Barring a trade, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will step to the podium on draft day next April and announce the following:
“With the first pick in the NFL college draft, the (you fill in the team) take (you fill in the player) from (you fill in the college). This team has really earned the first draft pick, because last season we had some truly awful teams and these guys were the worst of the worst, absolute pigs, who had no business calling themselves a professional team.”
OK, the second sentence is just a suggestion for Goodell. But whatever team gets the No. 1 pick next spring will have earned it. No doubt about that. The bottom third of the league has never been weaker and in any other season any of eight teams would be bad enough to earn the right to screw up the first pick.
Jay Kornegay, sportsbook manager at the Las Vegas Hilton, echoes what just about everyone else has been saying.
“I don’t remember the NFL having so many uncompetitive teams,” he says. “This has been a challenge for all the bookmakers. Sportsbooks have been adjusting each week but we still haven’t caught up to the disparity we are seeing these days. History and experience tells us these types of teams usually will come around and be competitive, but for the most part this year it hasn’t happened yet.”
All books in Las Vegas have been hammered by smart money, plus public bettors who almost always play the favorites. The spread just hasn’t gone high enough as the Hilton and other books wait not-so-patiently for the occasional upset that hasn’t come enough nearly often enough.
Washington. Kansas City. Cleveland. St. Louis. Detroit. Tampa Bay. Oakland. Tennessee. Combined, these bowsers are 7-47 SU. The problem for the books is that they aren’t much better ATS – 15-38-1. And the numbers look even worse when you consider that the Redskins have already played KC, TB, Detroit and St. Louis.
Determining the worst of this bunch is like figuring out which of the puddles in your backyard has the worst-tasting water. None are that appetizing:
-From head coach to front office to both sides of the ball, the Chiefs are young. They try hard, but quarterback Matt Cassel is starting to resemble a bruised banana. At 1-6 with three blowout losses, KC has only three winnable games (Oakland, Buffalo, Cleveland) in its final 10.
-Washington’s defense is OK, but the Skins would have trouble scoring at the Chicken Ranch. They squandered their easy early-season schedule and have only one competitive game left – Oakland in mid-December. They have 3-13 written all over them.
-Detroit is the gold standard for lousy organizations, but the 1-5 Lions seem to have solved their quarterback problems. A loss Sunday at home against St. Louis (Lions -4) would be a huge setback for the franchise.
-Tampa Bay (0-7) knew this was not going to be easy, so management turned the team over to a young head coach who could at least get them playing hard. The talent is just not there, although the Bucs do compete. The schedule ahead is not kind, though – Tampa Bay has maybe a 1-in-4 shot at 0-16.
-The few remaining sober Raiders (2-5) fans are coming around to the thought that the franchise will struggle as long as owner Al Davis is making the calls, and Davis will be making the calls as long he is north of the grass. There are some winnable games left on the schedule, but they’re going nowhere fast without a quarterback.
-For sheer frustration there is Cleveland. The Browns have an offense that can’t move the ball and a coach who is unliked everywhere except in his own living room. Outside of the strange 6-3 win in Buffalo, the Brownies (1-6) have been competitive only once. But they still have Detroit, KC and Oakland on the schedule.
-Did anyone see the Titans’ season going in the toilet? You can’t blame Jeff Fisher for going a little batty after watching his team go from 13-3 to 0-7. Is it possible for a team to go from being the best one season to the worst the next?
-That leaves . . . St. Louis. "The Greatest Dung on Earth".
“If you’re looking at just this season,” says handicapper Ben Burns, “I'd argue that the Rams have been the worst so far. They've scored the fewest points in the league while giving up the most. Five of their seven losses have come by 19 or more points and four of them have come by 28 or more. They have yet to play a competitive game against a team which made the playoffs last year or which will be going to the playoffs this season. If the Rams can somehow manage a win at Detroit this week, then Tampa would move up the list and would be considered the worst of all.”
Coach Steve Spaguolo has the unenviable task of trying to make wine from water, and from Day 1 he must have realized he wasn’t really dealing with a half-decent NFL roster. The faces of the offense are Marc Bulger, who a half-decade ago was the MVP of the Pro Bowl but now is struggling to keep his starting job and Stephen Jackson, one of the top running backs in the league, is now pushing the dreaded 3-0 and has exactly zero rushing TDs this season.
The Rams are now a shell of their glory days around the turn of the century when they pretty much moved the ball at will. They kept things together through 2003, when they finished 12-4 and won the NFC West, but then went into a gradual fade pattern during the middle of the decade, hitting bottom in 2007 (3-13) and last season (2-14). Since winning their final three games of the 2006 season, the Rams have gone 5-34.
St. Louis will likely get points in every game from here on out. After the Lions Sunday, St. Louis will be overmatched against New Orleans, Arizona, Seattle and Chicago before traveling to Tennessee for a game in which we’ll see which team can raise the white flag higher. The Rams figure to go down hard in the final three games as Houston, Arizona and San Francisco battle for the playoffs.
They will earn that No. 1 draft pick.