NFL Picks 2016 – Superb Owl
It’s very hard to imagine how big a deal the Superb Owl is until it comes to your town. Red happened to be in downtown Houston last Thursday night and walked over to Discovery Green. DG is a wonderful little urban park on the east side of downtown across from the massive George R. Brown Convention Center. For the Superb Owl, DG, the GRB and the surrounding area have been turned in ground zero for all things NFL and SB in particular. At 9:30 on a Thursday night more than a week before the game, there were probably 75 workers hard at it. Fox has built what appears to be a 10,000 sq. ft. temporary studio on the main lawn. There is a massive temporary café/bar, a full concert stage, a huge NASA display, light show in the pond and other attractions. That doesn’t include the other four square blocks all tented up for music, food, conviviality and possibly lots of drinking. Or the entire “NFL Experience” set up inside GRB. There are also massive projections on nearby buildings and of course the mandatory barriers, metal detectors and road closings that accompany any such event nowadays. Red estimates that somewhere between $15-25 million has been spent in this one area of downtown alone and maybe much more than that. Who knows what is going on at NRG park – maybe just a game.
Red was a dismal 0-2 in the Conference Championship games. He was hoping against hope that the Stealers would show up and not terribly surprised when they did not. So, we have the Patriots in the SB again. Can we hear a vigorous “Ho Hum” from everybody? Red thought so.
Red was taken aback, however, by the Packers pathetic performance. We knew the Falcons offense was fearsome, but what has made them a true contender for the Lombardi Trophy is the turnaround from the front 7 on defense. That should have ultimately been expected with Dan Quinn in charge, but the arrival of a top caliber defense is ahead of schedule.
With apologies to Ray Magliozzi, Red has to say “Well, it’s happened again, you’ve wasted another perfectly good NFL season, reading Red’s bad NFL weekly picks.” Why stop now?
Your Last Pick of the Week – Falcons over Patriots
They used to say that defense and rushing wins championships. They used to say that cheaters never win, too. Bill Bellicheat and Tom Brady put an end to such nonsense. Don’t misunderstand, the Pats have had respectable defenses and managed to turn stiffs like LaGarrette Blount (aka the Fat Pig), Antowain Smith and Stevan Ridley into reasonable facsimiles of real NFL running backs for brief periods of time. Inter-column quiz: Who is the Patriots all-time leading rusher? Had to think didn’t you? It’s Sam “Bam” Cunningham for Christ sakes – who was with the team for 9 seasons and gained all of 5453 yards. He also had more career fumbles than touchdowns. There is not a single running back in Patriots history headed for the Hall of Fame or even the Hall of Very Good. The Hall of Mediocrity might accept one or two, but that’s it. This season is no different. BB has figured out that you really don’t need a superstar back if your offensive scheme is good enough. Just plug in a horse that you use to exploit defensive weakness and go on about your business.
The Pats defense is another story. It was the best defense in the only category that matters – scoring. The Pats allowed fewer points than any other team in the league and that kept them in a few games when the offense was not clicking – a very few.
But let’s look at who the Pats beat this season. They beat 3 playoff teams (if you include the Texans as a playoff team – a questionable proposition). They beat the Stealers, Dolphins (twice) and the Texans. Their two losses were to the Bills (sans Brady) and the Seahawks. They also had very few close games – posting only four (4) one-score victories. Two of those were in the first two weeks of the season when they beat the Cards and Dolphins in close contests. The later beat the Jets and Ravens by one touchdown each. Other than that, they either lost or pretty much blew out their opponents. Defense was the key to cruising to victory most weeks. Only the Cards, Dolphins, Bills, Seahawks and Ravens could score more than 20 points and only the Seahawks scored more than 30.
Meanwhile in Georgia, the Falcons offense was keyed by a successful running tandem all season. Freeman and Coleman were the best backfield all season. Good for two guys who were mid round picks in 2014 and 2015. That is not to say that the Falcons’ incredible passing attack should be overlooked. It is simply incredible how Julio Jones and his posse can tear up opposing secondaries. But the respect for the running game that opposing defenses must show, makes the passing attack all that much more fearsome. How fearsome? The Falcons failed to score at least 23 points only once all season in an inexplicable loss to the Eagles after a 10-day layoff. They scored more than 30 points 11 times and more than 40 points 5 times. They lost 3 games by a total of 13 points with only the bizarre loss to the Eagles coming by more than one score. The analyst could say, the Falcons will find a way to lose a close game. The analyst should shut up.
The Falcons defense is not on par with the Pats. But it has steadily improved all season and clearly was in full stride against the Packers. That performance must have built a new level of confidence. They will need it against the Pats.
The Pats are favored by 3 and the over/under is around 58. Red really likes the Falcons and 3 points. If they lose, it will be close. If you can get 3.5 points, take it and run. Red wonders a bit about the O/U. SB’s can be notoriously slow starting on the offensive front. Ah, screw it. Go with the over and hope for an exciting game that doesn’t last 4 hours. See you next season. Atlanta 33 New England 28.