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Unconventional Wisdom - Week 13
Fritz Schlottman
December 2, 2005


Minnesota at Detroit

Detroit gets embarrassed on Thanksgiving Day 7-27 in what is their biggest game every year and by the weekend the team has fired their Head Coach. CB Dre Bly rips the quarterback play of Joey Harrington in a candid moment and apologies public after the damage is done. The first move of the new coach is to bench the starting quarterback (Harrington) and bring in Jeff Garcia who was benched a few short weeks before in favor of Harrington (some call it the Circle of Life, but Detroiter’s use the term Death Spiral to describe their quarterback rotation). This Lions team is a complete mess.

The Vikings have gone the opposite direction the last four weeks. Their defense is finally playing well, Minnesota is running the football, and new QB Brad Johnson has played mistake-free football. As a result Minnesota has won games 27-14, 24-21, 20-17 and 24-12 or by margins of 13, 3, 3, and 12 points. The Vikings are favored by under a field goal on the road this week. What’s not to like here?

So, why are the Lions going to win this football game? Conventional Wisdom says you’re nuts to take Detroit. Put can you think of any better spot? The team gets absolutely embarrassed at home the week before and the coach gets canned. The Lions players have 10 days to get ready for this game and show the fans, the management, the new coach, and themselves that they have some pride. You want motivation? That’s motivation.

This should be the Lions best effort of the year. The Lions are 4-2 against the number at home this year and the Vikings are just 2-4. Detroit ambushes Minnesota on their home field.

Atlanta at Carolina

Speaking of good situations, here is another winner. Prior to the game in Detroit, the Falcons lost two games at home they probably should have won. Atlanta was defeated by lowly Green Bay 25-33 and the next week by Tampa Bay 27-30. The Falcons land in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day angry as hornets and take out their frustrations or the reeling Lions.

Normally, this would be a bad spot as the team has been on the road two consecutive weeks off a convincing victory, but with the 10 day layoff between games, the Falcons should be rested for this contest with a tune up game in hand.

Carolina was on a roll winning six straight games and scoring 30 or more points in three of those victories. That was before the Panthers traveled to Chicago…and the wheels came off scoring just 3 points in the Windy City and just 13 points in Buffalo. The Panthers obviously have issues playing in cold weather conditions, but face the Falcons at home this week in balmy Carolina.

Atlanta (and Michael Vick especially) just own the Panthers having won the last four games in this series and seven of the last eight. Vick gives the Carolina defense fits each and every time these two teams meet. As long as Vick has a fast track in Carolina, he should torture them again. Atlanta wins what should be a reasonably high-scoring game.

Dallas at N.Y. Giants

Dallas is another team that should be well-rested and motivated this weekend. The Cowboys played the late game on Thanksgiving Day and lost a close one to the Denver Broncos in overtime. The Pokes have had 10 days to chew on that loss and to get ready for a game with the G-Men that could decide the NFC East Championship. That should be enough time for America’s team to get good and mad for this contest.

HC Bill Parcells has a great record against divisional foes, especially coming off a loss. The great setup gets even better as the Giants have been their own worst enemies as of late, committing numerous penalties especially on the offensive line. N.Y. was playing much better football when these two teams met earlier this season in Dallas. The Giants committed enough mistakes in that game to lose the contest 13-16 in a game they should have won were in not for a critical error that turned the contest late in that game. Last week, the G-men traveled across the country to play in Seattle and then flew back across the country to get home. The bad travel/schedule spot certainly favors the Cowboys.

On paper, the Giants have the better football team. But too much travel and giving Parcells too much time get his team ready spells trouble for the G-men. I expect this game to be higher scoring than the earlier meeting, but my best guess is that this comes down to a field goal in the end. The Cowboys may not win the game outright, but they should keep it under the number.


Houston at Baltimore

Dead, dead, dead, dead dog here. When the sports gods hang a big number on the Ravens who are really banged up on defense and with a struggling quarterback leading the team and neither the wise guys or the public have any interest in the Texans, you know Houston has packed it in.

The pros have watch the number in Las Vegas steam up from under a touchdown to over a touchdown and haven’t lifted a finger to get in on the underdog Texans. When the pros won’t take a touchdown against a team as bad as the Ravens, you can call off the life support for Houston…they’ve flat-lined.

The collapse by the Texans defense last week at home to the Rams has everyone down on Houston. 1-10 football teams do not bounce back from losses like that. If you missed it, the Texans blew a 21 point halftime advantage at home to a third string QB playing in his first NFL game. The quotes coming out of the Texans locker room after the game were just morbid.

"You don't think; you're just numb. I'm thinking 'OK, I'm going to wake up any minute. I can't believe this just happened. I can't believe we played this hard and beat this team the whole game, and we end up losing.' You don't even know what to feel. It's not like the normal feeling when you come into the locker room after a loss." - Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson describing how he felt after blowing a 21-point lead at home and eventually losing to the Rams 33-27 last Sunday.-USA Today

Houston has the worst rushing defense in the league (158.4 yards per game) and the Ravens strong point is running the football. I just don’t see the Texans playing with the emotion necessary to overcome a very physical Baltimore offense. On the other hand, I can easily see the Ravens controlling the clock and beating the Houston defense down. I want no part of the Texans this week.