Remember what it was like to be a kid? There was a feeling that the sky was the limit, there was nothing you couldn’t do. You had energy, but you probably didn’t know how to focus it. You were willing to try anything and you didn’t think much about your dignity. Every day was new, every morning offered opportunities that you believed would always be there.
As you got older, you learned to focus your still ample supply of energy. You could coordinate the exuberance of youth with the knowledge of some life experiences. You probably learned some valuable life lessons- like, for most of us, we don’t always win.
Life moves on, and most of us can accept that. We temper fewer people asking favors and opinions of us with the knowledge of accomplishment in our lives and careers. We’re not out of the race, but we don’t mind slowing down and letting other (younger) racers pass us by.
An athlete, particularly a successful professional athlete, does not
have exactly the same career curve as the rest of us. An athlete can never slow down and let other racers pass him by, he knows he is only as valuable as his last game. There are no “desk jobs”, you can’t collect flight pay without actually flying. Not only that, but most experienced professional athletes have never experienced failure in any sport. I’ll wager serious money that Patrick Mahomes was never the last one picked in schoolyard basketball. It does happen sometimes, but how often do you think Deebo Samuel got cut from any team?
Last year, I was critical of the play of Ben Rothlisberger, who, unlike most professional athletes, was allowed by the Pittsburgh Steelers to retire with dignity, if not with skill. Roethlisberger was spared the snubs suffered by Eli Manning and Drew Brees at the end of their careers, although I believe the Steelers were worse because of it.
I’m not sure why in the NFL age overcomes skill most often at the quarterback position. Maybe it just seems that way since the QB is by far the most visible player on the field. But, this year, there are four possible examples of famous NFL quarterbacks possibly extending their careers a year too long.
Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers have all had their skills questioned this year. Their situations, as much as they seem similar, are not.
Matt Ryan is done. I don’t say this because of some esoteric
knowledge I have, or even that I have watched him at all. I say Matt Ryan is done because Matt Ryan’s coach basically said that. While announcing that he was replacing Matt Ryan with Sam Ehlinger (THE Sam Ehlinger?) Colts’ Head Coach Frank Reich said that while Ryan has a Grade 2 shoulder separation, he was going to replace Ryan anyway. Remember, amid much fanfare last spring, the Colts were happy to introduce Matt Ryan as their QB. One commentator on the NFL Network even said Matt Ryan may never play another NFL game. If he was THAT bad, did I miss it or were the media being kind to the former MVP?
Russell Wilson also, amid much fanfare, was acquired by the Denver Broncos from the Seattle Seahawks last off-season. Simply put, the Broncos offense is horrible. Last week, even though Wilson said he could play, the Broncos replaced him with Brett Rypien, a QB who wasn’t even drafted. Last Sunday, Rypien proved NFL scouts right in not drafting him with his performance against the NY Jets. As of this writing, we don’t know if Wilson or Rypien will be the Broncos’ QB against Jacksonville.
So, what happened to Wilson? Truth be told, Russell Wilson has not been the same since returning from a thumb injury last season. If the thumb/hand is still the problem or if Father Time claimed his inevitable victory, I don’t know. The Broncos obviously don’t, either.
Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers have
been major disappointments this season, and most of the blame in both cases has been directed at the offenses. The two cases seem different to me than Ryan and Wilson. First, both Brady and Rodgers have had their abilities questioned before, and both have bounced back “bigly”. Rodgers is clearly missing Davonte Adams, and I see no good NFL wideouts for him to throw to in Green Bay. There is no separation, ever. Every throw Rodgers makes must be perfect, and Rodgers’ throws have been far from that. Is that age, or, as one commentator suggested, too many non-football offseason activities?
Tom Brady also has bounced back from bad spells, and there have been injuries to all the Buc’s wide receivers (That’s right-ALL of them). There have also been an inordinate number of dropped Brady passes, the most obvious example being the ball that Mike Evans had right in his hands and dropped what would have been a touchdown. Still, shouldn’t Tom Brady, the G.O.A.T., be able to overcome some drops?
Also, Aaron Rodgers has a thumb injury on his throwing hand, and Tom Brady seems to have some real personal issues going on. How much these issues affect play is unknown.
My feeling is that Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson have already seen their best days in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will bounce back once they have quality players to throw to. For Ryan and Wilson, it’s too bad that this isn’t the Air Force and they could still collect flight pay for only flying one practice mission every three months.
Last week…let’s forget about last week. Here’s my picks for this week against the spread. Lines are from sportsline.com on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-2 ½) vs Denver Broncos: Right now, the Broncos offense stinks. Going to England doesn’t give them time to fix it, if fixing it is possible.
Minnesota Vikings (-3 ½) vs Arizona Cardinals: Arizona has Hopkins back, and that helps a lot. But the Vikings are good, at home, and coming off a bye.
Detroit Lions (+3 ½) vs Miami Dolphins: It’ll take courage to make this bet, but the Lions can move the ball through the air, and the Dolphins are trying out retired cornerbacks.
New England Patriots (+1 ½) at NY Jets: History says the Pats will bounce back, although I have yet to see history make a tackle.
NY Giants (+3) at Seattle Seahawks: Are the Giants or the Seahawks more “for real”?
SF 49ers (-1 ½) at LA Rams: History again, but remember what I said about the Pats’ game.
Last week 3-4
Every week, before I even look at the lines for the upcoming games, the first thing I do is a post mortem review of the games I bet the previous week. Often I have already watched the games, but I’m looking at stats and play by play reviews of the games I bet to see if there’s anything I missed and what I can learn from them going forward.
Two examples of that stick out this week. A lot of times, I make a bet based on what I think the game flow is going to be. For example, last week I best Texas A&M over South Carolina because I expected the A&M defense to control the flow, putting their offense, as feeble as it is, in position to be successful. But when South Carolina returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, my projected game flow was already in jeopardy. Then the Aggies turned the ball over on an interception and a fumble on their first two possessions, leading to 10 more points, and with South Carolina leading 17-0, my projected game flow, and my chances to win, were both dead barely five minutes into the game.
But I’d make that same play again, and Texas A&M outscoring the Gamecocks 24-17 the rest of the way after that disastrous start tells me that I had the right general idea.
One other game leads me to a much different conclusion, however. I had UCLA as an underdog to Oregon, and I knew going in that UCLA was going to have to score a bunch of points to win or cover. But, I was a little concerned before the game that UCLA hadn’t been tested on the road yet, and that came into play big time.
That night, I told a friend that I felt like an idiot for making that bet. His response was, “If you bet these games long enough, everyone ends up feeling like an idiot.”
With that in mind, here are this idiot’s picks this week:
Syracuse (-2 ½) over Notre Dame: The best team Syracuse has beaten this year is Purdue, and that took a colossal series of blunders by Purdue, including the worst play I’ve ever seen a quarterback make, by Purdue’s Aiden O’Connell, an nterception that got returned for a touchdown by a defensive tackle. After making a comeback to regain the lead, Purdue committed two personal fouls and had to kick off from their own 10-yard line, then they gave up an unfathomable deep pass when the only thing the defense can’t do is get beat deep. But Syracuse hung tough with Clemson last week, and actually had a 21-10 lead into the fourth quarter. If they aren’t suffering a hangover, they should beat the worst Notre Dame team since Brian Kelly’s first year.
Wake Forest (-3 ½) at Louisville: Nobody has figured out how to stop Wake’s slow mesh offense, which is why the total in this game is 64. Louisville will make some plays and put up some points, but I don’t think they’ll do enough to keep pace with the Demon Deacons.
Central Florida (-1 ½) over Cincinnati: If you only looked at the scoreboard, it looks like Central Florida got blown out by East Carolina last week. But they were in the game the whole way, and two late turnovers allowed the Pirates to blow it open. Now UCF is the team at home looking to make a statement, not the team on the road playing the foil for a fired up home team, and Cincinnati is down several notches from last year’s team.
Raiders (-1 ½) at the Saints: If the second half last week against the Texans was the Raiders’ “get right” game, then they’ll continue it here. I think it was.
Patriots (-2 ½) over the Jets: I thought Breece Hall has been the engine for the Jets in their four wins, and his torn ACL last week is probably going to end up being the turning point of their season.