Looking in Rearview Mirror in the NFL

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    For those that watched that the Dallas and Pittsburgh contest, with nearly the intensity as same Samuel Louis Charles of North Miami Beach, Fla., (he won a cool million on ESPN’s Streak For The Cash game with Steelers triumph) you had to be struck by several key factors. This whole Dallas meltdown deal is taking on a life of its own. For those not familiar, the Cowboys are 18-37 in their last 55 December/January games, with an even worse 15-39-1 ATS record. For Dallas backers and I know there is a whole bunch of you, this makes them among the worst teams in all of football to end and begin different years.

    Everybody thought the three wins after the bye had Dallas rolling. Against Pittsburgh, their defense was phenomenal, never letting Ben Roethlisberger breath and shutting down the Steelers passing game almost completely for 53 minutes. But for all the supposed All-Pro players on the Cowboys roster, in the clutch, they make the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz seem brave at the end of games. Though Wade Phillips team was the equal, if not the better team, once again, the Boys couldn’t put the cork in the bottle at crunch time and Tony Romo look like the undrafted free agent he is when the chips are all on the table.

    Though I’m unbelievably impressed with the Steelers this season, since I didn’t see any way around their brutal schedule, I’m squeamish about Mike Tomlin in the big game. On the fourth and one play early in the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh was stopped on downs, why wouldn’t you kick the field goal to make it a one score game at 13-6. I’m sure his argument would be he has faith in his defense to get the ball right back, great point. But wouldn’t the same argument hold be true if you were down just one score instead of two? Sometimes his strength as a coach is also his weakness and he has done similar things with mixed results as head coach.

    Dallas will host the New York Giants, who were finally bitten by the Plaxico Burress bug and played like a team that had been through emotional ringer, losing at home to Philadelphia 20-14 as a touchdown favorite. Like a Trojan computer virus, if contained immediately, the damage can be minimal, however once other players on the team started to come into question for the incident, this story grew and had a lingering affect. It was also noted Domenik Hixon didn’t look nearly as comfortable in role as key receiver as opposed to matching up against weaker DB’s as the third or fourth option. The Eagles Brian Dawkins offered this insight.

    Listen,” Dawkins said, “I understand that you want to say the correct thing like ‘We’ll plug in this guy and we’ll move on.’ And that’s all well and good. But when you have the type of player that Plax is and the attention you have to pay to him … and you have to pay attention to him. You can’t allow a corner to play one-on-one with Plax the whole game.

    The Giants can certainly overcome this with three weeks left in the season, but the invincible tag lost several layers over the weekend as a play on team.

    The Green Bay Packers are done, finished and kaput. Oh sure, in the off-season Packer apologists will point to five losses by four points or less or whatever the final tally is. Yet the fact remains, similar to Dallas, when called upon at the end of the game, the Green and Gold are just green with envy suffering another defeat.

    Consider the Green Bay defense allowed 549 yards of offense to Houston at Lambeau Field. The Texans are essentially a dome or warm weather team and they played on the road in temperatures that never saw double digits and moved the ball like a 7 on 7 practice in August. Their is no doubt the Packers defensive backfield has been hamstrung by injuries at the safety position, but do you really take a player like CB Charles Woodson, who was having a Pro Bowl season and move him to safety?

    Aaron Rodgers has mostly stayed above the disappointing season, but he was an important reason why they lost to Houston. The Packers were miserable 1 for 10 on third down conversions in the game and on six occasions they ran their favorite slant route play and never converted one. Twice, the receivers ran sloppy routes and didn’t shield defensive players properly. However, on all six passes Rodgers threw, none of the passes were in the tight window necessary to force completions. Instead of the usual December rush were accustomed to seeing by the Pack, they look to be going thru the motions and have to be thought of as play against team on the road in Jacksonville and in Chicago the next two weeks.

    In the National Football League, nothing is a given, with the possible exception of blocking in the back on kicks twice or more a game. With the disillusionment Dallas and Green Bay have created, the wonderment the Miami Dolphins has spawned is about as confounding as any story this season. Miami, of course won just one game last season, covering the spread only five times. With an overturned roster, new attitude, improved quarterback play and better game plans, the Dolphins are tied for first place in the AFC East with the Jets and New England. Miami has two winnable contests with San Francisco and Kansas City next, in which they will be favored in both before heading for New Jersey to face the Jets. Think Chad Pennington will have his team ready if they are still tied for first in this matchup?

    Quick Hits –This past week, teams that had scored or allowed 40 or more points the previous week were 4-0 ATS. On the season, nothing remarkable, with teams having scored 40+ points 9-8 ATS and those allowing the same number 7-7 ATS. Early in the year, we heard quite a bit about clubs from Pacific Time zone teams traveling East and losing. This last Sunday, three teams traveling west, two or more time zones away failed to cover. Annually, their are not a large number of these games, but teams that force five or more turnovers are 6-3 ATS this season, after producing 11-28-1 spread record the two previous years. Pittsburgh is a live play this week. Several weeks ago it was noted how well teams in the bottom five of Yards Per Point were doing at 16-6 ATS, after being 60 percent spread losers the last several years. As the season as worn on, they are coming back to normal with 7-13-1 ATS record the last five weeks.

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