Three games left.
It has been a wild ride this season in both the sense of the football being played but also the building of this website.
So, while this is certainly the most important week in the football season, we have put enough work in this year that this is essentially a victory lap.
No, we’re not millionaires. No, we didn’t get thousands of users. No, we are not an international brand. But what we did do is launch a site built on the backs of a couple of people and generated enough content to stumble into a rhythm, a formula, an algorithm, and a future.
So to celebrate all that we have accomplished, this article is going to be focused on rewarding some of our most active and dedicated users. What better way to celebrate than with an homage to all the people who kept this site going.
While the next couple of weeks will be dedicated to the Super Bowl and the week following will focus on the future of this site and the subsequent months will be about revamping, reorganizing, and retooling the site for the 2020 season, today is about honoring those who made 2019 special.
Of course we can’t honor everybody, and part of this is because of how conveniently some of these supporters fit into this weekend, but here are this week’s picks accompanied by the people who have made it fun to pick these games.
Here are the Owl Eats Football WORMS Championship Weekend Best Bets:
The “Kyle versus Everyone” Bowl
TEN @ KC
Vegas: KC -7.5 WORMS: KC -38.2 WORMS PICK: KC -7.5 Owl’s Pick: KC -7.5
One of the hardest things about this site has been the time I have picked against a team of someone who has supported me.
It is the nature of the business, but it does feel like being a teacher and failing the child of your friend. Did they deserve it? Maybe, but it is still difficult to hurt someone you care about.
Kyle, the largest Chiefs fan I know, has been a day one supporter of the site. He has never been afraid to critique, promote, participate, and support what we do here.
So, after years of having to watch the Chiefs fall short (usually on the Patriots doorstep...had to get that in there) I am happy to announce that I am firmly supporting the Chiefs and Kyle in this one.
The only problem? From what I can tell everyone and their mother is rooting for the miracle Titans, with a larger majority putting their money where their mouths are. Hence, the Kyle versus everyone motif.
But I am not just picking the Chiefs to support someone who has supported me. No, if Kyle’s child was failing my class he would walk home with an F. I am picking the Chiefs because everyone is overlooking the lesson we learned last week:
Game script matters.
In each of the four games last week, we saw a team win, not just because they played better, but because they were more equipped to handle to game that was presented to them.
The Vikings lost because when they fell behind they couldn’t pass their way back into it, the needed the running game. The Ravens lost because they are built to grind out leads and had to change identities for the first time since the beginning of the season. The Seahawks lost because they are successful in a come from behind game script, but refuse to use that to build a lead, eventually running out of steam against the Packers. And finally, the Texans lost because the Chiefs are game script proof.
So if we imagine the way that this game can go, we can envision why the most likely scenario is a Chiefs blowout.
To begin with, if the Chiefs jump out to a huge lead, the blowout is on. Although winning this game with through running is unlikely, the key is not their ability to slow the Titans, but the lack of explosiveness the Titans have if Derrick Henry is neutralized. If Tennessee finds themselves needing to abandon the run at any point, Ryan Tannehill is playing efficient football, but that suffers if he has to throw forty times. Chiefs win big.
If the Chiefs get out to a small lead, then this becomes less of an issue, but then the Titans are required to hang in score for score with the best offense the league has ever seen. Tennessee has trouble covering speedy receivers over the top (Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman) and if they over commit there then they will have to deal with Mahomes’ legs as well as Damien Williams and Travis Kelce. Eventually Tennessee runs out of gas and Kansas City pulls away.
So that leaves the situation in which Tennessee pulls out to a lead, large or small. Normally, this would be a good sign for that team and a recipe for winning. If you watched Houston last week, though, you know that against the Chiefs this just pushes them into a high scoring, pass heavy attack. Even if Tennessee pulls out to a big lead, there is still a better than zero chance Kansas City scores, it will just be a matter of whether Derrick Henry can kill enough clock to keep them off the field.
On a more X’s and O’s level, the advantage Tennessee does have is in their interior pass rush. If Jurrell Casey and Jeffery Simmons can get pressure up the middle, then Mahomes will be in for a long day. The kicker here is that Mahomes on the move is still the most dangerous quarterback in football, and if he can keep plays alive, there is a good chance Tennessee coverage breaks down.
Of course, Tennessee has proven people wrong all year. They are on the run of a lifetime and their production defies understanding and convention.
With that being said, it becomes increasingly more likely each week that they will find themselves in a game that compromises their ability to rely on what has gotten them here.
If there is a team that can do that, it’s Kansas City.
Kyle knows that, and even though everyone is riding Tennessee here, know you’re not standing alone on this one, buddy.
The Chiefs aren’t going home with an F from me and OEF stands with Kyle.
The “Mike versus Trevor and Alex” Bowl
GB @ SF
Vegas: SF -7.5 WORMS: SF -13.9 WORMS PICK: SF -7.5 Owl’s Pick: SF -7.5
In many ways, being a gambler is both inhibited and advanced by the idea of simultaneously being a fan.
Fan is, of course, short for fanatic and in there lies the rub. To be a believer in something or someone can be the thing that allows you to be a part of something when conventional wisdom suggest otherwise. It is so much sweeter to never abandon a team and to be successful than by hopping ship every week to find winners.
So if the Packers win this week Mike deserves all the credit in the world as he has believed in this team from day one. He bleeds cheese and doesn’t care what the numbers say, he will bet on the Packers always and forever.
Trevor and Alex, on the other hand, deserve credit in a different type of way. They have supported a team that has been consistently bad for the past half decade. San Francisco was last over .500 in 2013 and have only had three above .500 seasons since 2003.
Both watched as Nick Mullens led the team in passing yards last season and have sat through Blaine Gabbert games, rooting all the same. So if San Francisco wins on Sunday, they deserve credit for never leaving the side of a team that has strained their fanship (granted not as much as other franchises, but this isn’t a competition.
So in the end, both sides have reason to feel like they deserve a win on Sunday, but deserving is not enough which is where I come in.
To the chagrin of Mike, to me this feels like a coronation for Kyle Shanahan, Robert Salah, and the entire Niners organization. They are my pick, and the reason stretches back to the beginning of the season.
From Day 1, this Niners team has been dominant. They have shut a team out and have scored 51 in a game. They have run the ball mercilessly and they have passed all over the league. They have both one of the best offensive play callers in the league as well as a defensive coordinator who was considered for multiple head coaching jobs. They have the best tight end in the league and the highest paid fullback in the league. They were number two in the league in points per game at just under 30 and they were number five in the league in points allowed at less than 19.
In short, they have proven they can win games a variety of ways and with a balanced roster.
The Packers are nearly exact opposites.
Despite going 13-3 on the season and beating Seattle in the last round of the playoffs, this team has essentially three weapons on offense and a couple on defense.
Aaron Rodgers throwing to Davante Adams and Aaron Jones running or catching passes are what have carried this team thus far. And even in saying that, both the skill position players have missed time and Rodgers has looked pedestrian throughout.
In fact, the Packers have the worst scoring margin of all of the playoff teams left at just four points per game. The Titans, who played half the year with a substantially worse quarterback, still finished the year more than a point better than Green Bay.
If we zoom back out, the Packers place as the two-seed is even more precarious. They are there by virtue of two wins over the Lions by a TOTAL of four points, and a narrow defeat of the Seahawks where Seattle only played to win in the second half.
Throw in the fact that Matt LaFluer is coaching in his first Championship game and the team is on the road where they lost by 30 earlier this year, and the deck is stacked against the Packers.
Throwing it back to the game script idea thrown out in the last game, if San Francisco gets a lead in this game, it will be difficult for the Packers to generate anything. Salah will throw the kitchen sink at Rodgers and will be sure to double Davante Adams with zones and shifted safeties. This means the Packers hopes will come down to a pressured Rodgers throwing to Allan Lazard and Jimmy Graham.
On the flip side, if the Packers get the lead, I would question their ability to salt it away with the running game. They may have a better offensive line, but anyone who watched the Vikings try to run on a defense with Kwon Alexander at linebacker knows that’s a tall task.
Meanwhile, Green Bay has holes in the secondary (hello, Kevin King) and no real answer to either George Kittle or Emmanuel Sanders (not to mention Deebo Samuel). If Green Bay opens up a lead early, they are prone to giving it right back, and I am not confident in their ability to go score for score with the Niners.
So, at the end of the day, this feels like a blowout win for the Niners. If this is the case, Alex and Trevor will be rewarded for the Mullens/Gabbert years with another shot at a Super Bowl. If it’s not the case, Mike will be sure to remind me that no one has believed in this Packers team all year outside of him.
Fans wouldn’t be fanatics if they weren’t sometimes rewarded with crazy outcomes, so anything is possible. From my neutral seat, though, the craziness would be in Green Bay covering the spread.
Good luck to all three, and to me who will be watching with them.