Rob’s NFL Confidence Pool: Week 15, 2021 Season

As the regular season winds down, I am chasing one goal: Finish above 0.600 in both total correct picks for the season and total points for the season. I am knocking at the door of 0.600 in terms of picks – just one more correct pick on the season, and I’d be sitting at 0.60096 – and I am slightly above 0.600 already in terms of points. I’m heartened to know that this is evidence of generally sound point assignments, as this trend implies that generally speaking, I whiff on picks I assign fewer points to. That’s nice, but I’m not going to get my total picks above 0.600 unless I tighten up operations.

Thus, the end of all bye weeks is a blessing. From here on out, there are 16 games to pick each and every week, meaning that each individual whiff does less damage to my season average. However, in a season of no great teams, the end of the bye week can wreak havoc on season point totals. Any whiff on a 16 or 15-point pick will put my season average in great danger. And, as has been my problem all year, none of these teams can be trusted, making high value point assignments tricky. This week’s 16-point assignment is dreadfully easy, and I believe there’s a second true mismatch on this schedule, but everything past that is varying degrees of dicey.

Anyway, this column is late and I don’t have much else to say that isn’t about specific games, so pitter patter!

Week 14 Correct Picks: 9/14 (0.643)

Season Total Correct Picks: 124/208 (0.596)

Week 14 Points: 72/105 (0.686)

Season Total Points: 1,024/1656 (0.618)

16 Points: Cardinals over Lions

15 Points: Bills over Panthers

Even in the context of a season without any great teams, the Bills have been a colossal disappointment. Before the season started, I thought they would roll over their division, and I legitimately believed they would win at least 14 games. Instead, they’re barely above 0.500 and are stuck in the brutal AFC Wild Card chase, with little hope of snagging the division crown. 538 still gives the Bills a 66% chance of making the playoffs, and while that’s not nothing it’s also 33% lower than it was supposed to be by this point. This is to say nothing of the many times they’ve let me down in this year’s pool, with their losses against the Steelers, Titans, and most especially the Jaguars proving ruinous for my point totals.

All of this is to say that, while the Bills are disappointing, the Panthers are a doomed franchise in the midst of a doomed season. Not even these Bills can fuck this up.

14 Points: Packers over Ravens

This assignment is ambitious, but I’m figuring that even if Lamar Jackson does play, he’s going to be limited. More importantly, the Ravens’ are all kinds of depleted on defense, particularly in the secondary, and are fixing to get shredded regardless of whoever is starting under center. I’m also doing this to divest myself of my lingering belief that the Ravens are still one of the better teams out there. They’re simply too beat up to hang with the actual contenders, at this point.

13 Points: Buccaneers over Saints

12 Points: Patriots over Colts

11 Points: 49ers over Falcons

I wanted to regard this game as a true mismatch so, so badly, and yet I cannot bring myself to assign more points to the 49ers than this. The 49ers are ranked 8th in DVOA; the Falcons are dead last. And yet, the Falcons have won enough games that they’re still hanging on in the playoff chase (even if only just), and while the 49ers seem to have pulled themselves together of late, I cannot trust them completely. Put another way, a 49ers victory is the only result that makes rational sense, but if football always made rational sense the Falcons wouldn’t have six wins, you know?

10 Points: Cowboys over Giants

Mistakes were made last week; while picking Washington wasn’t the costliest among them, it was the one that left me feeling the dumbest. I galaxy brained myself out of 5 points, and only have myself to blame. This week, I’m doing my best to correct this error; I’m picking the Cowboys, but not giving them enough points to be completely hosed if this is one of those weeks where they decide to blow it.

9 Points: Chiefs over Chargers

8 Points: Rams over Seahawks

Consider this a reminder that NFC West games are even more chaotic than normal divisional matchups, and ones that involve the Seahawks are doubly so; I was tempted to go as high as 13 points with the Rams here before I remembered this fundamental truth. Exercise caution with this game.

7 Points: Bengals over Broncos

Also exercise caution with this game, as both teams essentially function as avatars of this year’s murky AFC. Both teams are 7-6, but there’s no guarantee that either team is any good. Denver is 18th in DVOA, and Cincy is 19th, and yet my impression is that the Broncos have largely feasted on inferior opposition, while the Bengals have been a tough out for just about everyone. Then again, the Bengals also lost to the Jets so who knows. Picking either team is justifiable, but placing any more than 7 points on either team is not.

6 Points: Dolphins over Jets

After their abysmal start to the season, the Dolphins are now within spitting distance of 0.500, and therefore within spitting distance of globbing onto the AFC Wild Card peloton. They’re still going to miss the playoffs in all likelihood, and their season is a huge disappointment just for that, but at least they regained some semblance of dignity, and may be spared the torture of blowing it all up yet again.

5 Points: Steelers over Titans

Titans disrespect shall continue unabated in this space! I was not impressed with their shutout victory over the Jaguars, and you shouldn’t be, either.

4 Points: Browns over Raiders

3 Points: Eagles over Football Team

2 Points: Bears over Vikings

Some of you are probably wondering just what possessed me to pick the Bears at all, let alone against my beloved Vikings. That’s a fair question from anyone with the good sense to avoid cheering for either of these godforsaken franchises, after all. But, as any Vikings fan will tell you, the Vikings cannot and do not win their annual game at Soldier Field, regardless of the comparative quality of both teams. Yes, they won at Chicago last year, but that was the exception that proves the rule. Do not pick the Vikings this week under any circumstances, tempting as it may be (which shouldn’t be very much in the first place).

1 Point: Texans over Jaguars

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