Don't fade NFL teams just because of playoff status

By Brent Musburger  (VSiN managing editor) 

Don’t be misled by Scamdicappers who peddle their picks based on teams being completely out of the Super Bowl race and have nothing left to play for. They will tell you that teams are playing for draft position. This is complete hogwash.

Consider the last four weeks of an NFL season as a job fair. Regardless of any team’s won-lost record this time of year, players on every team are at risk of losing their jobs and a lot of money if they don’t perform well down the stretch.

Take the going-nowhere Arizona Cardinals last week. Out of nowhere, this bad football team rose up and beat the Packers 20-17 at Lambeau Field, and the Wisconsin ground shook. Mike McCarthy’s firing grabbed all the attention and all the headlines, but believe me, there was more than one Cardinal player who enhanced his job position for next season.

If you want another example, the soon-to-be Vegas Raiders didn’t beat the Kansas City Chiefs, but they covered the point spread last week, losing by only seven in one of their best efforts of the season.

Basketball organizations frequently tank late in the season, because one great player can turn their fortunes around. That’s not so simple in football, where athletes are simply trying to stay employed.

Spotting head coaches who are in trouble is a much better way to fade a team in December. They spend most of their time on the telephone looking for their next landing spot rather than concentrating on the game plans for the next Sunday.

An example this week would be the Cincinnati Bengals, who are 14-point ’dogs on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers. Time may finally be running out on Marvin Lewis. With both quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green out the rest of the season, don’t be afraid to lay that two-touchdown spread against the L.A. Chargers.

As The Gold Sheet’s Bruce Marshall points out, no one finishes like Philip Rivers. Beginning with the fifth game the last two seasons, the Chargers are 14-5-1 against the spread.

This also may be the first game in which the Chargers enjoy a home-crowd advantage at the StubHub Center. Do you really think Bengal fans are going to travel to watch this downtrodden team?

By the way, if you haven’t been to the little ballpark in Carson for an NFL game, do yourself a favor and go. You will never have a more intimate view of pro football. The Chargers will play there the rest of this year and next, and believe me, it’s worth a trip. There’s not a bad view in that 27,000-seat soccer stadium. You can even hear Rivers call his audibles at the line of scrimmage.

Good luck this week, because cashin’ tickets is what it’s all about.

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