BOSTON (CBS) — In any sport, an MVP debate is a mostly wasteful endeavor. In football, it’s perhaps the most ridiculous.
Football teams employ 11 men every single play, each of them playing an integral role in that five-second burst of action. After the whistle, two or three players cycle out and in, and the process is repeated again. It is the ultimate team sport, and no one player is ever truly deserving of being named the “most valuable.”
Yet for the umpteenth year in a row, the debate rages. The usual names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are front and center, but many in the media are eager to throw in rookies Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson into the mix.
If you get excited about this type of thing, then bully for you! But at least admit it’s stupid. The award’s gone to a quarterback or running back all but three times since 1957 and every year since 1987. If the award were named Most Valuable Guy Who Touches The Ball Most, then maybe we could have some fun debates, but most valuable? What’s the point here?
It’s just another mark on a resume for a future Hall of Famer, and it’s a point used to argue in equally silly comparisons of different players on different teams from different eras, but don’t get it twisted: MVP doesn’t mean squat.
But hey, argue your little heads off. Just leave me out of it.
OK, I believe that was just the right amount of ado. Let’s get into this week’s picks, which are unfortunately littered with Ridiculous Quotes From Last Week’s Picks (RQFLWP) after a ridiculous showing in Week 13. Come for the picks, stay for the self-mockery. Everybody wins … except for me.
(Home team in caps; Thursday lines)
Denver (-10.5) over OAKLAND
I lack the wherewithal to look this up, but in my heart I believe every time I have picked Oakland this season, I’ve lost. So unless they’re getting 20 points, I’ll be passing for the rest of the season. Their 3-9 record against the spread helps make that decision even easier.
TAMPA BAY (-8.5) over Philadelphia
The Buccaneers are pretty good. I feel sometimes like I’m the only person who believes this.
Ridiculous Quote From Last Week’s Picks: “It is the best you can feel while picking the Cowboys -10 … .”
Note: A 98-yard punt return in the final minute to cover the 10-point spread was just a fine and dandy way to get even more Americans to hate the Eagles.
Dallas (+3) over CINCINNATI
The Bengals are 7-5. Big whoop. The Cowboys are 6-6. Big whoop.
The Cowboys are 2-2 when they’re underdogs, and the Bengals are 3-2-1 when favored.
Cincinnati scores 25.2 points per game. Dallas scores 23.3.
The Bengals allow 21.7 points per game. The Cowboys allow 24.6.
All of this is to tell you that if you see or hear anyone telling you definitively that one of these teams will beat the other, you can know that it’s a big load of hogwash.
I’m picking the Cowboys because I think Tony Romo is a nice guy. How’s that?
St. Louis (+3) over BUFFALO
I’m down on the Bills. Because I watch football. And because I know that wins against Jacksonville don’t count.
I’m on the Rams here on admittedly flawed logic. I know the transitive property doesn’t work in football, but I know that the Rams have gone deep into overtime twice against the 49ers, winning last week and tying three weeks earlier. The Bills lost 45-3 to the 49ers. That’s got to be worth something, right?
San Diego (+7) over PITTSBURGH
I don’t know if Ben Roethlisberger will play, but I have my doubts. I have doubts about Phil Rivers and Co., too, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not sure Charlie Batch will be able to go back to the well and deliver a strong performance after he won the world championship last week. He did win the world championship, right? I just assumed that was the case based on his postgame reaction.
Atlanta (-3.5) over CAROLINA
The Falcons are kind of rolling right now, and I really have trouble imagining the 3-9 Panthers being the team that slows them down.
Chicago (-2.5) over MINNESOTA
What a laugher.
Kansas City (+6.5) over CLEVELAND
This has nothing to do with the whole Jovan Belcher situation or any emotional lift for the Chiefs. That whole thing is terrible and I’d rather not talk about it. This pick just has to do with the simple principle of never picking the Browns to cover a touchdown. That’s happened exactly one time this season. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have kept two of their losses within 6.5 points and even won two games!
In a related story, this is the worst game ever. In a sick sense, I kind of really want to watch it.
WASHINGTON (-2.5) over Baltimore
If you were to ask me if I am aboard the Robert Griffin train, I would politely reply, “Toot, toot.”
RQFLWP: “Without Roethlisberger, that Pittsburgh offense turned the ball over eight times last week in a loss to the Browns. Try that against Baltimore and see how well it turns out.”
Note: The Steelers did turn the ball over three times and still managed to have Charlie Batch weeping victoriously on the sidelines by the end of the game. Football is weird.
INDIANAPOLIS (-5.5) over Tennessee
The Titans struggle with the whole defense thing, which unfortunately for them is half of the sport. They’re also not great at the other half, too, which is unfortunate.
New York Jets (-2.5) over JACKSONVILLE
Remember when Maurice Jones-Drew held out and it was a huge deal? Well, it’s paid off for both sides, as the Jaguars are 2-10 and rank 32nd in the league in rushing yards. Maurice Jones-Drew is injured and isn’t even worth the $4.45 million he’s being paid, let alone the sum he wanted over the summer. Yippee!
Fortunately for the Jaguars, they’re playing the Jets this week, so nobody will be focused on how terrible Jacksonville is. I’m just hoping Tony Sparano goes into full-on “Screw It” mode and uses Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy in the same formation every play.
SAN FRANCISCO (-10) over Miami
RQFLWP: “If you think [the Patriots] are going to win the game, you’re best to just trust them to cover the spread.”
Note: Little did I know that the Dolphins had a penchant for kicking field goals on second down just to ruin my day. Yes I know it was a smart decision but that doesn’t mean I approve. I’ve got a picks column to run here, Miami!
Arizona (+10.5) over SEATTLE
So you have the 32nd-ranked offense and 27th-ranked passing offense? No need to fear — John Skelton to the rescue!
Seriously, though, there are some teams you’d never take to cover double digits. Seattle is one of them. The Seahawks are certainly capable of winning big, but that’s not something you want to base your whole Sunday on.
RQFLWP: “The only thing the Seahawks can do is run the ball, but against Chicago, that will be neutralized.”
Note: Not only was Seattle’s ground game not nearly neutralized (176 yards), but they could also pass, too. And play defense. And win.
New Orleans (+4.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
I was ready to take the Saints and Drew Brees getting 4.5 against the surprisingly mediocre Giants pass defense (22nd in yards, 16th in scoring), but then I checked the weather and saw 50 percent chance of showers. If this game turns into running game vs. running game, the Saints don’t stand a chance, so here’s hoping that 50 percent chance of rain never materializes.
GREEN BAY (-7) over Detroit
On Nov. 8, 2012, I wrote of the Lions, “It’s time to start betting against them every week.” I’ve gone 3-0-1 doing just that, so I shall continue.
RQFLWP: “Minnesota’s pass defense (14th in yards, 13th in sacks) is decent enough to at least keep Rodgers somewhat in check.”
Note: This turned out to be true. It also overlooked the fact that Rodgers’ counterpart was Christian Ponder.
Houston (+3.5) over NEW ENGLAND
I really like the points here, but only because I’m honest enough to tell you that I have no idea what to expect out of this game.
The Patriots lead the league with 19 rushing touchdowns, but the Texans lead the league with just two rushing touchdowns allowed. Two. All season. That’s nuts.
Tom Brady is obviously superior to Matt Schaub, but with Donte Stallworth taking Julian Edelman’s place, you just have to wonder how many hits the Patriots’ passing offense can take before being affected. Facing J.J. Watt, of course, and the Texans’ defense that has 36 sacks makes that challenge even greater.
There’s also the inconvenience for New England that the secondary has nobody who can even dream of covering Andre Johnson, which will in turn inhibit the Patriots’ top-10 rushing defense from slowing down Arian Foster.
Brady’s pretty good at football (heck, he may even be the M-V-P!), but Houston presents too much for a New England team that really hasn’t been tested in two months.
Last week: 6-10