Let’s discuss the “back door cover” a.k.a. why so many people fear gambling.
Last weekend, we witnessed a textbook example of a back door cover, one that fucked yours truly out of real money and my top pick of the week. And yes, this is me being bitter.
Last Sunday, in a must win game, the Cleveland Browns held a comfortable lead at halftime. The score was 24-6.
Not only were the Browns in total control of the football game but they also knocked Baltimore’s star quarterback Lamar Jackson out of the game with an ankle injury. Cleveland appeared to be on the road to not only a victory but an easy cover of the 2 ½ point spread.
Then the Cleveland Browns Cleveland Browned. Their offense, led behind the inevitably-to-be-cast-asunder Baker Mayfield, mustered only ninety yards of total offense in the second half. They would not score again for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the Ravens scored thirteen points in the fourth quarter, including a 14-play, four-minute drive that not only made Browns fans squirm but also ripped the hearts out of everyone who had bet on the Browns to cover which, once again, included yours truly.
That otherwise meaningless drive did not affect the outcome of the game. It only reminded us that all sporting events have two outcomes: Those who win or lose… and those who cover or don’t.
The final score was 24-22, meaning the Browns failed to cover the spread by a half a point. Now I haven’t been watching football since its inception but I do know for a fact that no team in the history of the league has ever scored a half a point. Yet there I go, losing my wager by that loneliest, boldest, most fuck you of fractions: the hook.
So, the next time you hear the expression “back door cover,” you know exactly what they’re talking about and why I’ll never bet on the Browns to cover a spread again. No time for crying, however, we’re on to Week 15 and we have an all-new celebrity guest.
He’s a Marine, a Green Bay apologist and performs a mean Tom Petty for karaoke. This week, we proudly present Jackal, but first…
Let me have $50 on New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (-2)
The New England Patriots have won seven straight games. I believe that’s something ridiculous like the 11th time over his career that Bill Belichick has had a winning streak of that magnitude. Over that stretch, they’ve beaten some pretty good teams too, including the Chargers, Titans, Browns and Bills. Even more impressive is the fact that four of those seven wins have come on the road. To quote Willie Nelson, the Pats are on the road again facing the Indianapolis Colts, who might be the most consistent playoff-bound team New England has played over that stretch. They’ll also be facing the best running back they’ve had to defend in Jonathan Taylor. Thanks to their streak, the Pats have a comfy two-game cushion in the AFC East. The same cannot be said for Indy, who still needs a little help to partake in the post-season. They’re currently in but a win at home would certainly bolster their chances. I know I’ve lost in the past going against the Pats. Anyone who has underestimated them has. But I’m still not convinced we haven’t crowned them prematurely. I’m taking the Colts in what should be a raucous Saturday night in Indianapolis, especially after the Colts cover the 2 in a win.
I’ll also take $40 on Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles (-7)
The Eagles are laying seven to the Washington Football team this weekend, if you got it in time. Then COVID hit the nation’s capital and wiped out half their roster, moving the line to just shy of ten. It wasn’t long ago that we were revering Washington as one of the hottest teams in football. That’s because they were. They won four straight contests with wins against Tampa, Seattle and Vegas. They only recently lost a close one to Dallas. Ron Rivera had his football team playing right with the playoffs in sight. Similarly (both teams are 6-7) Philadelphia wants a taste of the post-season and looks to take advantage of their divisional rival’s misfortune in order to get there. A depleted roster couldn’t have come at a worse time for Washington who was looking to make a playoff push. It’s been a valiant effort but I’m not sure they’ll have enough manpower to stop a Philly team that’s solid at home and coming off a bye. I’ll take the Birds minus the seven.
Another $30 on Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3 ½)
I’m flipping the script on this pick thanks to the long-overdue firing of the man Jim Rome calls Pervin’ Liar. I was initially about to ask why the Jacksonville Jaguars were laying three-and-a-half points against the Texans. Houston’s bad but the Jags aren’t much better. Both teams have only two wins on the season. Season-long rumblings emerged from Jacksonville about a locker room divided. Then, with the swiftness of Art Modell pulling the Browns out of Baltimore, Urban Meyer was fired before sun-up. The straw that broke the coach’s back was a recount of a former kicker suggesting that Meyer had once kicked him, all the while calling him names. Under Meyer, I’m taking Houston and the points. Now that he’s gone, I’m taking the Jags and laying all day. Like a breath of fresh air, the Wicked Coach is gone and the Jags will be playing with new signs of life. I’ll take the newly revived Jaguars at home to cover the 3 ½.
I’ll take $20 on Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (+13)
I saw something I didn’t like out of Arizona on Monday night: a chink in their armor, an errant Kyler Murray. Of course, there is no shame in losing to a potent Rams team but the Rams were depleted going into Arizona. The Cardinals had them right where they wanted them, not to mention a lock on the top seed in the NFC. They couldn’t seal the deal. This week, they’ll have a scrimmage against the lowly Lions but they’re laying a hefty number. By all accounts, this is a game the Cardinals should win easily, pitting one of the league’s best teams against one of its worst. But I can’t help but think the Lions might see this as their Super Bowl, a litmus test for just how good they can be. Lest not forget, Jared Goff has seen this ‘Zona defense before having played five seasons with the Rams in their division. It looks to me like the Cards, despite their 10-3 record might be working out some kinks while the Lions have one last gasp to give it all they got. Lions leave it all on the field. Give me Detroit plus the fourteen.
And finally, $10 on Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2)
I feel like that last Steelers fan to leave the stadium as they muster one final drive against an opponent, only to fall short yet again. Everybody in the stadium knows it but me. Despite the season they’ve had, despite their 6-6 record, the Steelers are still somehow alive in the playoff hunt. Go figure. This weekend, they’re hosting a Titans team that is 9-4 and sits atop the AFC South but still has question marks. Are the Titans good enough to go into Pittsburgh and seal the deal? Are the Steelers dysfunctional enough to lose another game when despite all odds, they still control their own destiny? Call me kooky but I have faith that Tomlin and company can muster up enough mojo in this final Big Ben stretch to make one last push. I know they just lost to the Vikings but it’s a game they almost won in the final seconds, despite playing like crap. They’ve had ten days to stew about that. It’s back to the drawing board. Sunday, they execute. Let me have Pittsburgh at home plus the two in what will soon become an even more muddied AFC playoff picture.
THE WIFE HATES SPORTS WEEK 15 PICKS
KP’s Picks: The Wife Hates Sports
$50 NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-5.5)
The Rams showed us what they were made of following last week’s monstrous win over the Cards. L.A. has won seven of nine against the Seahawks, a stat that surprised me (and helped solidify this pick). As mentioned, the COVID-19 list is making selections a challenge. Tyler Lockett and Alex Collins are on the list as of this posting. The Rams have key players like Von Miller on it, too. DK Metcalf and Aaron Donald each haven’t been practicing. Overall, these are picks based on reasoning, so you have to take a leap. OBJ is fitting well in Los Angeles, Cooper Kupp is flourishing, and Matthew Stafford has played strong. Combine that with L.A.’s recent track record in this rivalry, and I’ll take the Rams to cover at home.
$40 NFL: Green Bay Packers (-5.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson has yet to miss a game due to injury. He is currently a game-time decision. Tyler Huntley filled in admirably last week and nearly led Baltimore to a shocking comeback in Cleveland. Still, the bigger concern here is Baltimore’s patchwork secondary. Injuries have led to a depth chart littered with unproven or inexperienced players. That was not much of an issue facing the Browns and its pass attack. This is Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. This is a QB that can find the flaws and pick apart a defense. On top of that, the Ravens have allowed an NFL-most 47 sacks this season. The Packers also crack the top ten against the run. Give me Green Bay to cover on the road.
$30 College: Independence Bowl: UAB Blazers vs. BYU Cougars (-6.5)
Full disclosure: I don’t know a whole lot about this UAB team. ESPN isn’t exactly flocking to put them on TV in my local area. Yes, this is an 8-4 squad. However, checking the schedule, I see a lack of big names on the calendar. Liberty has a future NFL Draft QB. That was a 36-12 loss. Georgia is in the CFB Playoff. That was a 56-7 loss. UTSA is ranked (34-31 loss). The Blazers also lost to Rice. That’s also a food (sorry, Rice grads). On the flip side, BYU (#12, 10-2) has faced some stronger competition. More importantly, the Cougars feature a high-flying offense that has scored 30 or more points in half of its games. To help avoid some of the COVID-19 NFL games, I’ll take BYU to cover and win by a TD.
$20 NFL: Washington Football Team (+9.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
As of Friday, the line was at 9.5 points and well off my radar. Washington has 21 players on the COVID-19 list. That includes a number of starters and its top top QB’s on the depth chart. Terry McLaurin and J.D. McKissic are both in concussion protocol. So, it is borderline insane to take the Football Team. However, Ron Rivera has an uncanny ability to get the most out of his backups, while keeping his team motivated and in games. Just look at the Dallas game last week. That should have been a blowout. Now, the game has been moved to Tuesday night. Again, because of all the COVID-19 absences. The Eagles and their fans are not happy about it (and rightfully so). As for the game, I’m banking on enough key WFT players to be available by Tuesday. Assuming that, give me Washington and the points.
$10 NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (+6)
At first, I penciled in the Vikings for this game. Then, I researched it a bit further. First, the recent Bears-Vikings rivalry history is quite surprising. Would you believe Chicago has won five of the last six games against the Vikings? It surprised me, too. Defensively, both teams have loaded up in the sack department. The Vikings lead the league with 41 sacks. Chicago is tied for fourth with 36. Win ugly. Justin Fields will need to use his feet and be creative in the pocket, but there has been improvement from him as the season has progressed. Finally, we can’t ignore Kirk Cousins and his 1-9 record in primetime. Adam Thielen remains up in the air as the game approaches. For me, it comes down to whether the Bears (24th against the run) can handle Dalvin Cook. At home under the lights, Chicago keeps it close.
CELEBRITY GUEST PICKS: JACKAL
(crickets… more to follow)