NFL Handicapping: Teams to Write Off
by Trevor Whenham - 12/02/2008
If there is one thing I have learned in all the years that I have been watching the NFL, it's that you can't count any team out at any time. As soon as you think you have everything figured out you get shown just how wrong you are. That being said, there are several teams that I am ready to write-off--squads that are far too broken to be trusted with your bankroll or anything else that matters. I'm not talking about the no-hope teams like Cincinnati, Detroit, Seattle and so on. I'm talking about teams that still get some attention, and still occasionally give us reasons to believe, but which are ultimately not worth the effort of betting on them because they are just going to break you heart. Here are four teams that have no place in my heart, mind or wallet for the rest of the season:
Jacksonville - Sharp money was on the Jags as they played Houston on Monday night, and yet again that was a bad idea. This team was supposed to be running away in the AFC South. Instead, they are just getting run over. Injuries are obviously a big factor for this team, but that is an excuse that I am sick of. They have had a lot of time to get used to their key injuries, especially on offense. The injuries are a factor, but a much bigger factor is that this team doesn't play with anything approximating heart or pride. Even with the pieces they are missing they have the weapons in place to be winning some games. Heck, there are several teams with less talent in the league that have better records. They have only covered one game in their last six, and three overall this season. In three of their last five losses they have scored late to make the games look closer than they actually were. In the other two games they were in contention late, but they blew it. Despite the talent they have they are in the top half of the league in just two major categories on either side of the ball - total yards and passing yards - and in both cases they are only barely there. This team has wasted opportunities and talent to an almost criminal extent.
Denver - There are a few reasons why you could argue that this team doesn't belong here - they are virtually certain to be going to the playoffs, they have won and covered three of their last four - all on the road - and they are coming off a big win against the previously red hot Jets. None of that sways me, though. I detest teams that I can't trust, and there are few teams in the league that are less trustworthy than the Broncos. Just look at their last three games. Three weeks ago, the Broncos headed to Atlanta to play a surprisingly good young team that had won and covered every game at home. Denver won, and they did it in part by outrunning the second best running game in the league. It was pretty easy to convince yourself that maybe they were finally turning the corner. So then they went home and lost to Oakland by three touchdowns. In that game they managed to do what no team had done before - they made JaMarcus Russell look competent. Good, even. Humiliated by a major rival at home - time to write them off, right? Of course not. They thrashed the Jets. You never know which Broncos team is going to show up. The only thing you can be certain of is that the defense is going to be virtually non-existent. I'm done with these guys.
San Diego - This isn't a very tough argument to make. A team with elite expectations and an elite roster have fallen victim to the curse of Norv Turner and found new and unbelievable ways to suck each week. They have lost three in a row, and five of the last six. That one win was at home against Kansas City, and they were very lucky to sneak through with a one-point win. Like Jacksonville, San Diego is blaming injures. The difference here, though, is that there really is only one key injury - Shawne Merriman. Sure, that's a big injury, but the Chargers have used that as an excuse to blame so many problems - the pass rush, stopping the run, controlling the pass, keeping the other team out of the end zone. Merriman contributes to all of those problems, but a real team with real heart and a real coach would be able to get past those hurdles to some extent. The Chargers clearly can't, and it is frankly getting a little pathetic.
Green Bay - I don't hold the Packers in nearly as much contempt as I do the other teams on this list. The fact remains, though, that with just one win in their last five they can no longer be trusted. Green Bay covered five in a row before failing to cover their last two, but that just makes their current situation worse. They were competitive against the Saints until halftime, but then the wheels fell off. Against Carolina last week they had the game won, but the combination of bad decision making and bad execution threw the win away. There are a few reasons that are key to my decision to write this team off. Aaron Rodgers has never played this much, and he is losing sharpness as the season progresses. The Pack is falling out of the NFC North race, and that will have an effect on motivation. Mostly, though, I've been burned twice in a row, so it is time to walk away and find new teams to love. No offense, Green Bay - it's just business.