So our friend Skip Bayless calls Patyon Manning...
... and so he remains, now 9-11 all time in the playoffs.
Was he horrible? Are we pinning this loss wholly on him?
No, of course not.
But after much hullaballoo and chest-thumping by Bronco fans, the fact remains that Payton Manning has a talent for putting up huge stats, going 12-4 or 13-3...
and losing early in the playoffs.
At mideseason, we wrote a blog item speculating that it looked like the Colts made a good move in letting Manning go. We took a lot of flack for that.
Now, despite an impressive run from October to December, the Broncos are going home.
We have no apologies, and, indeed, stand willing to accept them.
The Seattle Seahawks have finally beaten a healthy (mostly) quality team on the road -- a big step, and bully for them.
But with all the motivation the Atlanta Falcons have, and the home field advantage, we think the 1-point line on this week's game is far too low.
Hard to picture the Falcons going all the way this year, but also hard to picture them getting beaten by the travel-weary Seahawks on Sunday.
And that narrow spread makes this the best NFL play of the divisional weekend.
We don't do a lot of college football... but our friend Irisheyez encouraged us to pick a few, and we did -- winning two 5-unit games, and losing one 3-unit game.
So, feeling full of ourselves, here are brief notes on our one remaining pick (Notre Dame), and two new ones (
(Acknowledgement should be added for our friend Colin Cowher, one of the better sports journalists at picking games, pro and college. Thanks, CC.)
Texas A & M -3 vs. Oklahoma -- A & M may be under-rated, despite the Heisman hoopla, especially after the SEC's relatively weak bowl performance so far. They were playing some of the best football in the land at the end of the year, not just against Alabama. And it's Oklahoma -- not great in recent bowl games.
If in doubt, we go -- especially in a bowl game -- with the more talented coaching staff and quarterback, who, by their nature, can scheme better during the long prep time, and adjust better during the game. A & M minus only 3 points is a bargain.
Kansas State +8 vs. Oregon. Oregon's coach is almost certainly leaving for the pros. No matter what is said, it's a distraction. Oregon also does relatively poorly in recent bowls and against post-bye-week opponents...
That long preparation period is a killer for Oregon, allowing well-coached K State plenty of time to work on its assignments against what is, admittedly, a fast and talented offense.
Notre Dame +10. Is the SEC really vastly over-rated over the last decade, as the SEC-haters claim? Emphatically not... it's proven in wins, and players in the pros, that it's been head and shoulders above the rest of college football in general. But this year -- repeat, this year -- is an off year for Mega-Conference...
Alabama lost almost all its defensive impact players to the NFL. It has an ordinary pass rush, an efficient quarterback, and a solid offensive line -- but not the steamroller, lockdown defense it had last year. And Notre Dame proved itself over a schedule that (now that we now how off a year it's been for the SEC) actually compares favorably.
Take the points, take the Irish, and throw a little on the moneyline too.
Several weeks ago, we wrote that we'd be laying off the Lakers and Celtics until injured players returned and these veteran teams began to gel.
("NBA Minus, Plus, and About to Change," December 9, here: http://spaces.covers.com/blog/gfoss59/NBA/12092012-NBA-plus-minus-and-about-to-change.html).
We were also looking for either the coaches, or veteran leaders, or both, to issue a little bit of a kick of a pants into the rear ends of players like Dwight Howard, and even Rajon Rondo (little bit of a matador on defense this year) -- a cri de couer to "play like your hair's on fire."
Well, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are back; Avery Bradley isn't; and Kobie Bryant, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, and Mike D'Antoni have all placed their feet in the desired location to rally the laggards on their respective teams.
Accordingly, we dipped a toe in the water and took the Lakers against Golden State, though not against the Knicks, last week -- and the Celtics against the Nets.
But is it safe to make a systematic ATS bet on either team in the coming weeks?
In a word, no, though we generally like each team to out-perform expectations heading into January. In other words, we're looking for reasons not to back them in any given game.
The Celtics-Nets game was a no-brainer. Boston was motivated by the Rondo-Humphries mini-brawl in their last meeting, and Brooklyn's general uppity-ness and physicality in recent meetings. Plus they were playing against a team in turmoil, witness the firing of excellent coach Avery Johnson.
Tonight, the Celtics take on another uppity team, the Clippers -- this one, with more substance than the Nets. Nevertheless, we like the Celtics +8 tonight. And, in general, expect them to overperform as big underdogs against hot teams, or teams like Miami and the Knicks who, let's face it, the Celtics hate.
This is also a motivational matchup for Rondo, who plays well against Chris Paul. (Especially in win-loss terms. Statistically, each of them often drags own the other's offensive stats -- and Paul generally emerges as a marginal winner. But with an eight point spread, that's an advantage Rondo.)
We're a lot more cautious when the Celts play a weaker team, especially at home. I.e., we're generally going against Boston when they're a prohibitive favorite.
Pretty much the same observation applies to the Lakers. Different team, similar dynamic.
The return of Steve Nash fixes one problem, and makes the Lakers much better. But as we all saw last night, it doesn't fix Dwight Howard's back, his related motivation problem, or the team's weakness on defense.
"Zen, schmen," as a friend of ours who covers the NBA put it. "Kobie needs to get on Dwight Howard and stay on him."
"If that drives him out of LA, he was never 'in' to begin with."
Even when they were playing well in 2009-2010, the Laker's were a betting nightmare, the masters of winning games by 9 points with a 10 point spread. They're the New York Football Giants of basketball, team ennui -- playing up to but also down to the level of their opposition.
But if there is an opportunity to bet the Celtics and Lakers regularly, it will be for a few weeks in January, before the spreads for each of these teams catches up and their large fan bases start overbetting them again.
We like 'em both at this point, with a little powder dry for the return of under-rated defensive stopper Bradley for Boston, and a little bit more fire, or better back masseuse, for Dwight Howard.
There's something laudable about Eric Dickerson's statement that he'd prefer not to see his single-season rushing record broken by Adrian Peterson.
(And mind you, we're rooting for AP for MVP -- and will make a statistical case for that in a few days.)
Granted, it's politically incorrect. Maybe that's part of the charm.
Or perhaps it's that we've always suspected many athletes who claim they're rooting for the new guy seem to protest a bit too much.
There's none of the insincerity in Dickerson's stand on the matter -- but at the same time, no malice or personal detraction.
“I don’t want him to break it,” Dickerson said last week. “I’ll be honest. I don’t want to see it. (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/12/13/eric-dickerson-doesnt-want-adrian-peterson-to-break-his-record/)
"Adrian is a class guy... but I like having the record."
Can't say we're rooting for him to keep it, but somehow, we like Dickerson's candor a lot more than the usual pieties.