Week 12 Confidence Pool

Welp, that’s Game Over. If you are the sort of picker who has been following my picks to the letter for the course of the season, it gives me no pleasure to report that you are certainly out of the running for whatever season prizes your pool is offering after yet another 61-point catastrophe. In fairness, you were probably already screwed, since, if you are in fact following my picks to the letter, you forgot to turn in a sheet Week 1, because this column didn’t exist yet. Even in the highly unlikely event that you were granted some form of clemency for this blunder, this past week was nothing less than a bed-shitting of apocalyptic proportions.

There were a lot of misses in last column in general, but the most consequential of these by far are the whiffs on my 13, 11, and 9 point picks. Missing on any one of these would have been a real kick in the teeth; missing on all three would spell doom in any week. Since I am nothing if not dedicated to trying to learn as much as I can from my mistakes, and since this column is already in grave danger of devolving into a less-than-constructive pity party, I will be conducting an autopsy on these three picks, to see if there are any teachable moments (and therefore, some small measure of redemption) to be found among them.

  • PACKERS over Colts: In last week’s column, I specifically said that I thought this pick was a dicey use of 13 points, which nets me some points for self-awareness, I guess, but none for anything else. The first and most obvious lesson, here, is that I lost the thread of point assignment. It’s called a confidence pool for a reason; if I didn’t like the pick much, I had no business putting 13 points on it, period. I told myself it was OK to do so, because I hemmed to close to my rule that it’s better to put more points on a good team you’re not as sure about than a bad team you have full confidence in. That’s still a good rule, but only when applied to teams on either extreme of the good/bad continuum, and it’s not so good that it should override common sense. Also, the Packers are no longer the world-conquering force they appeared to be in the first few weeks of the season. I want to say I’ve done a decent job of adjusting to this reality, but I don’t think that claim is supported by the facts of my picking tendencies.
  • BUCCANEERS over Rams: At least with this pick, I had convinced myself of its accuracy for actual football-related reasons. Jared Goff doesn’t respond to pressure well, the Bucs love to blitz constantly, and Andrew Whitworth is gone for the year. That sure seemed like a recipe for disaster to me, and yet it worked out OK, because as it turns out Sean McVay might be pretty good at this whole offensive game-planning thing. Here’s a good rule of thumb when you’re sizing up matchups, and one that didn’t occur to me until the last year or so: If there is a specific on-paper mismatch going into a certain game (in this case, the Rams line minus Whitworth vs. the Bucs’ blitz packages) that you are aware of, it is a certainty that the coaching staff of the seemingly outmatched team is entirely aware of this deficiency, and is game planning accordingly. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the point is you should never expect any halfway decently coached team to roll over just because of one particular mismatch. Also, the Rams are no slouches on defense themselves, and Brady had one of those games where he forgot what color of jersey his teammates were wearing, which is a possibility you always have to account for this year.
  • DOLPHINS over Broncos: Even though this pick had the least amount of points involved, this loss hurts the most of all three. I feel like I knew better and went against my gut. As I pointed out last week, the Dolphins renaissance, while impressive, does not preclude dropping a game here and there, especially when Tua is starting. Tua may look like he’s headed in the right direction, but he’s still a rookie. The Broncos might not be very good this year, but they are still pretty firmly in the ‘Tough Out’ class of Not Very Good teams; it’s worth noting that after Fitzpatrick was brought in off the bench, it didn’t change the Dolphins’ fortunes much at all. While I’m annoyed that I second-guessed myself here, I’m even more annoyed that I put 9 whole points on it. My intuition has been wrong plenty of times before. But again, it would appear I forgot the confidence part of the confidence pool. Even if I couldn’t bring myself to actually pick the Broncos, the fact that I was this uncertain about the pick itself means that I shouldn’t have assigned this many points.

The overall lesson is clear: don’t put big points on picks you’re not sure of, period.

With this in mind, it’s time to take a look at Week 12. For this first time in a long time, everyone is playing this week, meaning there are 16 and 15 point games to assign. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because more games means a greater chance for mismatches, and more mismatches means it’s easier to assign those top point value picks. It’s a curse because, well, if you’re having a season like the season I’m having, when you do whiff on your third or fourth highest pick, you’re out 14 or 13 points instead of 12 or 11.

Week 12 has the mismatches, but it also has a significant amount of games between good and/or relatively evenly-matched teams where just about any result is on the table. The good news is that there aren’t too many divisional matchups; the bad news is that most of the best games are on Sunday instead of Thursday. This Thanksgiving schedule is cursed. We in the football observing public are forced to hope that Steelers/Ravens lives up to its billing, lest our entire holiday be swallowed whole watching Dallas and Washington trade fumbles.

Pitter patter!

Week 11 Correct Picks: 8/14

Season Total Correct Picks (Starting Week 2): 96/145

Week 11 Points: 61/105

Season Total Points (Starting Week 2): 822/1,126

16 Points: SEAHAWKS over Eagles

For all my grousing about the failures of last week’s picks, I can find some measure of comfort in correctly pointing out that rumors of the Seahawks’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. This is not the case with the Eagles, who simply have no redeeming qualities as a team, and whose franchise quarterback seems to have developed the worst case of quarterback yips I can recall short of Matt Schaub’s disastrous 2013 streak of pick-6’s, which ended up becoming his defining legacy. Point is, the Eagles will be crushed, and any hope for Carson Wentz lies in future seasons.

15 Points: BILLS over Chargers

I warned you about the Chargers! They really looked like they were thinking quite seriously about pulling a Chargers against the Jets. I thus anticipate that they have little to no chance of overcoming the Bills, even if the Bills put up one of their occasional stinkers.

14 Points: DOLPHINS over Jets

The risk-averse segments of my brain are somewhat horrified to see the rest of me put 14 entire points on Miami this soon after their mortality was so conclusively reasserted. This is an object lesson in how risk aversion, while worth heeding in some situations, can be overdone, and must be ignored in others. Congratulations to the Jets for doing the right thing in retaining Adam Gase through the entire season, thus guaranteeing the first overall pick in the draft. I hope, for Gase’s sake, that once he’s looking for a new job next year he gives real consideration to selling blow in the parking lot outside Islanders games. Seems like his true calling.

13 Points: BROWNS over Jaguars

The Browns might be the most known team in the league this year. They are good enough to beat bad teams but not good enough to beat teams even sort of vaguely better than them. I wouldn’t dare put this many points on them against a team of a higher caliber than the Jags, but since it’s the Jags in this week I’m not thinking twice about it.

12 Points: PACKERS over Bears

Funny story! Actually it’s not so much funny as it is long, to quote Abe Simpson. Even though the Packers have burned me more than once this year, I was all set to put 14 points on this game, until I remembered back to Thanksgiving Night 2015, when the Bears marched into Lambeau and beat the Packers on Brett Favre night, in what remains one of the most hilarious games of the past decade. The memory of this, as well as my noted overconfidence in the Packers, was enough for me to back off, but not enough for me to even sort of think about picking the Bears, who have all but raised the white flag on the season. I can’t see them even getting motivated for this game.

11 Points: CHIEFS over Buccaneers

This is going to get hyped primarily as a Mahomes/Brady duel, and while that’s well and good I’m much more excited for the playcalling battle between Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy on one side, and Todd Bowles on the other. I expect the Chiefs to figure it out because they almost always do; it sure seems like to one and only way to beat them this year is to outscore them. Defensive game plans, even master-level ones, are no match.

10 Points: RAIDERS over Falcons

9 Points: COLTS over Titans

8 Points: RAVENS over Steelers

While I have long since resigned myself to the Steelers’ legitimacy, and while I wouldn’t bat an eye to see them rack up 14-15 wins, I don’t even sort of see how they’re good enough of a team to go undefeated. The Ravens’ recent struggles have been well documented in outlets far more capable than this one, but it’s worth remembering that they almost pulled it out against the Steelers in their first meeting, and that most of their losses in general have been close. The Ravens are still a good team, is my point; they are talented, well-coached, and most importantly, desperate. They will provide the most severe resistance they know how to muster.

7 Points: RAMS over 49ers

6 Points: CARDINALS over Patriots

5 Points: SAINTS over Broncos

Exercise extreme caution! This is less urgent a message than it was last week, before the Broncos’ ability to hassle less experienced quarterbacks was made plain. Now that we all saw what they did to Tua and Fitzpatrick, we should all be on alert for their ability to throw freakin’ Taysom Hill off of his game. That said, it’s worth remembering that the Saints’ defense has been semi-quietly playing lights out in the past few weeks, so Drew Lock and Friends will have their hands more than full, too.

4 Points: VIKINGS over Panthers

It was nice of the Vikings to remind me that they still suck before I got my hopes too far up. For a while there, I was actually thinking 11-5 was on the table, even with games against the Bucs and Saints coming up. Fandom is an abusive relationship, and hope is a delusion. Anyway, you all know the deal. I’m picking the Vikes because I’m compelled to do so, although I do actually think they’ll win this one. If you’re not under this compulsion, picking Carolina is justifiable, but whatever you do, don’t put significant points on this.

3 Points: GIANTS over Bengals

Poor Joe Burrow, and poor Bengals fans. I hope he ends up OK. Josiah, if you’re reading this I’m very sorry for your loss.

2 Points: TEXANS over Lions

1 Point: FOOTBALL TEAM over Cowboys

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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