Maybe Herman Edwards was wrong. Maybe you don’t always “Play to win the game.” Maybe you just play because you have to, hope no one gets hurt and play to win the next game.
The best thing the NFL can say about the last few weeks is that all the nonsense is now tucked away in a closet and teams that tossed in the towel in Weeks 16 and 17 can now move on to the playoffs.
Indianapolis, which gave up its potential undefeated season, can now rest up for the division playoffs.
Cincinnati, which tanked the season finale in New York, can forget about that 37-0 slap down by the Jets and try to get its offense in gear at home.
Arizona got aged QB Kurt Warner a week off with pay and no one in the desert seems concerned about losing big time (33-7) to Green Bay last week.
What does last week have to do with this coming week?
Not a lot, except maybe in Foxboro, where the Patriots are scrambling to put together an offensive game plan that doesn’t include their main offensive weapon, injured Wes Welker (Aside to all you spit-angry fans in Indianapolis – how would you feel if Dallas Clark got injured against the Jets and his knee swelled up bigger than Rex Ryan’s stomach?).
“Those games last week (involving teams that will play each other again this Sunday) have no bearing,” says handicapper Matt Fargo. “The exception may be Philadelphia and Dallas, which were playing for the (NFC East) division last week and both put forth a full effort.
“As for the other two (Cincinnati-New York Jets and Green Bay-Arizona) games, the Week 17 results should not even be looked at. Arizona rested a lot of starts from the beginning and sat the rest not long after.”
Fargo pointed out that Green Bay played a basic game defensively and “didn’t tip its hand with schemes.”
“In the other game, the Bengals were certainly not playing to win while the Jets were. Cincinnati rested players, namely three key starters on defense as well as running back Cedric Benson while the Jets went all out from the start. It was obvious who needed to win that game and now that the venues have changes, last week will not play a role in this outcome.”
Handicapper Steve Merril advises taking a close look at teams coming off the loss.
“This actually applies to all three games,” says Merril. “Numerous reasons why this angle works with the two main reasons being additional line value as the lines have already been adjusted since last week’s games and also the human nature factor as teams often get overconfident after an easy win, while the losing team makes the necessary adjustments. We see this happen all the time in the NBA playoffs, especially after a blowout loss in the same series.”
And, as Las Vegas oddsmaker Pete Korner consistently points out, all games and betting lines are situational and the results are fairly predictable when one team wants to win and another couldn’t give a flying Wallenda whether it wins or loses.
New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET)
The Jets have recovered nicely from that bad mid-season stretch that culminated in the Week 11 loss in New England which dropped New York to 4-6 and caused blowhard coach Rex Ryan to fit