There's an odd thing about the NFL schedule this week: there's not a single divisional game on the schedule. Odds-makers and bettors love the wealth of history that exists in divisional games. A three-year trend can be built on six games' worth of data -- more if they've met in the playoffs as well.
But this week, seven of the sixteen games on the slate feature teams that have met only once in the last five years. That's not much to go on.
Five years in the parity-driven NFL is about twenty years in real life. A full generation of players and coaches have passed through, and most teams (except the dynastic and the truly lousy) have both made and missed the playoffs in that span. Big declarations made five years ago aren't worth the paper they're printed on now. What does that mean for pick-making? That our historical precedents might not mean much this week.
Here, then, is a look (for entertainment purposes only) at this week's picks, using items of true historical significance to be our guide.
Kansas City at DETROIT (-8.5): Lions.
There are chiefs and then there are chiefs. The Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes region were crafty and adaptive in times of war, borrowing rifles from the British in the 1740s to drive the Sioux out of their region. Meanwhile, the Pawnee of northern Kansas were mama's boys who, even when married, could always go back to their mother's home "for a night or two of attention."
Chicago at NEW ORLEANS (-7): Bears.
Two hundred years ago, visitors to large cities in Christendom would be welcomed by the sight of impaled criminals, or their remnants in whatever state of decay, as a warning of the consequences of criminal activity. This was considered a sign of civilization and the rule of law. Saints have gotten a lot softer since then.
Tampa Bay at MINNESOTA (-3): Bucs. (Upset of the week)
Edward Teach, known as the pirate Blackbeard, would twist punks into his hair and beard and light them on fire while attacking his targets. This was mostly stagecraft, as he relied on fright rather than might to overwhelm. Against these paltry excuses for Vikings, fright will be enough.
Seattle at PITTSBURGH (-14.5): Steelers.
Watered steel, which started to be produced in the 8th century A.D, was forged over great lengths of time to form blades of incredible strength and sharpness. Impurities in the metal were changed at the molecular level into a latticework of carbon nanowires -- acting like molecular rebar to strengthen the blade. These Steelers will likewise transform their week 1 flaws over time.
Arizona at WASHINGTON (-4): Redskins.
A lack of effective government among the peoples of the Potomac river basin led to significant loss of territory in the 1670s to various bands of white settlers, and in 2010 to pretty much every team that played the Redskins. Consider this their violent retaliation.
Green Bay (-9.5) at CAROLINA: Packers.
The Green Bay Packers were named after a canned meat packing company. Canned food was developed by the French army in the early 1800s, allowing Napoleon's armies to march endlessly and conquer most of continental Europe. "An army marches on its stomach," he said. Consider Carolina conquered territory.
Oakland at BUFFALO (-3.5): Raiders.
The first ship to come near Oakland's natural harbor was the Manila Galleon in 1565, crossing the Pacific with a wretched crew of ill-provisioned half-dead sailors. They sailed right by the fog-bound coast, not knowing that shelter and fresh water awaited.
Jacksonville at NEW YORK JETS (-9.5): Jaguars.
The invention of the jet engine dates back to the aeolipile in the first century A.D. Much like today's Jets, a lot of hot air and pressure made a simple machine spin around in circles. No practical use for it was discovered for centuries.
Cleveland (-3) at INDIANAPOLIS: Colts.
Let's forget other historical precedents for a moment. The last time Cleveland was a road favorite? Week 16 of 2007. They covered four of five road lines that year, with vertical-minded Rob Chudzinski (now in Carolina) as their offensive coordinator. Horizontally-minded Pat Shurmur won't be so fortunate.
Baltimore (-6) at TENNESSEE: Ravens.
Lake trout, the most popular fish sold in Baltimore fish markets, is neither a trout nor ever swam in a lake. But anyone who watches the Wire could have told you that. What does this have to do with the game? Not a damn thing.
Dallas (-3) at SAN FRANCISCO: Cowboys.
The early days of the gold rush found San Francisco full of cowboys, as the hungry gold diggers were willing to pay up to twenty times much for cattle as the price in Texas. Covering 10 to 15 miles a day, the trip would take as long as six months. In general, though, the cattlemen did a much better job of getting paid than those who traveled west looking for gold.
Houston (-3) at MIAMI: Texans.
Both Texas (as part of Mexico) and Florida have rich history of Spanish conquistadors. Only one, Pánfilo de Narváez, attempted to conquer both sides of the Gulf. He failed miserably both times, killing more enemies with smallpox than by any military means. (Also, the road team has taken three of the last four in this series.)
Cincinnati at DENVER (-4.5): Bengals.
Unlike lions, Bengal tigers (and most other big cats) do not live in groups, and the males take no part in the raising of children. If there is a Bill Cosby of the tiger world, no one is listening to him, either.
San Diego at NEW ENGLAND (-7): Chargers.
George Washington's teeth were made of gold and hippopotamus ivory, not wood. Also, the hinge between the upper and lower plate was spring-loaded, forcing him to keep his mouth clenched shut when not eating or talking. This might explain Bill Belichick's tight-jawed demeanor around the press.
Philadelphia (-3) at ATLANTA: Eagles. (Lock of the week)
These two teams have met four times in the last five years. Philly has won by at least a touchdown every time. Atlanta covered only one of those spreads, by half a point. William Tecumseh Sherman, first American general to practice "total war," nods his head in approval.
MNF: St Louis at NEW YORK GIANTS (-5): Giants.
Eschewing real history for personal history, I absolutely loathe picking the Giants. No team has burned me more by winning when I pick against them, and losing (usually badly) when I put my marker down by their name. But I can't in good conscience pick the Rams unless and until their receivers start holding onto the damn ball. (Historic reason to pick the Rams: Voltron was invented in St Louis. I kid you not.)
Last Week's Picks: 6-7-2
To quote the legendary Jimmy Apollo, "When you're right 52% of the time, you're wrong 48% of the time."
|Like TGS on Facebook||Follow TGS on Twitter|