against Boise St. until they were down 28-0 and the Broncos were deep into the depth chart. I don’t see them doing much against this defense either.
Iowa (-2 ½) over Northwestern. Until proven otherwise, I’m not going to put any stock in Northwestern’s win over Maryland last week. Maryland was noncompetitive in conference play last year, and Northwestern accomplished the rout last week by running for 325 yards. They aren’t going to run for 325 yards against Iowa. The Hawkeyes fell short at Purdue in a game that was almost dead even statistically, and I think off a loss, in their first home game, even with only family members of players allowed in attendance, they will get a win.
Carolina (-2 ½) over Atlanta. One of my longtime friends basically makes a living betting against college football and basketball teams coming off heartbreaking losses. He specializes in those games, and he has an uncanny knack for knowing when a team won’t be able to bounce back from such a loss. That friend tells me that professional teams don’t get heartbroken. That may well be true, but they do get demoralized, and if their third blown lead in six weeks last Sunday isn’t enough to do it for the Falcons, I don’t know what would be.
New England (+3 ½) at Buffalo. A lot of my losses end up looking pretty ugly, because I bet a lot of games like this. Almost every football fan in the world has given up on New England, and they might well be right. But nothing has come easy all season for the Bills, who have beaten the Jets twice and won close games over the Dolphins, Rams and Raiders. I don’t think Cam Newton is great, and maybe not very good any more, but I know he has a lot of pride, and Bill Belichick certainly does. I think this situation is ripe for the best effort of the season from the Patriots, and they’ve beaten the Bills 35 of the last 39 times they’ve played. I expect this to be a low-scoring dogfight that comes down to the wire.
Chicago (+4) over New Orleans. This game looks a lot like the Thursday night game a couple weeks ago where the Bears beat Tampa Bay. They aren’t going to get enough offense to win a shootout, but the current weather forecast for Sunday in Chicago is a high of 39 degrees with 23 mile per hour winds. Considering this is a late afternoon game, it will probably be colder than that. The Saints haven’t hit on all cylinders in several weeks, and I don’t see it happening against the Bears defense in cold weather.