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.

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.

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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.

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Who’s Up for Black Monday in the NFL?

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

As sad as it is to say, for 20 teams in the NFL the season ends in just three weeks. As the page turns from season to offseason, the NFL has its own perverse version of Black Friday. On Black Monday, teams across the league will issue pink slips to the coaches and staff who just didn’t get it done. Sometimes it’s justified; sometimes it’s an owner caving to the pressures of fans who want blood in exchange for their butts in the seats. Regardless, every year things change. This year is no different. The following are the coaches who should have the most to fear when Week 17 comes to an end.

Jeff Fisher — St. Louis Rams

Most of the time when you see a coach fired it’s due to one of two things (or both). Either the coach hasn’t lived up to the high expectations of a particular season, or the team has been perennially awful or mediocre under his watch. For Jeff Fisher, it’s both. Currently at 22-30 with the Rams, Jeff Fisher has the least success of probably any coach ever with as long as he’s been in the league. He’s professional, he gets the game and the team owners he’s played for have liked him which has kept him around. His big claim to fame was shepherding the Titans through three stadiums and two cities. This year though, the Rams, heralded as up and comers in the NFC West, have been middling at best. It’s been the same old story in St. Louis. With news the team may move to L.A. the ownership would likely fancy a total makeover. Fisher could be done.

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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.

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Look Ahead into NFL Week 14

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Here we are, the last quarter of the regular season. Where does the time go? Just about every team knows what they need to do from here on out and despite the parity in the NFL the path to the postseason for most teams is clear: Just Win Baby. As with last week, top matchups this week focus on games with a large amount of postseason meaning. Let’s take a look at all of them.

Week 13 Against the Spread 6-10 (98-82 Overall)

Yikes. Not the kind of week I needed if I want to finish the season respectably. While I do get one freebie on the Pats-Eagles game (honestly who saw that one coming), the rest of the week was mostly a nightmare and if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t bail me out with that home run ball on an untimed down I’d be an even worse looking 5-11. Brutal.

MY THURSDAY NIGHT PICK

Cardinals 23 Vikings 20

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Chris Petersen

Boy the Vikings have had some tough losses in Arizona (Nate Poole anyone?). This is a tough game to lose though going down to the wire and fighting the way they did. Definitely showed that Teddy Bridgewater is the man though. The big consequence of this game is that a Green Bay win against the Cowboys means that Green Bay can do no worse than have the division up for grabs in Week 17. For the Vikings it means they cannot fall another game behind Green Bay because to fall two games back would make Week 17 meaningless. For the Cardinals they cleared a major obstacle to the second overall seed, but a Packers loss would make the Week 17 game massive if Green Bay were to win out. Lots of scenarios there. Let’s take a look at the games.

MUST WATCH GAMES

Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh (Cincinnati -2.5)

In a week of (surprisingly) mostly mediocre contests, this one stands alone. Back when Pitt lost the first leg of this division series most figured them for dead. They’ve surged back to life in the second part of the season with a blistering aerial assault that has them marked as a classic “no one wants to see them in the playoffs” club. Cincinnati, for their own part, is looking to tie off the division and contend for the first overall seed. The Pats dumping two straight to the Broncos and Eagles has the conference looking like it could be more up in the air than we thought with three clubs sharing a 10-2 record. Lots to play for, Dalton and Roethlisberger, offense and defense. It’s good old-fashioned AFC North football. Game of the week.

My take on this game is that the Bengals do just about everything really well, where as the Steelers are just lighting it up on offense. Their defense could get them into trouble though. They just aren’t doing much well on that side of the ball against top QBs. In Cincy I’ll take the Bengals.

(Cincinnati Covers the Spread)

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NFL Race to the Playoffs Preview

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Other than tonight’s matchup between Dallas and Washington, Week 13 is in the books. Every team in the NFL has now played 12 games. With 3/4 of the season gone, the run-up to the playoffs has taken clear shape. However, this is one of the most even seasons in recent memory. Due to this, it won’t be until Weeks 16 and 17 until most divisions are decided and the conferences are all sorted through. So let’s take a quick look at each division and conference with a look to the playoffs.

NFC East

Photo Credit: Danny Wild/USA Today Sports

Current Leader — Washington 5-6

Key Remaining Games: Week 13 Washington vs. Cowboys; Week 17 Giants vs. Eagles 

The NFL’s crappiest division this year sees Washington, a team with a losing record, leading the division. This division won’t be won until the final week though with everyone but Dallas within a game of the division lead. Dallas likely won’t recover from losing Tony Romo. They’d likely need to win the next five straight. It’s hard to like anyone in this division.

NFC North

Current Leader — Green Bay 8-4

Key Remaining Games: Week 17 Packers vs. Vikings

The NFC North picture is actually incredibly straight-forward. As long as the Vikings and Packers are within one game of each other going into Week 17, that game will be for the division due to how the tie-breakers work out. Both teams are tied in the standings, but Green Bay has the tie-breaker for now. Minnesota has a tough run-in and after losing to Green Bay and Seattle and with Arizona coming up, the goal for them is to make Week 17 count. Smart money is probably still on Green Bay though.

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Look Ahead into NFL Week 13

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Ton of stuff to cover this week ladies and gentlemen. It’s been two weeks since a normal week of posting and I’m a day behind as it is. So let’s get to the pick recaps, my Thursday night pick and then all the action this weekend.

Week 11-12 Against the Spread 8-6 and 10-6 (92-72 Overall)

Thanksgiving and the week before were both solid weeks for me and have officially turned this year into a winner barring some incredibly bad picking weeks. My best picks over this span were easily the Lions on Thanksgiving picking them to win big and for believing in Brock Osweiler who I have been a big fan of for a long time. Time to keep the streak alive.

MY THURSDAY NIGHT PICK

Green Bay 27 Detroit 23

It’s pretty hard to undersell what a phenomenal finish this game was. Green Bay came back from 20 points down to avoid being swept by the Lions. Aaron Rodgers threw, on the untimed game-winning Hail Mary, possibly the greatest throw of all time. Now there might be some other throws that equal it, but in terms of distance, accuracy and arc that throw is likely at the very limits of human capability. It came straight down to Richard Rodgers, the tight end and he snagged it like a rebound. You can watch football another 40 seasons and not see another pro game end like that. Preposterous.

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State of the NFL Week 12

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Tie a bow on November sports fans, after tonight’s contest we are in December. December is one of the best months of the year in pro football because it means a race to the finish. Most of the league still has playoff hopes and those will burn until math eliminates a team. Already games of consequence are being played with Denver winning a massive game against New England. Carolina has the NFC in its grasp as they look to stay perfect and just about everyone else is in for a Wild Card. Let’s take a look around the league.

Patriots Lose and Lose

Photo Credit: Aaron Ontiveroz/Fox Sports

It’s hard to imagine the latest edition of Sunday Night Football going any worse for the New England Patriots. In addition to being beaten for the first time all season, the team suffered an injury that could only be topped if Tom Brady were to go down. New England has made a living in the Belichick era being a “patch” team, plugging in free agents to fix problems. However, you don’t just replace a future Hall of Fame talent at tight end. That is the sobering reality for the Patriots as Rob Gronkowski fell to the turf in apparent agonizing pain. Should the worst be realized and Gronk be lost for the season, a distinct possibility, it’s hard to see the Patriots as favorites for the Super Bowl with all their other injuries. Tom Brady can only cover so much.

Still, all is not lost for New England. Hope certainly remains for Gronkowski until official word is heard. Beyond that, the schedule in December is fairly forgiving. The hardest game left is against surging Houston at NRG Stadium. Aside from that the remaining games are against the Eagles, Titans, Jets and Dolphins, hardly a who’s who of the NFL’s elite. In all reality, the Patriots should still have a firm expectation of grabbing the first overall seed, or at the very least a first round bye. Brady can win with this club, but it’s uphill from here. One night has dashed New England’s hopes of the ultimate revenge season.

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State of the NFL Week 11

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Entering Week 11 there are only 11 teams with winning records in the NFL. That’s incredible. While it does help that so many teams went undefeated for a relatively long time, the real factor is that teams aren’t dominating or going on streaks. This has made the NFL very hard to predict this year. One week a team will look like world beaters. The next, they’ll get trounced by a cellar-dweller. Fans have been taken on an emotional roller coaster and there are no signs of it stopping soon. As usual, we’ll take a look at every game this weekend, but first, my picks from last week and the Thursday Night game.

Week 10 Against the Spread 8-6 (74-60 Overall)

Another solid week and I’m deeper in the black. I don’t even feel that bad about my misses. Philly and Miami are always hard to pick this year and honestly who saw Green Bay losing to Detroit? My victories felt much sweeter, especially picking New York to lose to New England, but beat the spread. Time to head into the home stretch myself.

MY THURSDAY NIGHT PICK

Jaguars 19 Titans 13

Well it was the second straight week of the color rush uniforms and most people don’t really seem to care. It’s an interesting idea, but this isn’t the NBA. The uniforms were more fun to watch than the product on the field however. This was a real snoozer up until Jacksonville scored 10 points in the final quarter to steal a victory. In the AFC South, every win is a big deal and Jacksonville is suddenly, incredibly, in the division hunt.

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State of the NFL Week 10

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

Photo Credit: John Leyba, The Denver Post

It really is a strange year in the NFL. Peyton Manning is benched on the same day he breaks Brett Favre’s record for career yardage. Farther north, Brett Favre’s replacement, Aaron Rodgers, struggles to get the Packers to score at all. The NFL can’t figure out what a catch is and we might genuinely have two teams racing for perfection come December. It has been a wacky year and more is sure to come. Let’s take a look at some of the top stories from around the NFL in Week 10.

What is Going on in Green Bay

In a year full of top teams on the bottom like Seattle and Baltimore, no fall has come more quickly or manifested so dramatically as the decline of the Green Bay Packers. The offense for Green Bay has become abominable. Against Detroit, one of the worst defenses in the league, a team that allowed more than 30 points per game, the Packers mustered all of three points until late in the final quarter of play. No one knows what the answer is. Injuries surely play a role; losing Jordy Nelson and missing Eddie Lacy haven’t helped. Could it be the playcalling? Could it be the schemes? No one knows. What we do know is that, despite a 6-3 record, Green Bay is playing like one of the worst teams in the NFL. They were taken apart by a Denver team that just benched its quarterback the same day he broke the career yardage record. It was one thing for Green Bay to lose back to back roadies against undefeated ball clubs. It is quite another for them to lose at home to a team that hasn’t won in Green Bay in over two decades. The Lions are suffering from internal turmoil and have only won one other game this year, and they beat Green Bay in Lambeau. No one has won at Lambeau since 2013, not even the mighty Patriots. Instead, Green Bay has become a laughingstock. The team started a span of four division games in 18 days on Sunday. They play the division leading Vikings this week. Green Bay is a stable place. They don’t fire folks quickly. However, it is safe to say that a fourth straight loss would turn some heads. The way they are playing, Minnesota might win by 20. Green Bay needs to get things sorted or they’ll joint Baltimore and Seattle: on the outside looking in.

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Look Ahead into NFL Week 10

By Michael LoCoco
PSDC NFL Beat Writer

We’re rounding the stretch and will soon close out the NFL’s middle part of the season. Some teams, like the unbeaten clubs will start turning their eyes towards the postseason as they will be tying up their divisions soon. Others, like the Ravens, Lions, and 49ers will be looking to offseason questions (Calvin Johnson or Colin Kaepernick anyone?). For an awful lot of clubs in the middle and their fans this is best time of year. It’s division race time where a victory can feel like the best thing in the world and a loss carries the devastation of a truly missed opportunity. We’ll take a look at all the games this week, but first let’s look at last week’s picks and my “pick” from last night.

Week 9 Against the Spread 8-5 (68-54 Overall)

A marginally better week than last one especially when you consider that one of my losses was the nearly universally mis-picked Colts-Broncos game. Easily my best pick was taking Oakland to lose while beating the spread. They may prove a stern test for the Minnesota Vikings this week. Big misses for me were on the Chargers, Falcons and Packers and miracle of miracles, I finally got a Dolphins game right. Let’s hope for another good week.

MY THURSDAY NIGHT PICK

Buffalo Bills 22 New York Jets 17

Well my readers, you’re going to have to take me at my word on this one. I picked Buffalo to cover the spread and honestly I was hoping they’d lose towards the end so I wouldn’t seem self-serving. My concussion article yesterday certainly lacked the proper tone for a game pick at the end and posting my pick for this game on Twitter just slipped my mind. Regardless, this was a statement win for Big Rex Ryan. As much as he might want to pretend he cares more about beating New England, this game clearly meant a lot to him.

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