It’s that time of year when football teams are starting to be left for dead. The top college contenders mostly stayed alive, with all four BCS leaders managing to pull out clutch victories. In the NFL, the same cannot be said for many playoff hopefuls. Among those losing critical games in Week 9 and fading from the picture were Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas, Miami, Minnesota, and Washington.
How will they respond? Only time will tell. But it’s clear that Chuck Pagano and the Colts have not waived the white flag in the face of serious adversity. You can bet the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to bounce back from a slow start. It’s a safe call that Brad Keselowski isn’t ready to concede the Sprint Cup to Jimmie Johnson. As for the Redskins, well, those guys may be mailing it in.
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Mike Shanahan. It’s bad enough falling to Carolina at home, extending a losing streak to three games, and dropping to 3-6. But it got even worse for the Redskins afterward, with their head coach all but throwing in the towel on 2012. Shanahan said it was time to start evaluating players to find out who will be in Washington for the long haul, then on Monday he somehow tried to spin to make it sound like he actually was not giving up. Well, clearly he is. And so are the oddsmakers. The Redskins, who have a bye in Week 10, are +20000 to win the NFC, ahead of only St. Louis and Carolina.
Leukemia. Who knows exactly what is going on behind the scenes in Pagano’s battle with leukemia…. But Chuck Pagano kicked leukemia’s ass on Sunday afternoon. The Colts’ head coach was on hand in Indianapolis for his team’s come-from-behind victory over Miami. Afterward, he gave a tear-jerking speech in the locker room during which he looked forward to dancing at two more of his daughters’ weddings and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The surprising 5-3 Colts are -3 road favorites against Jacksonville on Thursday.
Anyone who has to face Doug Martin. That includes NFL teams and it certainly includes fantasy owners. One week after rushing for a career-high 135 yards in an upset at Minnesota, Tampa Bay’s rookie running back racked up 251 yards on the ground to go along with four touchdowns in a shootout victory at Oakland. The Bucs are -3 home favorites against San Diego in Week 10.
Oklahoma City Thunder. Seriously, can any team have a worse start to an NBA season? First, Oklahoma City has watched the departed James Harden pour in an average of 35.3 points per outing to go along with 6.3 assists and 6.3 rebounds through three games with Houston. As for themselves, the Thunder are 1-2 after blowing a late lead against San Antonio in their season opener before losing at home to Atlanta (which did not even have Josh Smith). It’s early, and OKC is still a massive -600 favorite to win the Northwest Division.
Defense. There isn’t much defense being played at the start of the NBA season. Ten teams are giving up 100 or more points per game (including Miami, dead last at 109.0 through three contests) and the disappointing 1-3 Lakers are not far “behind” at 99.8 ppg. But it doesn’t get much worse than 0-3 Detroit, which all but handed the Lakers their first win on Sunday and is allowing 101.7 points per while scoring a mere 88.0, themselves. The Pistons are +5000 to win a relatively unintimidating Central Division.
Bobby Hebert. The former New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons quarterback was kicked out of the LSU press box for excessive cheering during the Tigers’ game against Alabama. After multiple warnings, Hebert was escorted out by a police officer. Just think what would have happened if he had managed to stick around and witness LSU’s last-minute loss to the Tide! The Tigers, meanwhile, are a -14 home favorite on Saturday against Mississippi State.
West Virginia. September called…it wants its Mountaineers back. Once 5-0 and a serious BCS contender with the Heisman Trophy favorite, WVU is suddenly 5-3 after losing at home to TCU in double-overtime. Following their third straight defeat, coaches and players were throwing around words like ‘disappointment,’ ‘sad,’ and ‘unacceptable.’ Geno Smith and company are +7.5 road underdogs this week against Oklahoma State.
Auburn. Until the Tigers beats someone good (and I fully expect that not to happen until at least the fall of 2013), they will be on this list. That’s just how it’s going to be. They are the absolute worst of the worst. Auburn took care of New Mexico State last weekend, but then it looked at its schedule and saw none other than probable SEC East champ Georgia coming to town. The Tigers are +15 home underdogs.
Brad Keselowski. It was knock-down, drag-out, head-to-head, one-on-one showdown between the only two realistic Sprint Cup contenders last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. A late caution doomed Keselowski and allowed five-time champion Johnson to pass him on a restart, take the checkered flag, and extend his Chase lead from two points to seven. With only two races remaining, Johnson has surged to a -275 favorite for the title, leaving Keselowski as a +225 underdog.