NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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GAME REPORTS

 
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More Than Pure Talent
by Dennis Ranahan

No National Football League Head Coach making a debut with his team won last week. Only one of the six covered the point spread, and that was Matt Nagy, who saw his first game on the sidelines of the Chicago Bears result in his team falling victim to the largest fourth quarter comeback victory in Green Bay Packers history. The home team triumph at Lambeau Field, not surprisingly, was engineered by an injured but not out Aaron Rodgers.

After that gut-wrenching loss, the Bears will open their home schedule on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks. Neither team in this contest won last week, and one of them is favored. It is a neutral point spread, the home team favored by three points, which pretty much indicates squads of comparable talent.

The favorite on Monday night thinks they are going to win, even though they lost last week. And the road team is away from home for a second consecutive week, not an ideal spot. Nagy is looking for his first NFL victory against a wiley veteran and one time winning Super Bowl coach, Pete Carroll.

Factors favor either or both sides in this matchup, but betting on Nagy to both win his first game as an NFL Head Coach and cover a point spread is to take the short side of this proposition.

Another first year head coach is in a much more likely spot to pick up both his first win and the point spread decision.

Like the Seahawks and Bears, the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans also both lost last week. And like Seattle and Chicago, one of the two teams looking for a win this week is under the direction of a first-year head coach

In Tennessee, Mike Vrabel replaced a coach that guided the Titans into the playoffs last year, Mike Mularkey. He lost his job after three seasons.

Unlike Nagy, the first-year head coach involved in this tilt, Vrabel, is not confident of a win. More importantly, he and his team are challenged to compensate for the loss of their starting quarterback. What is lost in the physical matchup is more than made up for from a motivational perspective.

The more motivated team also gets the benefit of points on the spread. If Mariota was healthy, this game would be a pick ‘em. As is, with Gabbert, we get three points with the more motivated squad.

Winners in the NFL are generated more by a need to overcome than pure talent. The Houston Texans have high aspirations this year, and their expectations are banked on the talents of second-year signal caller Deshaun Watson. In his rookie year, Watson directed Houston’s offense to five straight 30 points plus performances before his 2017 season was snapped to an end by an injury.

On defense, the Texans have high profile studs including J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, which only adds more to the realization that to escape with a win the Titans are going to have to do something special.

Despite Vrabel’s claim that both Mariota and Blaine Gabbert might see playing time this week, Mariota will not play and the first year head coach knows it. His claim that he could be ready to go is a trick he learned from a coach he knows well, Bill Belichick. If you can get your opponent thinking they have to prepare for two quarterbacks you increase your competitive edge.

Vrabel thinks this might help him win, but what actually is going to spike his team’s performance is a real call to action pinned on the realization that everyone is going to have to play their best and more to compensate for the loss of their quarterback.

That, by my way of studying games, is perfect motivation.

The winner in Tennessee this weekend is getting points.

Take ‘em, although you won’t need them.

Qoxhi Picks: Tennessee Titans (+3) over Houston Texans