Ties in football can be your friend

Steve Brownlee

Who’s afraid of a liddle-biddy tie? Apparently, a number of football coaches are.

What is it with this rash of going for two-point conversions late in games or in overtime and going for it on risky fourth downs lately?

High school football coaches at Escanaba and Kingsford have done it — and not gotten away with it — late in games vs. Marquette Senior High School as the Redmen have benefitted with a pair of one-point victories in the last few weeks.

Northern Michigan University did it Saturday at the end of the first overtime at Davenport, missed and lost by a point.

Then the Indianapolis Colts went for it on 4th-and-4 from their own 40-yard line in OT against Houston, once again having it blow up in their faces as the Texans turned right around and kicked the winning field goal a few plays later.

Of all these, I can see the point of NMU head coach Kyle Nystrom going for it as his team was outscored 15-0 in the fourth quarter and probably didn’t feel momentum was on his side.

Also, I could almost see the point in the NFL case. If Indy had punted, the Colts were almost conceding the best they could hope for was a tie.

But with the stakes as high as they are in the NFL — millions of dollars are on the line based on getting into the postseason — experience has shown time and time again that an extra half-game in the standings may very well be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

What team wishes they were 10-5-1 instead of 10-6 when they lose a tiebreaker with other 10-6 teams, or would love to be 11-4-1 instead of 11-5 to win their division and earn a first-round bye instead of becoming a wild card that has to go on the road from the get-go in the postseason?

In the case of Michigan high school and all collegiate football, going for the tie will never result in a tie. Their systems are set up to always come up with a winner and loser. It’s just that more OTs will be have to be played.

In college, they don’t let you kick extra points after the second OT anyway.

So play the OTs.

OK, let me step down from my soapbox and give you some more mediocre picks:

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Today, 8:20 p.m.

Indianapolis at New England — No, I won’t hold it against the Colts for blowing their tie last weekend. I’m just jumping back on the New England bandwagon. Patriots, 34-24.

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Sunday, 1 p.m.

Tennessee at Buffalo — Two teams overachieving, even if all it produces for the Bills is a 1-3 record. I’ll take Marcus Mariota back at the Tennessee helm. Titans, 24-19.

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New York Giants at Carolina — I said last week that it feels like the Giants and New Orleans play on different levels. Just replace “New Orleans” with fellow NFC South member Carolina and you get, Panthers, 30-20.

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Miami at Cincinnati — A couple of Jekyll-and-Hydes the last few weeks. I’ll take the home team. Bengals, 27-23.

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Baltimore at Cleveland — As exciting as the Browns-Raiders 45-42 OT game was on Sunday, should a team that hangs its hat on defense really be giving up 42 points in regulation? Ooooh. Ravens, 31-19.

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Green Bay at Detroit — I really have trepidation making this pick, but Detroit looks like a team that will get up for big games, then heave a big sigh, relax and lay an egg in many other games. This has to be considered a big game. Lions, 27-24.

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Jacksonville at Kansas City — Will the Chiefs meet their match in the Jaguars’ defense? Remember, Jacksonville doesn’t need to completely stop Patrick Mahomes & Co., just slow them down enough to take advantage of KC’s leaky defense. Jaguars, 27-23.

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Denver at New York Jets — After the Broncos got jabbed by the aforementioned Mahomes on Monday night, the Jets should look like a downright stroll in the park for Denver’s defense. Unless that’s what they’re thinking and they let down. Broncos, 24-16.

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Atlanta at Pittsburgh — Their reputation will make the Steelers suffer all year: “We can beat the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers? Yeah!” The same doesn’t go for whisking away the Dirty Birds. Falcons, 33-26.

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Sunday, 4 p.m.

Oakland at Los Angeles Chargers — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr looked just good enough just often enough to eke out a win against the Browns at home. I’m not overly impressed. Chargers, 27-21.

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Minnesota at Philadelphia — Sure, the Vikings have lost two straight. But I’ll give ’em a pass for staying with the Rams, who look like the defensive equivalent of the Chiefs. Philly is playing the part of a Super Bowl hangover team, even with Carson Wentz back. Vikings, 20-17.

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Arizona at San Francisco — I give credit to the 49ers for holding it together last week after their favorite toy, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, was taken away from them. Remember, they only lost by two points to the Chargers. 49ers, 16-13.

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Los Angeles Rams at Seattle — Way too early to jump off the Rams’ bandwagon. Rams, 36-24.

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Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Dallas at Houston — Detroit didn’t have a pass rush last weekend. Scratch that, what the Lions actually don’t have is a rushing defense. Either way, Houston does. Texans, 23-21.

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Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Washington at New Orleans — There’s enough magic — voodoo? — left in New Orleans to get by in the Superdome. Saints, 31-23.

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Last week — 9-6, 60 percent. Season — 34-27-2, 56 percent.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.