A few years ago I was talking to one of my favorite people in the world, Ron Wolf, who I had the opportunity to work with during my years with the Oakland Raiders before he moved on first to oversee the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later guided the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl win as general manager.
Wolf is a breath of fresh air in an arena that is often dominated by demanding coaches and front office personnel. It is for that reason that I felt horrible one afternoon when I made light of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winless 1976 campaign. As soon as I made the dismissive remark I realized I was wrong and inconsiderate.
Wolf, even though he had already led the Packers to the 1996 Super Bowl triumph, wasn’t at all ready to have his initial campaign as a general manager made fun of. I could feel the bottom drop out of his demeanor in response to my flippin comment.
The 1976 Buccaneers were legendary in that they were the first team to go through a 14 game regular season schedule and not win a game. When head coach John McKay was asked in the locker room about his team’s execution following another loss, he responded, “I would be in favor of it.”
Wolf, even years later, wasn’t joking about how bad that team was. Not only were they 0-14 straight up but they only twice that season beat the point spread while compiling a 2-10-2 record against the number.
That is how bad teams usually perform. Bad straight-up and not good enough to win even with generous points on the spread.
In 2008, the Detroit Lions became the first team to go winless in a 16 game season and while they had a losing mark against the point spread, 7-9, they had an interesting split on their results. At home, against the spread, they were 1-7, while as an away dog they were 6-1 with the benefit of generous spreads. They were favored once that season, on opening day at Atlanta and lost the game by two touchdowns.
Four years ago, the Cleveland Browns also compiled a winless 16 game campaign and had a point spread record that reflected their inept play of 4-12.
This year, as the regular season heads into the final stretch of the regular season, the Lions are once again winless straight up, but they bring a winning point spread mark into action today when they host the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions are 7-4 against the point spread this year. Only four teams in the National Football League have a better record against the point spread, they are the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
In other words, the Lions are not a typical winless team, and in addition to their ten losses they do have one tie on the season, a 16-16 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers three weeks ago.
Today, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings, a team that lost last week on the road to the San Francisco 49ers and next Sunday host the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Vikings come to Detroit today to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive and are favored by a touchdown on the spread.
Can they beat Detroit, hand the Lions an eleventh loss?
They of course could, but I don’t think they will.
I look for the Lions to win their first game of 2021 today, and with the insurance of a generous point spread in lieu of a straight-up win am even more confident of cashing this ticket.
Qoxhi Picks: Detroit Lions (+7) over Detroit Lions