OK, earlier in the year, I wrote that a good gambling tidbit would be taking the Patriots every time they were favored by 10 points or fewer.
If you did that, you went 5-5 this year. Not sure that is a defining statement to anything beyond the silliness of trying to find reason and certainty in gambling.
Well, I believe in desperate times, desperate measures are needed. And, despite neither being desperate or timely, this feels like a time we turn to an old standby for guidance.
Gang, we are going to fashion our NFL picks today with a visor tip to the most underrated comedy movie of my lifetime — "Raising Arizona." Deal? Deal.
We're going to pick every playoff game because, well as H.I. McDunnough told his young 'un when they returned to the doublewide, "And this here's the TV. Two hours a day, either educational or football, so you don't ruin your appreciation of the finer things."
Patriots minus-5 over Tennessee. "There's what's right and there's what's right and never the twain shall meet." C'mon gang. Brady and Belichick. At home. In the playoffs. PUH-lease. It's going to end at some point, and who knows, maybe that point is this weekend. But not unlike Jason Voorhees, until they wheel his corpse out, I'm not picking against them. Period. And can we please remember that as unbelievable as he was during the regular season, this will be Ryan Tannehill's first playoff start ever. Brady? This will be his 41st postseason start, so yes, he's midway through a third extra season of playoff games. As for any man who wants to lock me up because I am going to die on the Patriots hill, well, "You tell him, I think he's a damn fool, Ed. You tell him I said so – H.I. McDonnough. If he wants to discuss it, he knows where to find me: in the Maricopa County Maximum Security Correctional Facility For Men State Farm, Road Number 31, Tempe, Arizona! I'll be waitin'! I'll be waiting." (Interesting side note: The over is — "You hear that, we're using code names" — 44 and did you know that a) the over has hit nine times in 10 Titans games with Tannehill as the starter, and b) the over is 7-1-1 in Pats home playoff games since 2013. Over? Yes, please.)
Seattle minus-1.5 over Philadelphia. "Do these blow up into funny shapes and all?" "Well, no. Unless round is funny." That's my thought on all the hand-wringing and chatter from national folks who insist that a team with a worse record is hosting a playoff game. Get over it already. The rules were in place before the season. The biggest story for each offense will be about the names not on the field. Still, I think Russell Wilson has enough to get through a road test that will be tougher than most expect.
Saints-Vikings over 49. "Edwina's insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase." That was the Saints defense before the injuries. Now? Well, the Vikings weapons will get them north of 24. But I think the Saints win, which pushes us over. This total has gone up all week, opening at 46 and growing to 49. (It likely will move north of 50 before kickoff.) Why, you may wonder? Well, Drew Brees is prominently involved, and look at all the weapons. And don't you know that Brees looks over at Michael Thomas and in his best Edwina McDunnough voice says, "I love him so much."
Buffalo plus-3 over Houston. Man I wavered on this game about as many times this week as UT fans cursed Jarrett Guarantano during the first three quarters of the Gator Bowl. And this pick hinges a lot on believing Houston No. 2 wide out Will Fuller will not be a factor, because the Texans offense is a handful when Fuller is on the field and full speed. (With Fuller, Texans average more than 25 points per game; without Fuller, the Texans average fewer than 20. Science.) If Fuller is unable to go — and he's listed as doubtful — that means the Bills' shutdown corner TreDarious White and the rest of the secondary can focus on DeAndre Hopkins. So, keep an eye on word about Fuller. "All right, ya hayseeds, it's a stick-up. Everybody freeze. Everybody down on the ground." "Well, which is it, young feller? You want I should freeze or get down on the ground? Mean to say, if'n I freeze, I can't rightly drop. And if'n I drop, I'm a-gonna be in motion. You see? Shut up!"
The strengths of these teams are even, but Buffalo's weaknesses are better than the Texans' shortcomings.
2019 NFL picks record: 58-35-3 (62.4 percent) against the spread
2019 playoff picks: 0-0
Good luck and let's roll.
From a slew of you (paraphrased mind you)
What did you think about UT's bowl win?
(and more specifically)
Jay, does a good QB clean this mess up or is there a bigger problem?
First, great interaction on Twitter last night with the Big Orange among you. I need to do a better job of letting folks know when I'm going to be binge-tweeting an event like that.
Debates. College games. Etc. Side note: Very real chance I will binge-tweet the Titans-Pats playoff game Saturday night. Who's in?
As for UT, every win is good, regardless of the process to the final outcome. It's especially true when it will be the final taste in the mouths of Vols fans for the next eight-plus months.
Was it pretty? No. UT was much better across the field than Indiana, and the lack of Jauan Jennings was clearly a distraction and a red-zone issue in the first half.
(Side note: The ESPN has a problem with perception, and it is well earned sometimes. ESPN no longer gives NASCAR a whisper, but that's a BID-ness decision as much as anything because ESPN no long has the NASCAR broadcasts. ESPN overplays the NBA and even MLB in a lot of ways, and again a BID-ness decision because of the broadcast partnerships the Mothership has with those leagues. The NFL? Everyone kiss the shield's ruckus because it's the cash elephant in every TV room. But did anyone else notice a lack of discussion about the nature of Jennings' suspension and the clear decision not to discuss the controversy about it? Well, does that have anything to do with the sweet cookies the business side of ESPN needs as they go into negotiations with the SEC for the 3:30 game? Just a thought. Because, as we've said before, and will gladly point out in the future, the SEC opened a real box for potential controversy and outrage with the suspension of Jennings for the non-called act in the Vandy game. Just something I noticed. Thoughts?)
Anyhoo, Tennessee's win was a metaphor for a season-long journey that was a lot of things at a lot of times:
Frustrating? You bet.
Underachieving? Absolutely, when you consider the Vols should have led 21-6 at halftime rather than 6-3.
Tough? With the obvious exception of the Florida game, Coach Jeremy Pruitt's defensive mindset and wisdom clearly translated to the field. Johnny Vols Fans everywhere should be encouraged about that. Now imagine a Pruitt defense with experienced dudes across the front seven.
And in the end, successful.
(Read more: Wiedmer: Like most of the rest of this football season, UT saves its best for last)
Because no matter the zaniness — and there is no explanation for Tennessee to lose to Georgia State ever — or the occasional boneheadedness — the DB vs. BYU; the QB going rogue at the goal line in Tuscaloosa — this UT team winning eight games has to be viewed as a bona fide success by any metric and every fan base, no matter their SEC hatred.
And Pruitt desires a ton of credit for the finish, and maybe even more so for keeping the ship afloat, together and able to pick up steam when the chips seemed to be stacking up against the Vols.
As for the quarterback play, well, as my buddy and UT superfan Brad Shepard pointed out on Twitter (@Brad_Shepard) last night, as bad as Guarantano was for most of the game, he was 7-of-8 on the two TD drives that gave UT the 23-22 win.
But several things are clear watching Guarantano, and because he has been much-maligned and persevered, please know I offer this as respectfully as possible.
He reads defenses like Helen Keller. (And that may be harsh. For Helen, because she at least got good at Braille.) If his first read is there, dude can make plays at a big-time level. If his first read is covered, well, he drops pick-sixes like he did in the third quarter last night.
Also, I wonder how much of Jim Chaney's playbook has to be discarded because of the shortcomings in decision making? It has to be a sizable portion.
And, as I wrote on Twitter last night, not unlike how Gus wasted a championship-caliber defense with Auburn's offensive shortcomings this season, we're going to look back at the pass-catching firm of Jennings, Calloway and Palmer as they are running up and down the field on Sundays and wonder "What happened?"
Still, if we're going to cover the bad — and we will — the good must be acknowledged, too. Guarantano staying in the game after being benched for Brian Maurer in the third quarter was a true showing of mental toughness. Kudos.
Still, it's hard to see the relationship lasting, especially if incoming hot shot Harrison Bailey is as good as a lot of us believe. (Check the numbers: the high-four star who led Marietta to a Georgia state title and the No. 10 national ranking was LEE-git last fall. More than 4,600 passing yards with 50 TDs — in an offense that crushed so many people — you have to wonder if he played in the fourth quarter of half of the games. Here's betting Chaney's mouth is watering. I'm going to stop right there.)
If Guarantano stays, cool. Kid has earned much respect for his ability to handle the heat.
If he transfers, I could see him finding a new start as refreshing as Nathan Peterman did at Pittsburgh.
In the end, last night had to be fun for UT fans. After the ride of the last few months — heck, the last several years — no group deserves a fun finish more.
Questions for Friday's bag:
1) Matt Norlander ranks Auburn #3 and Arkansas #16, while UK doesn't make his list. How full of it is he? How many days 'til Pearl's pupil's unblemished record gets blemished?
2) Did Wes Rucker's response on your radio show yesterday to the question about the biggest UT sports story of the decade sound as contorted to you as it did to me? You have no nose for news if you don't say it was the coaching search debacle, that you so wryly described. He tied himself up like a pretzel to keep his orange-blooded readers happy. But he did correctly admit this is a lost season for the basketball Vols.
3) Is Matt Ruhle the worst-dressed head coach on the sidelines?
(Also from Chas: Not that impressed with the Ducks' QB. After Burrow and Tua, isn't there a noticeable dropoff in signal callers who will be in the draft?)
OK, several things to get to.
Inexcusable to not have UK listed.
Quick side step here: In an effort to generate clicks in this age of eyeballs, there will be folks who purposefully praise or irritate passionate fan bases in an effort to generate interaction.
I pledge to never fall into that. (And if any of you think as much, speak up because I will be happy to discuss that at any time.) Because not unlike perceived bias, being a perceived click-baiter is a quick way to lose credibility, and once that's gone, man it's tough to reel it back in.
As for Auburn, well, I think they got a little bit of a gift in a pretty soft start to the SEC schedule. Saturday's game at Mississippi State could be tricky, but I believe the Fighting' Pearls will clear that one, then home games against Vandy and Georgia and they will get Alabama's everything Jan. 15, but again, Auburn is decidedly better than the Tide.
AU's first loss comes Saturday, Jan. 18, at Florida, if I had to guess. Or maybe sometime around November 2021. Who knows? (Can't win 'em all if you don't win the first 12, right?)
Yes, Matt Ruhle looks like a frat boy getting ready for a flag football game. But then again, so does Bill Belichick a lot of the time. Which leads us to the great "Bull Durham" line when Crash looks at Nuke's shower shoes and says, "You have fungus on your shower shoes. When you win 20 games in the show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes and the press will think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you're a slob.")
And the quarterback question is interesting. I love the draft, you know this.
It's made even more interesting because if Tua comes back — something that I didn't think was possible until the last few days — I think Jake Fromm has to go, because he may then be the second- or third-best QB in the draft.
And some NFL team will fall in love with Herbert and Eason because of skill sets and checked boxes of size, arm strength, sneaky mobility, experience, you name it.
Simply put, NFL teams will talk themselves into why Fromm was mediocre last year and why Eason and Washington underwhelmed in a winnable Pac-12.
Just an idle thought here. But let's say the Warriors continue to stink this year. Next year, they get Klay and Steph back healthy. And they'll get a lottery pick perhaps (?). Don't know how much of their future they mortgaged in putting together their run.
But an older and healthier Splash Brothers with a top pick, say, An-man Edwards, and it's the Spurs getting David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Just like, smaller and stuff.
Arm talent needs to go by the wayside along with dial-up. Nobody actually "dials" anything anymore anyway.
How about a Rushmore of announcer cliches or catchphrases that need to be tossed out?
One, love the idea, and if I were the Warriors I'd tell Klay to take his time and Steph to try and get a Hooters Tour card. (Golf or wings, whichever the Mrs. would allow.)
Get lucky in the lottery and you could add Edwards — a generational perimeter player and creator — or a monster pick piece in James Wiseman. Poof, the Warriors go from winning 20 games to having the best 1-through-5 with Steph, Klay, Russell, Draymond and Lottery Pick A.
Concur on arm talent. Hate the unneeded adding of position (quarterback position, running back position). Shouldn't kickers have foot talent? Receivers hand talent?
We have become reliant on "dialing" stuff up.
I also hate "read option" because every option is a read option, regardless of the set or the direction. When a coach dials up every option, the athletes at the quarterback position with limited arm talent are going to "read" something and make a decision on every option. RPO. Triple option. Wing-T option. Wishbone option.
The misnomer that the shotgun option is the read option is folks using modern and faulty lingo, in my opinion.
If you disagree, well, that's your option, reader.
As for a Rushmore, we'll start with everything that came out of Rod Gilmore's mouth in the Auburn-Minnesota game. Maybe I'm just bitter Jay AU Fan still, but he was De-RED-ful through the entirety of that broadcast.
Great thought, though.
Also of note: I will post this week's Rushmore around lunch.
Let's just say we were running wicked late this morning because of an out-of-control puppy.
Deal? Deal. Enjoy the weekend, friends.