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Moral victory in the NFL can have its good side

Steve Brownlee

As much as moral victories sound demoralizing, they can be considered stepping stones to success.

If your team takes advantage of them.

For most of us fans in Michigan watching last week’s games, you know I’m talking about the Detroit Lions’ 34-31 home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

You also know almost the opposite applies to Green Bay’s 34-27 loss at Lambeau Field to the banged-up Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers and you fans rightfully thought this game would be a cake walk with all of Philly’s missing players.

Not so fast, though Green Bay still has a share of the lead in the NFC North.

For Lions fans, keeping 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes from not only throwing multiple touchdown passes, but any TD passes at all, is an achievement.

Too bad on consecutive possessions in the third quarter that Detroit receiver Kenny Golladay couldn’t keep hold of the ball through a TD catch and Kerryon Johnson didn’t have the awareness of not stretching for the goal line when he couldn’t get there.

The former turned into a red-zone fumble lost by quarterback Matthew Stafford on the next play and the latter — well, it was much worse as summed up in four succinct words — 100-yard fumble return.

I’d rather not get into any more details than that on those two plays — even for this skeptical Lions fan, they hurt too much.

Now it’s up to head coach Matt Patricia to use the moral victory of playing the Chiefs close as a confidence builder, rather than letting it turn into an emotional killer for his team.

This is one of those things a head coach needs to do to be successful, and I have seen scant evidence so far in his tenure of these kinds of leadership skills.

Let your players play, let your assistant coaches scheme — the head coach needs to lead the ship, whip the horses or whatever colorful description is your favorite in describing these kinds of leadership skills.

Remember last season, Bill Belichick didn’t let his New England team stay down for long after being upset by rookie coach Matt Patricia’s Lions 26-10 in Week 3.

Instead, the Patriots immediately ripped off six straight wins en route to an 11-5 regular season and yet another Super Bowl victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Let’s see that kind of turnaround, Coach Patricia!

Now for this week’s picks:

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Today, 8:20 p.m.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle — QB Jared Goff was exposed last weekend when he was asked to throw 68 times in one sitting since the Rams could only get 16 yards rushing out of the arthritic knees of Todd Gurley. How will it get better? Seahawks, 31-23.

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Sunday, 1 p.m.

Jacksonville at Carolina — If you’re a Panthers fan, you need to convince injured Cam Newton there’s a big fashion show opening in Milan in three weeks he needs to prepare for. Then watch backup QB Kyle Allen continue to pick up Carolina’s offense. Panthers, 24-20.

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Arizona at Cincinnati — Since the Bengals didn’t seem angry about being embarrassed by the 0-3 Steelers on Monday night, why should they feel that way a week later? Cardinals, 23-17.

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Atlanta at Houston — Houston QB Dashaun Watson could run wild on the Falcons’ defense — until he tries one too many bootlegs and is done for the season. Texans, 33-24.

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Tampa Bay at New Orleans — The pundits really resonate with me who said the Buccaneers are good for one or two games a year like their 54-point effort vs. the Rams. Tampa, take a rest and come back in eight weeks. Saints, 38-26.

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Minnesota at New York Giants — Credit the schedule for Daniel Jones’ 2-0 start — beating the Bucs and Redskins — and not the Giants’ defense. I see QB Kirk Cousins looking at least like an All-Pro backup this week and runner Dalvin Cook getting back to form. Vikings, 37-27.

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Chicago vs. Oakland (at London) — If anybody can make defense look sexy to the football neophytes in jolly ol’ England, it should be Khalil Mack and his Chicago compatriots. Bears, 20-12.

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New York Jets at Philadelphia — Please, Jets, don’t rush QB Sam Darnold back if he’s not fully recovered from his mono. His spleen begs that of you. Eagles, 26-17.

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Baltimore at Pittsburgh — As much as Pittsburgh is the class of divisional games in this division, I think Baltimore has an already sharp axe to grind after its embarrassment to Cleveland last weekend. Ravens, 36-28.

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Buffalo at Tennessee — The Bills will be better off if backup Matt Barkley plays QB and lets starter Josh Allen takes an extra week to unring his bell. Bills, 19-13.

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New England at Washington — This makes 10 games, including the London affair, being played at 1 p.m. EST this Sunday. Isn’t it still warm enough in our part of the country to play a few East Coast games at 4 p.m.? Oh, as far as this game is concerned, I wouldn’t offer a point spread if I owned a Las Vegas casino. Patriots, 44-12.

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Sunday, 4 p.m.

Denver at Los Angeles Chargers — L.A. teams are in a downward spiral, but apparently so are Rocky Mountain squads. Chargers, 26-19.

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Green Bay at Dallas — Two teams thinking of their Super Bowl chances, but ran into other Super Bowl contenders in Week 4 and took it on the chin. I worry the Packers’ defense got exposed in a way Dallas can take advantage of. Cowboys, 27-24.

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Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Indianapolis at Kansas City — Detroit should’ve been a wake-up call for KC. Chiefs, 42-28.

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Monday, 8:20 p.m.

Cleveland at San Francisco — I had somebody yesterday ask me who the undefeated teams in the NFL are. Right off the top of my head I came up with the 4-0 Patriots and Chiefs. Who’d I forget? After looking it up, I see San Fran is 3-0 after its bye week, which is just another reason to pick it. 49ers, 27-24.

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Last week — 7-8, 47 percent. Season — 39-23-1, 63 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.