Rob’s NFL Confidence Pool: Week 14, 2021 Season

I’m back! Now that I don’t have any other pertinent blogging responsibilities, I can once again devote some actual attention to my weekly picks, instead of tossing them together at the last minute and posting them without explanation.

This has been a deeply strange season for confidence pooling, and that’s all because (as you have no doubt heard expressed elsewhere, multiple times), there are a lot of good teams this year, but no great ones. When there are no great teams, assigning higher point values becomes extremely difficult. There’s simply no telling when one of the better, more trustworthy teams is going to beef it against inferior opposition in seasons like this. I was already complaining about this all the way back in Week 4, and while I’m a little pleased that even my snarkier and more dismissive team summaries proved prescient, the fact remains that absolutely none of these teams can be trusted, which has forced me to examine my picking philosophy.

As you know, my picking philosophy is based around the concept of mismatches; non-division matchups featuring good teams going up against bad teams. In a typical week, I assign as many top point values as I can to however many mismatches I see on the schedule. After those values are assigned, I usually assign the next highest point values to lopsided divisional matchups, followed by theoretically close games between good teams. The rest of the points are spent on the crappy games, more or less in descending order of perceived quality.

Last week’s picks followed this formula to a tee. The Rams and Cardinals games were true mismatches, and so got the top points. The Bucs, Colts, and Chiefs games were in lopsided divisional games, and the Ravens, Patriots, and Bengals were good teams in hard to pick games. The remaining games were all crapfests; even in a year where no team can be trusted, I cannot overemphasize how little I trust the Cowboys.

In a year with no great teams, however, it becomes unclear what games are actual mismatches, because in a year with no great teams, anyone can lose to anyone else, and each high-point value loss forces me to reconsider just how good a team actually is. In Week 9, the Bills lost to the Jaguars and the Rams lost to a Titans team I had left for dead, and while I couldn’t not give the Rams the max against the Jaguars last week I wouldn’t trust them against anyone else. Meanwhile, I needn’t expand on how disappointing the Bills have been this season. That’s but one example of how my rules have ruined an entire week; there have been others (Week 10 was arguably even worse).

While the past couple of weeks have gone much better, I still find myself deeply afraid to assign top points, because I’m deeply afraid of considering any game a true mismatch. I’ve seen too much. How can I assign top points to a team when I believe that each and every team, even the good ones, has a real chance of blowing it? And yet, last week, which was my best week in quite some time, saw me hew to my rules at their most basic, suggesting my only problem is my bottomless capacity for overthinking everything.

Of course, my rules are no help whatsoever this week. Every mismatch is a divisional game, and all the other games are games between terrible teams or games between merely mediocre ones. I hate it!

Week 13 Correct Picks: 10/14 (0.714)

Season Total Correct Picks: 115/194 (0.593)

Week 13 Points: 80/105 (0.762)

Season Total Points: 952/1,551 (0.614)

Bye: Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots

14 Points: Packers over Bears

While I am actually kind of resentful that honor dictates I pick a week with no mismatches, at least there are some lopsided divisional games to get me through. I needn’t justify taking the Packers, here. The Chiefs appear to have pulled their shit together after a rough start, and that should be more than enough to overcome the Raiders, who are finally coming apart from the strain of a cursed season. I stopped taking the Browns seriously after they lost to the Steelers in Week 8, and I haven’t been given any reason to resume doing so since. The Titans bring up the rear of this group; long-time readers already know that I’ve been calling them frauds at every opportunity going back to last year, and without Derrick Henry it’s possible they’re so busted that their ability to overcome the lowly Jags may be compromised. Better to lose 11 points than 12 or 13, if so.

13 Points: Chiefs over Raiders

12 Points: Ravens over Browns

11 Points: Titans over Jaguars

10 Points: Chargers over Giants

If only the Chargers were remotely trustworthy! Pro Football Reference tells me that the Giants have won four entire games this year, which sounds made up. Spiritually, they seem winless, run into the ground by yet another failed Belichick disciple and an idiot general manager. I should be putting max points on this shit, and yet even with a young, hot shit quarterback and a young, hot shit head coach, they’re determined to Chargers their games up at every opportunity. Even their wins are damning! I was convinced they were actually trying to blow a 24-point lead in Cincy last week before the 3rd quarter strip 6 (Correction: this was in the 4th quarter, my bad), and their wins over the Steelers and Browns were as impressive as they were concerning. My point is I can see them blowing this game all too easily, even though it shouldn’t be possible.

9 Points: Buccaneers over Bills

8 Points: Cardinals over Rams

7 Points: Steelers over Vikings

Everything Mike Tanier (who I admire a great deal as a writer) has said about my beloved Vikings this year has been incredibly mean and has made me sad, precisely because his assessment of the team is entirely correct. It is imperative that the Vikings miss the playoffs, so that the Wilfs go into this offseason utterly bereft of any compelling reason to run any of this back. Mike Zimmer has taken plenty of shit in the past week, both for the current state of the team and for last week’s Disaster in Detroit (trademark not at all pending). Zimmer is far from blameless, but frankly, I lay the plurality of blame at the feet of Rick Spielman, whose vainglorious attempts to keep a just barely existent championship window just barely pried open have resulted in a team that is old, cap-strapped, completely without depth even at positions of relative strength (which are ever-increasingly few and far between), and stuck with Kirk Cousins for at least another year, all in service of a team core that is just barely above average even when fully healthy, which they haven’t been since 2019. Don’t even get me started on last year’s Yannick Ngakoue trades, or this year’s fucking Chris Herndon(!@*#&#) trade. I cannot possibly have hope for the future of the team as long as Spielman remains.

Anyway, my point is the Vikings suck and they have all the tools necessary to lose to a mediocre Steelers team at home. I expect nothing less.

6 Points: 49ers over Bengals

5 Points: Football Team over Cowboys

So little is my faith in the Cowboys after their more baffling losses that I am no longer convinced they’ll coast to a division title, now that Washington and even Philly may be pulling their shit together somewhat. By all rights, I should pick them here – hell if Washington has done anything to merit actual respect – and put some actual points on it, too, but I have an unshakable gut feeling that they’ll find a way to blow this one, too.

4 Points: Seahawks over Texans

3 Points: Broncos over Lions

2 Points: Falcons over Panthers

I don’t have anything smart to say about this game; I just wanted to take this opportunity to pat myself on the back for knowing the Panthers would turn out to be frauds.

1 Point: Jets over Saints

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