Desperate times call for winning measures by NFL teams
Run for your lives!
When the tsunami is bearing down on you, or the grizzly bear is chasing you down, that’s when you’ll run faster than world-class sprinters Jessie Owens or Usain Bolt.
And I think that’s what happens to some NFL teams, albeit at a much-reduced level.
How else do you explain the Packers, the Patriots and maybe even the Colts losing last weekend?
They didn’t have major stars out — in fact, one of the teams that did, Kansas City, pulled off something of an upset over Minnesota when its MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes was out for a second straight week.
The entire NFC North lost last week, too, after just a couple weeks ago being the only division without a losing record in its ranks.
I think it was something L.A. Chargers QB Philip Rivers said that got me thinking about this after his team’s win over Green Bay — “For whatever reason we do better when it’s a little bit ‘the Chargers don’t have a chance.’ I don’t why.”
I think I do. It has more to do with seeing your season about to come to an end and being desperate enough to do something about it. The Chargers are still only a mediocre 4-5, but 3-6 sounds like a death knell, especially in a division with the Chiefs.
The Chargers haven’t been accused of lacking talent, surely not with Rivers or running back Melvin Gordon, along with respected players on defense, too.
It was just a matter of getting out of their own way and playing to their ability.
On a different level, that had to be true for Miami, too. A team stripped of any star power in management’s obsessive-compulsive desire to hoard draft picks, the Dolphins have some NFL-level players — just not any stars.
They rose up and all but destroyed the Jets, who recently saw a glimmer of hope after getting young QB Sam Darnold back and beating the Cowboys in his first try after having mononucleosis.
You get the feeling Miami thought this was their best chance to avoid 0-16?
Just chew on these thoughts while upsets are in the making nearly every Sunday of the season.
Now onto the picks:
Today, 8:20 p.m.
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland — I thought this was a good time to go against the Chargers until I realized that L.A. has improved with the return of Melvin Gordon, not to mention that I see the Raiders are second-worst in the league in giving up plays of 20 yards or more. Chargers, 31-27.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Detroit at Chicago — I don’t know if Mitch Trubisky would know what to do in a desperate situation, other than trip over his two left feet. Lions, 27-19.
Baltimore at Cincinnati — I can hear Bengals’ management saying, “What? We’ve still got eight weeks to get a win.” Ravens, 33-20.
Buffalo at Cleveland — No reason not to pile on Browns coach Freddie Kitchens after Odell Beckham wore clown shoes — really, that was their theme — in the first half of last weekend’s game in Denver. Bills, 17-9.
Carolina at Green Bay — If no one else feels it, I’m guessing Aaron Rodgers will feel desperation after his worst statistical outing of his career in L.A. Packers, 35-26.
Atlanta at New Orleans — N’Orleans QB Drew Brees wants to make sure everyone knows he’s all the way back after his thumb injury, and it sure won’t be Atlanta’s defense that stops him. Saints, 39-23.
New York Giants at New York Jets — With lesser teams, I think you have to discern between desperation and a lack of confidence. Put me in the camp that thinks the Jets are in the latter category. Besides, neither — or both — teams have home-field advantage. Giants, 24-19.
Arizona at Tampa Bay — Both teams played quality opponents close last week. I’ve seen more glimmers of hope out of Arizona than Tampa so far. Cardinals, 27-21.
Kansas City at Tennessee — If Mahomes returns, this is a slam dunk. But even if he doesn’t, KC’s offense still seems like a fine-tuned, though lower-horsepower machine. Chiefs, 30-20.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
Miami at Indianapolis — If there ever was a perfect letdown game, this is it. The Dolphins got their one win this season about six weeks earlier than expected, while Indy somehow blew a game against the now lightly regarded Steelers. Colts, 28-16.
Los Angeles Rams at Pittsburgh — Speaking of letdowns, the Steelers have returned to .500. Time to relax. Rams, 33-26.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Minnesota at Dallas — I didn’t catch your apology, Kirk Cousins. Seemed to work last time. Vikings, 34-29.
Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Seattle at San Francisco — As the last undefeated team standing, it’s time for San Fran to trip itself up. But the Seahawks being their top divisional rival should get their attention. 49ers, 19-16.
Last week — 8-6, 57 percent. Season — 93-41-1, 69 percent.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.