Saturday, January 11, 2020

Nurse the Hate: Interesting Times and the NFL Divisional Round

We have been cursed to live in "interesting times" as the Chinese say.  Our impeached President, a B-list reality TV star, almost plunged us into war because of an impetuous decision he made as he waddled off a golf course last week when he decided to blow up an Iranian "bad guy".  Most people seem to agree that the Iranian guy was a creep, but the timing seemed illogical.  The oddly suntanned fat guy that is in charge of the United States appears to operate on the principle of "Go!  Ready!  Set!" which is pretty scary.  He doesn't seem to have a depth of understanding of anything but TV.  That doesn't appear to be a big issue for most people though.  The good news for The Orange Man is that most people that like guns and Jesus but don't like brown people were very excited by this "tough" action.  I have found that people that don't have to participate in wars are the ones generally most in favor of the idea of fighting.  There must be a correlation between the number of kooky Far Right memes people send out and low level of travel and interaction with people that are different than themselves.  It's hard to be in favor of killing people when you've met them and discover they are surprisingly like you.

The angry Orange Man and the equally angry Iranian Religious Kooks got down to brass tacks the way Real Men do nowadays.  They lobbed insults at each other on Twitter.  Afterwards the Iranian guys probably had tea and high fived each other.  The Orange Man had a soda and watched himself on TV.  The Iranian kooks took their revenge by shooting some missiles into the dust in Iraq.  Then came more angry tweets on both sides.  This freaked all the rest of us out so much so that some trigger happy Iranian military guard blew an airliner out of the sky filled with Canadian and Iranian students.  In retrospect, it might have been a bad idea to catch a flight out of Tehran a few hours after Tehran shot missiles into the dust in Iraq.

All was not lost though.  Blowing up the Iranian creep played well to the Orange Man's "base" that wait for his somewhat confusing actions to be explained by his favorite pretzel twisting logic cable TV hosts.  They like that the Orange Man is "tough".  It's a shame those bone spurs kept him out of "The Shit" in Vietnam.  Man, he would have taught Charlie a thing or two.  It looks like things settled down.  The Iranian guys felt good about shooting the missiles and retreated back for more tea and plots on how to blow up the real American stuff they wanted to blow up now.  The Orange Man played some more golf.

Meanwhile Australia is on fire.  Not "some buildings in Australia are on fire", but "the continent of Australia is on fire".  The fire is big enough that you can see it from space.  Unfortunately for the Australians, their head of state rejects the idea that climate change is responsible.  It takes a certain amount of discipline to stick to your guns and say nothing is wrong when your entire continent is on fire.  I don't know what is wrong with me, but if I see some Australian's home burn to the ground I am unfazed.  If you show me a kangaroo hopping away madly in flames or a koala sitting in a burned down forest, I'm sick with grief.  Those koalas get me every time.

With the undeniable environmental crisis in front of our eyes, the Orange Man and his friends took away required environmental studies before launching major projects.  They sort of slipped that through while everyone else was worried about the Orange Man's other craziness.  This is great for those long suffering fellas in the energy business as they can now just build a pipeline though a forest and not even have to consider what terrible damage they would do to our common land.   It's part of the "Go!  Ready!  Set!" mindset that is going to be remembered from this age.  The Orange Man and guys like him are like Quint in "Jaws".  Quint saw the engine overheating, and when it was brought to his attention he slammed the throttle down to show he was not going to be told what to do.  He would rather self destruct than take advice.  "Quint" is running most of the large nations.  We are all Brody on the boat, along for the ride and not knowing how to swim.  Good luck to you all.

My head was swimming with all these headlines as I scanned the newspaper in the coffee shop.  Neil Peart died?  Even the coffee shop barista opted to leave his protective shield of hip indie cred to mourn the loss with the fitting tribute of a posted photo on his social media accounts with the phrase "this one hurts".  It was the most emotion he had shown publicly since Ric Ocasek of The Cars passed, a time of apparent paralyzing grief.  It took a full 24 hours to once again be dismissive of customer's choices in film, music and restaurants as the coffee shop alternated between "Candy-O" and "Shake It Up".  There was no choice now but to find piece of mind in my safe space, NFL gambling.  I opened up the sports section to see the latest lines as "By-Tor and The Snow Dog" rumbled out of the speakers...  

Let's talk about this 49ers/Vikings game.  The Vikings are really good.  It was a bit under the radar as the team tends to play well when they aren't on national TV.  Here's an odd stat for you.  Viking QB Kirt Cousins covers the spread 70% of the time when he starts at 1pm EST.  If he played all his games at 1pm, he would be the best starting QB versus the spread in NFL history.  Unfortunately Cousins also plays games at other times.  In these games he covers 30%, the worst starting QB in league history.  Cousins has a love of routine, to the point of it being on OCD behavior.  Sunday at 1p is when he likes to play.  It's when he is comfortable.  This game?  Saturday at 430p.  Uh oh.

Normally I would just jump on the 49ers and count my money.  Here's the thing.  The 49ers have slowly denigrated defensively as the season progressed.  The Public remembers their early monster wins.  I remember them giving up 46 to the Saints, 31 to the Rams, and 29 to the Falcons down the stretch.  This is also Jimmy G's first playoff game, a QB I'm not sold on, as well as Coach Kyle Shanahan.  Vikings coach Mike Zimmer?  Best spread coverage coach in the NFL.  This is a 7 point line San Francisco has to cover against a really good team.  They haven't covered 5 points since late November.  Hmmm...  Time to go to The Teaser!

I am going to take Minnesota +13.  I think the Vikings win this game outright at 1pm on a Sunday.  Saturday at 430p I just need them to keep it relatively close.  I went back and forth with who to pair this up with in that I think Baltimore and Kansas City are going to win easily.  I decided on Kansas City as if the Vikings can't hold up their end, I want separate action on the later game.  Minnesota +13/Kansas City -3.5.  I am going to take Baltimore -9.5 as they apparently cover any spread they are given.  They are 10-1 in their last 11 against the spread.  A well rested Ravens should beat a Titan team that is surprised to be there.  I was tempted to do a Kansas City/Baltimore/Green Bay parlay, but that just seems stupid.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Nurse the Hate: Wild Card Weekend Ill-Advised Wagers

I will be completely frank.  These NFL Wild Card Games are a complete mystery to me.  That won't stop me from betting on them as I literally have nothing else to do.  Sure, I could dive into the DOCGs of Friuli and try to remember oblique Italian river and village names.  A rainy Saturday afternoon is absolutely ideal to dig into grape compositions of tiny production wines that no one outside of the Northern Italian region you can't even pronounce correctly has ever seen (much less tasted) while a basset hound whines at your feet for something (anything) else to be happening, BUT if I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times.  The first weekend of January belongs to the Houston Texans.

I am not sure how many years in a row the Texans have been pasted on the first weekend of January on poorly viewed Saturday afternoon telecasts.  I remember one magical Texans playoff appearance where totally ineffective ex-Brown Brian Hoyer led the Texans to a 30-0 Playoff loss with spectacularly ineffective Brandon Weeden standing on the sideline.  That was a vision.  It seems like every NFL Wild Card Weekend, I vaguely remember that the Texans playoff game is on well into the third quarter.  When I turn it on, the Texans are down by three scores and the announcing team gamely tries to suggest how the Texans can rally back enough to keep the viewer engaged.  The good news for the Texans is that they play the Bills, a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 1995.

In 1995 I was living upstairs in an aging duplex, scrambling to get The Cowslingers booked at Lili's in Detroit, hoping my Acura Integra wouldn't break down, and dating a girl that had a pistol unexpectedly fall out of her purse at the Symposium.  I am fairly certain I saw her a few years later on a pornographic videotape one of my friends had rented back in the days when you had to go to the back room of independent movie rental stores to secure such forbidden fruit.  Based on the date of the film title, she made more money that weekend than I did while I was obliviously playing Top Cats in Cincinnati.  She also had a better time as evidenced by the footage.  Ah, 1995...  The Buffalo Bills had it much more together than I did.

The Texans are favored by 3.5 over the Bills today.  The Texans are at home.  There are a few reasons to take the Texans today.  They have played a tougher schedule this season, and teams that have played tougher schedules win about 70% of the time in the first round of the playoffs.  JJ Watt is back on the field, a legitimate difference maker on defense if healthy.  They have Deshaun Watson at QB, a player that has been christened as having "it", the perception of always winning close games.  Obviously I should bet on the Texans...

However, Will Fuller is out for the Texans.  Fuller's stats don't look like m much, but he is the guy that spends the field for the Texans.  Watson's yardage per completion drops two yards plus when Fuller isn't on the field.  While that doesn't seem like big deal, a drop of two yards per completion would move the #12 QB in the league down to the bottom of the NFL.  Translation:  Watson becomes Baker Mayfield.  That is quite concerning to the savvy wagerer.

I think this is one of those games where the guys at BW3 making bets on their phone will reflexively bet on the Texans because of their high profile stars like Watson, Watt and Hopkins.  The Bills were on a prominent national TV game once this year.  Sure, they crushed Dallas, but by now everyone has decided that the Cowboys aren't much better than the Cardinals or Bengals.  Buffalo plays great defense and can run the ball.  That keeps games close.  I think the Bills can win this if they can put a rush on Watson.  Gimme the points.  I am not taking a "strong position" but I am taking Buffalo +3.5.

Let's be honest.  The Patriots have been more than underwhelming down the stretch.  Father Time has finally caught up to Tom Brady.  It's always shocking when a great player becomes ordinary.  It happens so quickly.  The sudden decline of Peyton Manning comes to mind.  It's the worst in boxing where there's nowhere to hide. One minute you are Muhammed Ali, the baddest man on the planet.  The next you are being whipped by Leon Spinks and we all have to hide our eyes at the sad carnage.  In case you missed it, the only reason the Patriots are playing this week is because Tom Brady threw a pick 6 and lost to the Dolphins in a must win game last week.  Yes, the Dolphins...

The Titans have been impressive in the second half of the season.  They have league leading running back Derrick Henry, a beast of a man built for cold weather football.  Ryan Tannehill has been a top 7 QB since he took over for Marcus Mariota, something that is still difficult to grasp but impossible to deny.  Statistically they should go in and beat the Patriots.  The ultimate "public team", New England gets every benefit of the doubt, even when the eye test plainly shows that the end of their incredible run is at hand.  All dynasties end, and it appears that we are going to witness that tonight in Foxboro.

Of course, I am not out of my mind.  I don't know how the Patriots will do it, but they will.  A blocked punt.  A strip sack.  Using an obscure rule to their advantage.  Gronkowski unexpectedly suiting up.  Randy Moss back in a time machine.  Something has been cooked up.  Belichek will somehow come up with a scheme and get an edge over the Titans.  Logic dictates that the right side is Tennessee with the points, but I'm taking New England money line.  I'm not betting against the Patriots until I see they are dead and in the ground.

I have only been to New Orleans once.  Arriving on a Saturday in late December, the Saints were playing an otherwise meaningless game prior to the playoffs.  I had no idea and watched with some detachment as the game played on TVs in the cafe where I stopped in for a quick lunch.  They scored three touchdowns in about 4 minutes and the cafe I was in provided a complimentary shot after each score.  When I use the word "complimentary", I really mean "mandatory" as all the patrons and staff were insistent that the liquor be knocked back immediately.  I was just a tourist rube looking for po' boy, not a massive mid afternoon bender 40 minutes after getting off the plane.  This is what is called "home field advantage" in New Orleans.

I think this is the Saints year in the NFC.  They have had the Super Bowl ripped away from them in the last two years in maybe the most cruel way since the Browns lost "The Drive" and "The Fumble" games in successive years in the 80s.  The 2019 Saints are probably one of the best teams in NFL history to not have a bye in the Playoffs.  The bad news for the Saints is that they play a very good and vastly underrated Vikings team in round one.  The Vegas line of New Orleans -6.5 is too many.  However, I just can't visualize Kirt Cousins coming into New Orleans and beating the Saints in the bright spotlight of the Playoffs.

Cousins covers in 70% of his 1pm starts.  He covers 30% of all other start times.  This has become an open secret in the seedy internet gambling community.  I think that is the only thing keeping this Sunday 1pm game at the 6.5 points.  My gut tells me that sports books across the country are going to be absolutely loaded on New Orleans -.5 halves of teasers tied into the Patriots +1.5.  This means one of those two teams is going to lose.  I don't know how Vegas does it, but they always do.  In the United States in 2020, the smartest people in our nation run sports books and the dumbest run the actual country.  It's a shame, but it is undeniable.  We should give there nuclear codes to the guy setting the NFL lines at Westgate.  He knows what's up.  With a trembling hand, I am taking Minnesota +6.5 if New England loses on Saturday night and hope they don't get blown out.  

I have been arguing all season with the guy I workout with that the Eagles were going to make the Playoffs.  He kept harping on how much the Eagles sucked.  It was hard to dispute.  The Eagles have become like the 2010s Steelers, a team that doesn't seem very good on paper and looks unimpressive on the field.  Then, when the dust clears, they somehow win just enough to keep going.  There is no reason to think the Eagles will beat Seattle on Sunday.  All of their receivers are injured.  They have offensive lineman out.  They are walking wounded.  Seattle's Russell Wilson has been an MVP, stabbing a dagger in opponent's hearts late.  You just can't count him out.

Allow me this counter narrative.  Seattle has won a disproportionate number off close games this year, a trend that eventually comes back to the mean.  In fact, the team has lost close games in December, many of them late at night and out of The Public's mind.  The Seahawks have been a run first team, and their running backs are decimated.  They had to resign Marshawn Lynch off the street, a former great player that is in slightly better shape than I am, which is to say "a tad doughy".  I think they re-signed Tolbert too, a real nod to previous Super Bowl glories.  Perhaps the Eagles should sign Foles for the game Sunday to make this a real nostalgia show.  Regardless, the stats suggest Seattle is a 9-7 team, slightly over average.  The line places them as better than the Eagles.  Opening at Seattle -1.5, it has moved to Seattle +1.5.  I will take the Eagles at home as this is the type of ugly game that should suit them.  Philadelphia -1.5 with minimal confidence.