The Not-So-Silence of the Rams

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Cordinator

We had reached week fourteen in the NFL, and no coach had been fired so far. It was such an anomaly, I almost wrote about it in this space last Sunday. As bad as it’s been in places like Buffalo and Jacksonville, no one had pulled the trigger yet and it looked like everyone would be safe until Black Monday.

I should have known better.

The Rams fired Jeff Fisher Monday, one day after he tied Dan Reeves for the all-time lead in losses for head coaches.

You might think that would be either a sign of mercy, or of utmost frustration. You’d be right either way.

Since the Rams lost Sunday to the Falcons, then had to turn around and get Gilmered by the Seahawks three days later, you’d also would think seventy-two hours notice wouldn’t be the best time to dump your head coach, but that’s part of the magic of Jeff Fisher.

The NFL waited more than twenty years to bring a franchise back to Los Angeles, but Thursday’s pummeling was another night where most of LA didn’t bother to watch. Let’s face it, there’s other things to do in Los Angeles. There’s movies, shows, restaurants, the beach, and complaining about the Lakers to do, they don’t need the Rams. And for that matter, they don’t need a barely-adequate Chargers team, either, unless they’re going to combine both teams and make one good one. In the land of casual plastic surgery, LA would at least respect that.

I’m a little bit depressed about it, to be honest. I had about six Jeff Fisher jokes I was saving for the rest of the season. Learn from my mistakes, kids. Never save your best material.

So the Rams are the first team to drop their head coach, I’ll put the over/under at three additional coaches fired by the time Black Monday is done. And while discussing other people’s employment seems to be a morbid thing, that’s life in the NFL. It’s also life in television, as I remember from trips to Walmart when I couldn’t get through the checkout line without someone asking me about my TV news colleagues and if they had been fired. I’m certainly not going to feel bad about it at this point in my life.

On to the picks. Last week I went 3-3, and also 3-3 against the Las Vegas spread. I always enjoy being as accurate as a coin. For the season I’m now 57-32-1 straight up, and 36-50-3 against the spread.

Here’s the picks for week fifteen.  Remember, these are for the purposes of discussion only. As always, no wagering. And since last week, I was right at coin-flip level, I’m also going to flip a coin and see if I can beat that.

Detroit (+4) at NY Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. is making a living dropping easy passes and then turning around to make amazing plays. If he was a rapper, he’d have to pay Terrell Owens for sampling his career.
Pick: Lions to win it outright.
The coin says: Go with the Lions.

Jacksonville (+5.5) at Houston: The AFC South championship is basically a door prize, all you have to do to win is be present. And not be Jacksonville.
Pick: Texans to win and cover, which means I think they’ll win by six or more.
The coin says: Take the Jaguars. My coin may have been drinking, it seems.

Tampa Bay (+7) at Dallas: The number one reason to let Tony Romo go this offseason was the talk this week about whether or not Dak Prescott should be benched. Keeping Romo is like getting married, but letting your long-time girlfriend keep living in the guest room. Bad ideas abound.
Pick: Cowboys to win, Buccaneers to cover, which means I think Tampa Bay will lose by less than seven points.
The coin says: Cowboys.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Cincinnati: The two trademarks of this rivalry are cheap shots by Vontaze Burfict and an injury to Le’Veon Bell. And at this point, Steelers fans are rooting against those, but Bengals fans are still hoping for both,
Pick: Steelers to win and cover.
The coin says: Bengals.

Green Bay (-6) at Chicago: My rule is, if Matt Barkley can make people forget about you, then you weren’t very memorable to begin with. And this rule applies to pro football, college football, and life in general.
Pick: Packers to win and cover.
The coin says: Packers. My coin likes Aaron Rodgers as both a quarterback and a commercial spokesman.

Cleveland (+10) at Buffalo: Marcell Dareus guaranteed a win for the Bills over the winless Browns this week. That’s not exactly Jimmy Johnson putting it in “three-inch headlines” the Cowboys would beat the 49ers, is it? That’s more like promising to not trip on a speedbump on the way into Target.
Pick: Bills to win, Browns to cover the spread.
The coin says: Browns.

I’ll also take Western Kentucky over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl, Tulsa over Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl, and none of those teams to want to go home after spending a week in Florida in December. Good luck, everybody.

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s second book, “I Hate It Here: A Love Story,” is out now on Amazon.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.

An NFL Thanksgiving in Las Vegas

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

As the Lions kick the game-winning field goal, the woman next to me erupts in joy. She pumps her fists and screams, and runs about the floor of the MGM Grand Casino, high-fiving anyone who’ll raise a palm to her.

She’s not even a Lions fan.

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and I am an embedded reporter in a Las Vegas sportsbook. On today, the biggest family holiday of the year, the fifty-plus huge-screen televisions here in this Vegas casino are showing NFL games to a packed house of people who have either come here to flee their families, or brought them along so everyone can lose money together.

At nine a.m. on a Thanksgiving morning, they were already there, armed with astonishing amounts of information. They had magazines, newspapers, and gambling forms so full of complicated numbers they seemed to be the chemical formula for a linebacker, and they sat down to compile it all before making their wagers. They were all looking for the one thing to put them over the top and honestly, that strategy works about 48% of the time, which is exactly the correct ratio for everything.

15241243_660919507422401_4532970873563991461_nThe Lions won and covered the point spread, which made the woman from Charlotte, North Carolina, exuberant. I talk to her husband for a few minutes while she takes her victory lap, and find out he’s a huge fan but she’s never even watched an NFL game seriously before. They’ve left their kids with their family back home and came out to Vegas for a mini-vacation, and they’ve put money down on all three NFL games that day. They’ll be there a while, spending about eleven hours cheering together.

It’s a fun moment, but only half the people here are celebrating. A guy on crutches who seems homeless and is missing most of one of his legs drops his head and rubs his brow. Earlier he told me he had the Vikings, and when I asked him how much he bet, he said “two large.” I couldn’t imagine him having two of anything extra to lose.

But that’s the way it goes, there’s no winners without losers, even on Thanksgiving Day. There are a lot of homeless people here in Vegas who are wearing shirts and caps from various gambling events and poker tours. It seems like everyone’s got a system until you wind up sleeping under a bridge.

For the Dallas-Washington game, the sportsbook filled up quickly. The Cowboys are still America’s Team, which means people will line up to root for and against them. I see a guy in a Romo jersey sitting down front, cheering at every play. Later I see a guy with a Dak Prescott jersey, so I tell him if he wants, he can go take the other guy’s seat.

Cowboys fans are everywhere. There’s a couple wearing Claiborne and Witten jerseys, who came to town to get remarried for their Thanksgiving trip. Sitting in front of me, a couple from Scotland are Facetiming their friends back home to tell them how awesome Dak Prescott is. It’s very funny to me for some reason, although I can’t exactly explain why.

A guy from Indianapolis in a vintage Franco Harris Steelers jersey tells me he made plans to come here after a buddy broke up with his girlfriend, so they could have a boys’ weekend. Since the trip was booked the relationship rekindled, and now it’s a bachelor party weekend. I get the feeling he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but no one’s turning down a trip to Vegas on moral principles. As a Steelers fan he hates the Cowboys, but he still bet them to win.

At the back of the room cheering on Washington is Chris from Los Angeles, wearing a Redskins hat, garish red and gold shoes, and an authentic Sean Taylor jersey. He looks like the Redskins threw up on him, but he’s a hardcore fan who grew up watching the team with his dad. He couldn’t make it to the family gathering, so drove four hours to Vegas to support his team as a family tradition. And hopefully win some money, of course.

As the Cowboys-Redskins game rages on, I notice the cheering feels different, maybe even more pure. These cheers aren’t from the hearts of fans, they’re from the wallets of gamblers. And they know it’s a shallow thing to do, but they don’t care.

During the Steelers-Colts game that night, I meet two guys in their mid-sixties from New Jersey who come here for Thanksgiving every year. And judging from the slips in front of them, they bet a lot. I get the feeling this is a regular occurrence in their lives. I ask why they didn’t just go to Atlantic City, and they laugh at me.

And I am scared to ask for any more details.

After a long Thanksgiving Day spent watching football in the midst of the heavily invested, a couple of things stand out to me. Las Vegas is a different plane of existence where the rules of reality just don’t exist, and it means something different to everyone. I’ve met people here who came here for the holiday because there’s nowhere else they’d rather be for the holiday, and some who just showed up to be around other people on a lonely day of the year for them.

Also? Before ten in the morning, listening to Phil Simms is even more intolerable than usual.

For tonight’s game, the Cowboys are favored by four, and I’ll take that easily over the Vikings. Sometimes you just have to let Sam Bradford be Sam Bradford. I’ll be back Sunday with the rest of the picks. Good luck, everybody.

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s second book, “I Hate It Here: A Love Story,” is out now on Amazon.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.

(This article originally appeared in the print edition of the Tyler Morning Telegraph.)

Reid’s NFL Picks: The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Heard

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

As an observer of humanity, I’m always looking for things I haven’t seen before, the amazing and ridiculous, and the moments so bizarre they stay with me for a good long time. And so this week, I was pleasantly surprised to have a new top entry on my list of “The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Heard.”

And yes, even in the week of the most intriguing election since Napoleon Dynamite, I heard something so silly and insane it stood out. It was one of those talking head sports-shouting shows that I can watch for about twelve seconds before I have to flip to something more interesting, such as a “King of Queens” rerun or my cat taking a nap. Anyway, one of these alleged sports experts said the following.

“The Dallas Cowboys have GOT to trade Tony Romo.”

I understand on these shows, hot opinions are all that matters. They don’t have to make sense, indeed, it’s often better for the ratings if they don’t, so they say dumb things just to get a reaction from the audience.

“The NFL should suspend Richard Sherman, but make him play kicker while he’s out.”
“The Raiders should leave Oakland and just play in a series of Winn-Dixie parking lots all over California!”
“LeBron James is nothing more than a modern-day Kurt Rambis!”

You know, just angry gibberish, which people seem to eat up for some reason. But the Romo trade demand makes less than zero sense. It was so foolish, I wandered around for the rest of the day searching for truth and honesty in society, and coming up snake-eyes on that one.

It’s a given now that the Cowboys are Dak Prescott’s team. He could easily be the MVP of the league in the “non-suspended for four games” category. And Tony Romo will more than likely be cut loose in the offseason, and not truly appreciated until many years later. But that doesn’t mean things have to change immediately.

This is professional football. It’s not “The Replacements,” where when the starting quarterback comes back, you fire the backup for no apparent reason.

If you have a proven backup quarterback and you’re in a playoff chase, you don’t get rid of him. You don’t dump a major asset for a minor draft pick unless you’re Bill Belichick, and you’re devilishly insane.

Yes, once upon a time Drew Bledsoe lost his starting job to Tom Brady and was traded away, but not until Bledsoe had to come off the bench and help win the AFC Championship Game. If you’re okay with the thought of Dak getting injured this season and Mark Sanchez being a playoff starter, you go right ahead and keep losing money on Draft Kings, my friend.

On to the picks. Last week I went 5-1, and 3-3 against the Vegas spread, including one game I lost because of a meaningless touchdown in the final minute. And I know it was meaningless, because it was scored by the Rams. But the spread was 3.5 points, and a 13-3 lead suddenly became 13-10, and my win went away. It’s my own fault, I know I should always buy that half-point hook, but I never remember to do that because apparently I enjoy despair.

On the season, I’m now 35-20-1 straight up, 21-32-3 against the spread. Here’s the week ten picks. Remember, these are for the purposes of discussion only. As always, no wagering.

Houston (+1) at Jacksonville: I’ll admit certain teams in the NFL I can’t figure out, but the Texans are as consistent as sunrise. They win the games they should win, they lose the games they should lose, and they’re always in line for a crushing playoff defeat.
Pick: Texans to win and cover the spread, which means they’ll win by at least a point. If this one’s a tie, I lose.

San Francisco (+13.5) at Arizona: Chip Kelly is adamant that he’s not going to leave the 49ers to return to college football. Which begs the obvious question, “Why not?”
Pick: Cardinals to win and cover.

Dallas (+3) at Pittsburgh: Last week, Ben Roethlisberger had the worst comeback since Corey Feldman played the Today Show.
Pick: Cowboys to win it outright.

Los Angeles (+2) at NY Jets: If the NFL wonders why their ratings are down, “Exhibit A” should be this game between teams from the two biggest markets in the country, possibly quarterbacked by Case Keenum and Bryce Petty. That’s not a prime time matchup, it’s an Independence Bowl.
Pick: Jets to win and cover.

Kansas City (+3) at Carolina: Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce learned this week that throwing a towel at an official will get you flagged, ejected, fined, and hated by everyone who wasted a high draft pick on you in their fantasy football league.
Pick: Chiefs to win outright.

Seattle (+8) at New England: Richard Sherman couldn’t be more in full-on pro-wrestling bad guy mode if he did his postgame interviews wearing a feathered robe and shouting “Whoo!”
Pick: Patriots to win and cover.

I’ll also take the Patriots to win the AFC, the Seahakws to win the NFC, and the Browns to go 1-15 somehow. Good luck everybody.

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s second book, “I Hate It Here: A Love Story,” is out now on Amazon.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.

 

Reid’s NFL Mailbag: Deflategate, Cowboys, and Vegas, Baby

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

It’s kind of a dead time in the NFL. The draft and free agency are over, rookies are signing their contracts and mini camps are underway, and since players now have things to do, they won’t be getting arrested any more. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and we didn’t even have the usual “bad news dump” on Friday where the NFL announces all the awful stories they hope no one notices like suspensions, fines, and anything having to do with Buffalo.

Time to catch up on current events with another edition of Reid’s Mailbag.

Q: Did Dallas help themselves in the draft?
A: Absolutely! And yet, not at all. Ezekiel Elliott is a stud, and if he lasts past the first round of your fantasy draft, you’re playing with idiots. But is he that much better than anyone else the Cowboys could have put behind that all-star offensive line? Is giving up a first-round pick you could have used on pass rush worth it to get a great running back? Or could the Cowboys get close to the same results with Matt Bellner in their backfield, running with me on his shoulders? Only time will tell, and that “time” is the amount of time opposing quarterbacks have to throw against the Cowboys.

Dallas is in an interesting position, they’ve got about a three-year window with Romo as their quarterback. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. I shouldn’t have to remind you how bad the post-Aikman, pre-Romo era was for Dallas, so I’ll just say “Hey, remember that year Dallas started a quarterback whose name rhymed with ‘Ryan Schleaf?’”

Can the current crop of Cowboys provide enough talent to take advantage of having a top-flight quarterback in that time span? Maybe, but I need to see some pass rush before I’d favor them over the Panthers, Seahawks, or Packers.

Q: What’s going to happen with #Deflate…
A: Oh, please no.
Q:#Deflategate?
A: Well, the legal case that refuses to die rolls onward. Right now the NFL has won the last case, which means Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of this coming season. Brady has appealed, and his counsel made a very good point about the NFL only fining players for other equipment violations such as using Stickum, so this one could still go on for a while. Possibly years. Maybe decades.

At this point, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind on this case. Originally, I thought Brady was cheating and Goodell’s punishment was just. After reading through all the case work, I still think Brady was cheating, but four games is unprecedented, especially when the NFL has done an awful job of proving anything was done wrong. When it’s all over, this will be a very odd footnote in both Brady’s Hall of Fame career, and the story of the mid-2010’s NFL.

Q: What about Las Vegas?
A: Sounds great! Let me grab my go-bag, and let’s go hit the blackjack table. I’ve got a new scheme I learned from a guy in an airport bathroom. I can’t lose!
Q: No, I was talking about an NFL team there.
A: Oh. Well, that’s something else. The fact that the NFL is actually even discussing the possibility of putting a team in Las Vegas is amazing. For decades, pro sports have rejected any connection to gambling, even while playing to gamblers with things like mandatory injury reports.

Remember Tony Romo’s Fantasy Football Convention last summer in Vegas? Of course not, because the NFL killed it. It’ll be in Pasadena this year in mid-July, and I’ll be there.

In 2016, protecting the NFL from gambling seems to be a dead issue, or at least one they’ll revisit. If the Raiders don’t get a new stadium, they’ll try and bolt to Vegas, and I’d put even money they’d be successful in doing so. The NFL seems to be putting the thought of a new market over the old concerns about associating with the gambling industry.

Of course, now you don’t have to go to Vegas to lose money betting on sports. You can do it from your home. You can lose big money on fantasy football for a season, or lose it week-to-week playing Fanduel and Draft Kings. ESPN is now openly talking about point spreads. The NFL can’t just pretend it doesn’t happen, especially since it drives a significant portion of their fan interest.

And by “significant portion,” I mean me, and this column, and my retirement account. Which thanks to my long careers in television and radio, will allow me to live in comfort for the rest of my years, as long as I get hit by a bus no later than the weekend after I retire.

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s novel “The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape” is available from Amazon.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.

Reid’s Official Unofficial NFL Draft Timeline 2016: Smoke and Mirrors

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

Two Weeks Before Draft Day: The newly-rechristened Los Angeles Rams pull off a huge trade with Tennessee, claiming the top spot in the draft. The city of Los Angeles responds by telling the Rams to draft Kobe.

One Week Before Draft Day: Cleveland trades with Philadelphia, giving the Eagles the number two spot in the draft. The Browns now have twelve picks in this year’s draft, which gives Browns fans hope that their team will take those choices and turn the team around. Sort of like last year when they also had twelve picks, won four fewer games, and fired their coach and general manager. Or in 2012 when they had eleven picks and also fired their coach and general manager. [Read more…]

Reid’s Week Sixteen NFL Picks: Coasting To The Finish

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

Hope everyone’s had a very merry Christmas, and either enjoyed your presents immensely, or already returned them for something much better. We are about to enter that DMZ of the year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s where nothing ever gets done.

It’s just hard to muster up any enthusiasm for this week, lurching from holiday to holiday. When I worked in television, you always knew you were past Thanksgiving because everyone of any importance at the station was gone until January. From Black Friday through New Year’s Day, You were about as likely to see the big-name anchors on the air as you were to spot Santa in line at Starbucks. [Read more…]

The NFL Playoff Seeding Offers Intrigue in the Final Two Weeks

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

With only two weeks left in the regular season, there is still much in the balance in both conferences. Neither conference has any of its seeds decided for sure yet and the Wild Card spots are still in the mix. There is still a ton of meaningful football left and it’s very likely that few teams in contention, if any, will be able to rest their starter in Week 17 (assuming of course that Carolina goes for 16-0). Elsewhere, 14 teams have already been eliminated and their players and coaches are giving their all to both play spoiler as well as to pad their own resumes for the offseason. Let’s take a look around the league.

NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

In the NFC there are nine teams fighting for the six playoff spots. Carolina, Arizona, Green Bay and Seattle have made the postseason for sure. Minnesota and Washington currently occupy the six and fourth seeds respectively as well. Beyond them, the Eagles, Giants, and Falcons are all still alive for the playoffs. This is a little bit deceiving however. Neither the Giants nor the Eagles can win the sixth Wild Card spot as both are now three games behind Minnesota with two to play. The Eagles and Giants are only in the mix by virtue of a weak NFC East. Washington and the Eagles play next Saturday and then the Giants and Eagles play in Week 17. Those two matchups will decide the NFC East winner who will take the fourth overall seed and host the fifth seed on Wild Card weekend.

[Read more…]

Reid’s Week Fifteen NFL Picks: The Elite

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

It’s always good when a controversy erupts in the NFL, and I say that as a guy who pretty much strip-mined the league for content on a daily basis for radio and TV for the last twenty-five years.

Hey, nothing wrong with being shallow, as long as you can be insightful about it.

The latest talking point came courtesy of alleged Cleveland coach Mike Pettine, who, when asked if he thought this week’s opponent’s quarterback Russell Wilson was “elite,” declined to put him up there and instead said in was in the “second tier.”

After realizing he had provided the very definition of “bulletin board material,” Pettine quickly backtracked the next day as analysts came out of the woodwork to discuss whether or not Wilson was elite, and if a guy who’d been coaching the Browns would even recognize it if he saw it. This dodges the more important question.

Who cares?

Why is it so important to football fans to rank players? Most of these guys bounce from week to week anyway, but we still feel the need to etch in stone which ones of them are worth premature enshrinement.

Face it, Russell Wilson has already won a Super Bowl. He’s earned a fat new contract, his endorsements are everywhere, and he’s apparently so famous he can have Macklemore come over and stand around his pool just to pump him up about bird ownership. Whether we think he’s elite or not is largely irrelevant to his world view.

But still, we want to put him in a box, classify him as “elite” or just “good.”

Newsflash: It doesn’t matter what we think. Arbitrary distinctions don’t win games.

Is Eli Manning elite? Probably not. Is he a sure fire Hall of Famer with as many rings as his whole family plus Brett Favre put together? You betcha.

What about Joe Flacco? Matt Ryan? Tony Romo? Is Philip Rivers elite? He never led San Diego to a Super Bowl.

And it looks like he’ll never get the chance to.

For as much as we argue about it, no one seems to be able to define this “elite” category. We’re only able to clarify who doesn’t belong. As far as I can tell when we say “elite,” we just mean a quarterback who wins games that we also want on our fantasy football teams.

On to the picks. I went down to the Thursday Color Rush game, where the St. Louis Mustard prevailed over the hapless Tampa Bay Ketchup. I had Dallas last night +3.5, which means Kellen Moore was just good enough to get me the win, even if he wasn’t good enough for Dallas. I’m now 52-39-2 on the year. Here’s my picks for week fifteen. Remember, these are for the purposes of discussion only. As always, no wagering.

Atlanta (+3) at Jacksonville – The Falcons just quit last week against Carolina. If there were playoffs for quitters, Atlanta would have won their playoff game and advanced to play the winner of the Nixon-Roberto Duran matchup this week.
Pick: Jags

Houston (+2) at Indianapolis – This is the first time in NFL history that two first-place teams have met this late in the season with backup quarterbacks starting. Probably. Remember, I’m not really much for research.
Pick: Colts

Buffalo (-2) at Washington – Somehow, through their decision to move Robert Griffin III to the scout team defense, Washington has become the most stable team in the NFC East.
Pick: Washington

Carolina (-4) at NY Giants – Picking the Giants to stop the Panthers undefeated streak because they did it once years ago to the Patriots is like expecting another Oscar-winning performance from Cuba Gooding Jr.
Pick: Panthers

Miami (+2) at San Diego – Philip Rivers is my MVPOAHTATM, my Most Valuable Player On A Horrendous Team About To Move. It’s a prestigious award, but I only get to give it away every couple of decades.
Pick: Chargers

Cincinnati (-5.5) at San Francisco – This week we’ll see if A.J. McCarron is the second coming of Tom Brady. Cincinnati would settle for the second coming of Todd Rutledge, since he was the last Alabama QB to start and win an NFL game. And that was three years before McCarron was born.
Pick: Bengals

I’ll also take solid lights over blinking ones, gift bags over professionally wrapped gifts, and sample size shampoo over fruit in my stockings. Seriously. Fruit just says “I have no gifts, but I want to add mass to your stocking to make it look like I tried.”

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s novel “The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape” is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.

Look Ahead into NFL Week 15

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Jingle Bells and Merry Christmas everyone! This is the last week of NFL football before one of the best holidays of the year. Christmas day itself is devoted to NBA basketball because the NFL decided to let another league have a holiday all to itself. As such, this weekend and next weekend are days of merriment for football fans.

Week 14 Against the Spread 9-7 (107-89 Overall)

After a weak week in Week 13, the home stretch is looking promising. I felt somewhat undone by Andy Dalton’s tragic broken thumb (to say nothing of what his injury did to my fantasy team). Ultimately, I have to feel pretty good about my season. Picking against the spread can be daunting, even for analysts more experienced than I. With three weeks to go, and I may not count Week 17 due to the rather typical benching of star players. Let’s take a look at the games this week.

[Read more…]

Reid’s NFL Mailbag: Jets vs. Cowboys, Serena vs. a Horse

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

We’re finally to the time of the year when the NFL expands onto Saturdays, giving us four out of five days straight containing pro football. I can only assume the NFL does this out of compassion for those of us who always get depressed around this time of the year, and could use a few more concussions and torn knee ligaments to get us through the holiday season.

With that in mind, time to check back in with the ol’ mailbag.

Q: Is Johnny Manziel finally the answer in Cleveland?
A: The best you can say right now is that young Jonathan Livingston Football is no longer a negative certainty, and for the Browns, that’s a huge deal. Cleveland is consistently such a grease-fire-train-wreck-clown-autopsy, having any bright spot in this season is a plus. Manziel’s first two seasons have been a mess in every way, but now that he’s finally getting to start and accepting that responsibility, he’s worth taking a look at. He probably had his best pro game against the 49ers last week. The Browns are characteristically awful this year and will probably clean house again as soon as the season ends, but Manziel has given them enough to think about that the next coach will at least have him as an option. And if not, expect the Browns to draft another quarterback and Manziel to go exactly where you think he’ll go.

Q: How many coaches will get fired on Black Monday, and is Jason Garrett safe?
A: Last question first, yes. He’s still Jerry’s guy, although both of them need to share the blame for stocking a roster of useless backfield parts behind Romo. Garrett’s done an awful job of getting his team ready to play without his starting quarterback, and Jerry is well aware of that. The clock is ticking on Romo and the Cowboys window to make a playoff run, and the cupboard is bare behind him. Keeping the band together right now is the best idea.

As for the rest of the league, I’ll say the Chargers, Colts, Browns, and Lions will all make a move. The Falcons and 49ers should but won’t, and the Dolphins and Titans have already switched, and should keep looking.

Q: What do you think about Sports Illustrated naming Serena Williams as their Sportsperson of the Year, and snubbing American Pharoah?
A: Since the NFL player who probably deserved it was the same one on trial for Deflategate the entire year, I can see how they’d ignore the NFL. I would have probably gone with the Kansas City Royals, but I can see their point about Williams. As for people rooting for a horse, good luck with all that.

Don’t get me wrong, I get horse racing. It’s like the lottery for rich people and organized crime figures. But I prefer to follow sports that have more than three events people can name, and consider athletes who actually know they’re in a competition.

And don’t tell me that horses understand they’re racing in the Preakness or wherever. Even if you believe that, you definitely don’t believe they’re aware enough to understand the concept of “injuries.” If they had any idea of what would happen to them if they broke their leg while racing, every event would take the half-speed pace of Pro Bowl out there.

On to the picks. In Week Fourteen I went 3-3, overestimating the Bucs, Falcons, and Cowboys. And as bad as the Cowboys are, the Falcons are even more soul-crushingly worse. Remember when they were 5-0 this season? I do, and so does Falcon ownership, and that’s a major problem.

I’m now 51-38-2 on the year. Here’s my picks for the early games in week fifteen, I’ll be back Sunday with the rest. Remember, these are for the purposes of discussion only. As always, no wagering.

Tampa Bay (+1.5) at St. Louis – They lose games they should win, then pull off upsets. They’re led by the highest-regarded coach in history with the lowest winning percentage. Forget LA, the only way the Rams could be any less stable would be to move them directly onto the San Andreas Fault.
Pick: Bucs

NY Jets (-3.5) at Dallas – At some point you just have to stop rooting for wins, and turn all of your hopes towards tanking and getting a good draft pick. You have to go “Full Browns.”
Pick: Cowboys

I’ll also take Christmas Vacation over White Christmas, “Please Come Home For Christmas” over “Santa Baby,” and “Angels We Have Heard On High” over “Silent Night.”

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s novel “The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape” is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.

Homestretch in Run for NFL Playoffs Getting Clearer

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

It’s hard to believe there are only three weeks of regular season football left. As the season draws to a close, more and more clarity is granted to the postseason picture. Each conference contains a dangerous red-hot Wild Card contender and both conferences feature mediocre divisions (the AFC South and NFC East). Let’s take a quick look at the postseason as we learn more and more from the regular season.

THE TWO MOST DANGEROUS POSTSEASON TEAMS

Photo Credit: Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports

It’s been a year of incredible parity in the NFL. It wasn’t until this weekend that teams really started to get sorted out in the playoffs and other clubs began to get eliminated. That also means that the difference in talent between the sixth seed and the first seed might be a lot less than usual. Maybe the Wild Card clubs had bad injuries. Maybe they played a tougher schedule. Maybe they just suffered rotten luck. Whatever the case may be, the old adage that you want to be the hot team going into the playoffs could certainly hold true again. For the two most dangerous teams in the postseason, that would certainly seem to be the hope.

There are two teams no one wants to face right now in January, the Steelers and the Seahawks. Both will likely end up Wild Cards, possibly the worst seed in each conference. They are also teams that are getting hot at the right time. Now to be clear, neither team in flawless. Seattle has incredible weakness on the offensive line and their battered running back corps, so long a strength for the Seahawks, is taking huge hits. The Steelers, for their part, can’t seem to defend anyone in the passing game. Ultimately, there is a reason these teams will be Wild Cards; they aren’t invincible. Still, both teams are blisteringly hot, and both teams are lighting it up through the air.

Over the past weeks, quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger can do no wrong. They are dropping bombs all over the field. Touchdown after touchdown, both teams have gotten hot by torching teams through the air. They are blowing out opponents left and right and no one wants to see that in December. After all, the Panthers or Patriots might be more balanced, but like a basketball team that can rain threes, a bomber squadron passing unit can get white-hot in an individual game and be almost impossible to stop. Early season struggles may make both teams road warriors for the entirety of the playoffs, but neither team should be considered a long-shot to play in Santa Clara.

[Read more…]

Reid’s Week Fourteen NFL Picks: Fearless Predictions

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator

As we enter the homestretch of the NFL season, this is the time when teams either buckle down or knuckle under. We’re seeing teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City making big pushes despite their early struggles, and Minnesota and Green Bay reversing that trend.

In honor of the big twists and turns in the NFL so far this season, this week I present my fearless predictions, guaranteed to be at least as accurate as Ron Jaworski.

- By the 2018 season, Colin Kaepernick will either be a Pro Bowl quarterback or out of the NFL.

- Johnny Manziel will still be a Cleveland Brown by the time the Super Bowl gets here, and Mike Pettine will not.

- Peyton Manning will be a starter in the league next year, but somewhere in the Central Time Zone.

- Jim Tomsula will stay the head coach of the 49ers next year, and that will not be a very good decision.

- San Diego and Oakland will move to Los Angeles, and the NFL will trade an old rivalry for a presence in an apathetic market. And the Rams will get the shaft.

- Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will both be starters in the NFL for many years to come, while Robert Griffin III will not.

- Washington will keep Kurt Cousins, and regret it.

- Atlanta will fire a lot of people in the offseason.

- That “Concussion” movie will be very good, however, the NFL will never acknowledge it and 99% of you will never see it.

- I will make the postseason in my fantasy league and painfully lose in the first round for the fourth straight year, thus earning me the “Bengals Lifetime Playoff Lack of Achievement Award.”

- Andrew Luck will take his starting job back and no one will ever mention it again.

- Seattle will make the playoffs and go 1-1.

- When Tony Romo throws his first interception next year, most of you will have forgotten how much the Cowboys need him.

- Arizona will win the NFC.

- The Patriots will make the Super Bowl, unless they have to play the Chiefs or Steelers on the way.

On to the picks. Week Thirteen was solid for me, I went 4-2, and only overestimated the Vikings and the Rams this time. I had the Cowboys winning that game against Washington for one simple reason: It made no sense. In the NFC Nickelback Division, logic and reality are just vague suggestions, so bet accordingly.

I’m now 48-35-2 on the year. Time for my playoff push. Here’s my picks for week fourteen. Remember, these are for the purposes of discussion only. As always, no wagering.

Pittsburgh (+3) at Cincinnati – I have more confidence in the playoff futures of Pittsburgh as a possible wild card than I do Cincinnati as a number-one seed.
Pick: Steelers

San Francisco (+1.5) at Cleveland: Johnny Football gets more comebacks than Jason Voorhees.
Pick: Browns

Buffalo (NL) at Philadelphia: The running back he dumped wants to clobber him. The back he signed went over his head to complain to the owner. Chip Kelly is to running backs what Charlie Sheen is to girlfriends.
Pick: Eagles

Atlanta (+9) at Carolina: Stop saying the Panthers are overrated. And yes, if you could reach those grapes, they’d probably be sour.
Pick: Falcons

New Orleans (+4.5) at Tampa Bay – I hope Sports Illustrated does a special edition commemorating Brandon Browner’s 100th pass interference penalty this week.
Pick: Bucs

Dallas (+7) at Green Bay: You’d say a loss here would end the Cowboys playoff hopes, but the entire division is basically the cast of “Grown-Ups 2” here. Anything good coming out of them would be a shock.
Pick: Cowboys

I’ll also take Western Kentucky over South Florida in the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Bowl, Akron over Utah State in the Facebook-Friend-Request-From-A-Total-Stranger Bowl, and Temple over Toledo in the Kardashian Bowl.

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s novel “The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape” is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.