Rob’s NFL Confidence Pool: Week 17, 2021 Season

I had this week’s introduction written in its entirety before I learned of John Madden’s passing on Tuesday evening, and I join with everyone in mourning his passing. Madden towers over the world of football like a colossus, and I find there is very little I can say about the man that doesn’t sound or feel woefully inadequate. Suffice to say, John Madden is a big part of how I came to know the sport of football. He had already reinvented color commentary in his image at the time I was born, and spent the first 20 or so years of my life being the voice of the game itself. I would not be doing this if not for John Madden, and I am sad to see him go.

Aw dang it, you see what happens? You see what happens when you spend an entire week thinking about how you’re going to survive the holidays and neglect to actually sit down and think about your picks? Last week, real life got all the way in my way and I had neither the time nor the brain space to write an actual picks column, and I barely had time to make the picks in the first place. I may as well have scribbled an incomprehensible string of numbers and team names down on a cocktail napkin. In fact, I was this close to saying fuck it and skipping last week’s column entirely, instead tweeting out an incomprehensible string of numbers and team names, and only bothering with that much so that I could have stats for this week. Well, that and providing future internet archaeologists with secondary evidence of football’s former existence; they may not understand much of it, but I’ll bet even they will instinctively understand putting 15 points on the Chargers was a terrible idea.

Now, I return from a holiday of quiet seclusion and Mario Golf having seen almost no football whatsoever, save for brief figments of Sunday’s two most readily available and least interesting contests. Both Chiefs/Steelers and Cowboys/FT were over at halftime, and I learned nothing from the 27 or so combined minutes of observation I was able to steal away. The rest of Week 16, however, has me all kinds of messed up. The Raiders won, again!? The Texans pulled off a massive upset!?!? The friggin’ Chicago Bears won a game!?!?!?

I find all of these results baffling, and since what little free time I had yesterday was spent in service of catching up on a variety of my finest internets (and sneaking in a few extra holes of Mario Golf), I was unable to consume anything close to the several dozen recaps, columns, and hot take podcasts necessary to make a lick of sense of any of this. I have no idea how any of Week 16’s most baffling results came to pass, and I have no idea which of these results – if any – should influence my picks in these final two weeks.

Complicating matters even further, of course, is COVID, which is once again ripping and tearing through the sporting world with the speed and ferocity a Big Mac rips and tears through my digestive tract. Right now, your favorite team’s most important player is either inactive due to COVID or is about to test positive for COVID, because it turns out that “Plug your ears and pretend it isn’t a thing” remains a terrible way to deal with a viral pandemic. But the show must go on, apparently, because pro sports are just series of short grifts, and where does a non-sentient virus get off on denying the owners and the networks a quick score, anyway?

Thus, the games are gonna happen regardless of how depleted the rosters are, and just how depleted the rosters are likely to be tends to become public knowledge well after my column has gone up and my picks are etched in stone for all eternity. This leaves me stuck making my picks with the best information available to me early in the week, which is reliable only insofar as I can rely on it to be terrible. But that’s OK, because let’s face it, I really don’t have time to be scrounging around for all of this information, anyway, and I would only let it influence my picks in the most obviously dire circumstances (such as the Packers being forced to turn to Jordan Love once again while Rodgers sits at home shitting out horse dewormer).

As a result of both my own negligence and ignorance, the quest to finish above 0.600 in both my picks and my points is in serious jeopardy. The good news is that, because most of last week’s whiffs were confined to single-digit point assignments, I am still somehow above 0.600 in points. The bad news is that I’m not only under 0.600 on picks, I’m only just barely above that threshold in points, so my margin for error in the final two weeks of the season is slim to non-existent.

However, there’s still more good news to go around, as Week 17 is chock full of actual, honest-to-goodness mismatches. I’m not finished just yet, unless Tom Brady decides to conduct this week’s film study in the friendly confines of a St. Petersburg strip club, for some reason.

Week 16 Correct Picks: 7/16 (0.438)

Season Total Correct Picks: 142/240 (0.592)

Week 16 Points: 75/136 (0.551)

Season Total Points: 1,188/1,928 (0.616)

16 Points: Buccaneers over Jets

15 Points: Patriots over Jaguars

14 Points: Bills over Falcons

I say that this week is chock full of mismatches and then I go putting 14 points on the Bills again, as though most of their season been better than it has, and as though I haven’t been burned going big on the Bills multiple times, and as though I haven’t been scared of going too big against the Falcons this whole season. The Falcons are the very worst team in football according to DVOA, and 29th of 32 according to Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, while the Bills are the very best team in football by SRS and are forced to settle for a comparatively meager 3rd place in overall DVOA. Really, this is as mismatched as a mismatch gets.

So why am I nervous about this? How am I nervous about this? This is why it sucks to miss most of a week of games when you’re stuck in the pool-picking racket; I have no real idea if the Bills’ win over New England can be taken to mean the Bills are finally getting their shit together, and thus have no real idea if they can be trusted to handle business here. And, to paraphrase myself from a couple weeks ago, if the Falcons are really that bad how do they have seven entire wins? I’m not saying this to start a douchey flame war about the value advanced statistics; all I’m saying is that my job is to pick the actual winners of each game, and if the Falcons continue to defy reason and squeak out another baffling win, no explanation in the world (statistically sound or otherwise) will bring these 14 points back. This should be 14 easy points, and I can’t pass that up, but what if it isn’t?

13 Points: Chiefs over Bengals

12 Points: Rams over Ravens

11 Points: 49ers over Texans

I consider all six of the above games to be mismatches, but I have divided this week’s mismatches into two groups of three. The Bucs, Patriots, and Bills are going up against massively inferior opposition, and should whale on said opposition handily. These next three games, however, are a notch or two closer, and their point assignments reflect that. The Bengals are clearly doing plenty of things right, and are closing in on the AFC North title, but the Chiefs have recovered from their early-season swoon to be the scariest Chiefs team seen since this time last year. While the Ravens have performed admirably through uncountable injuries, it looks for all the world as though their wheels are about to fall off their rusted out axles.

The Texans have been playing their opponents tougher than anticipated but they mostly still suck. This should mean that the probably playoff-bound 49ers will cruise to victory, but frankly, the 49ers are more baffling than good and I had to bite down hard to trust them with even 11 points. Note that I am fully aware that Handsome Jimmy G is injured and may or may not play this week. I don’t have much confidence in Trey Lance, and am therefore tempted to assign fewer points, but since I would never consider actually picking the Texans this week and the slate only gets murkier from here on down, this is fine. I can still view this game as a mismatch, if I squint.

10 Points: Packers over Vikings

9 Points: Cowboys over Cardinals

8 Points: Titans over Dolphins

7 Points: Chargers over Broncos

I’ve probably already said some version of this, but in case the Chargers do miss the playoffs, prepare yourself for a flood of “What Happened To/What’s Wrong With the Chargers?” thinkpieces in the weeks ahead. I have made no secret of the fact that I have found Chargers-related punditry obnoxious since before the season even started; in particular, I think it was backwards to assign lofty expectations to a team whose plan for the season amounted to Good Young Quarterback + ??? = Playoffs. Turns out that even though Herbert is the truth, his awesomeness might not be enough to overcome frequent boneheaded penalties and a deeply suspect defense. A disappointing season was always on the table.

6 Points: Eagles over Football Team

5 Points: Steelers over Browns

4 Points: Saints over Panthers

Forget Ian Book, the Saints could be starting Sir Ian McKellen at quarterback and I would still pick them over the Panthers. The Panthers excel at nothing in the present and are almost entirely bereft of promising building blocks for the near future; note that any nice things one could say about their near-term prospects shall be deemed completely irrelevant if Matt Rhule returns next season.

3 Points: Seahawks over Lions

I have a bad habit of putting 1 point on the Lions when they’re facing a team that sucks coming off of a bad loss. I did it last week, I did it the week of Thanksgiving, and I probably did it a few other times that I’m forgetting about. This has never worked out once, so this week I’m picking the Seahawks even though they’re coming off the exact sort of face plant I enjoy mocking in this fashion.

2 Points: Colts over Raiders

Hooray for timely notifications! I had originally put 11 entire points on the Colts before news broke that Carson Wentz tested positive for COVID, making his availability for Sunday a matter of direct question. Get vaccinated and boosted everybody, lest you place your own team’s playoff hopes in mortal peril, like a moron.

1 Point: Bears over Giants

One thought on “Rob’s NFL Confidence Pool: Week 17, 2021 Season

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s