NFL Week 13 Picks: The Theme is Bad Luck
Number 13 Stevie Jackson of the Buffalo Bills
There are no bigger control freaks than NFL head coaches. They spend every waking hour of the season trying to prepare for every situation imaginable. Most work 18 hour days. Coaches can handle defeat, but they can't handle losing because they were unprepared or out coached.
Still, with all of their preparation, NFL coaches can not account for everything that happens during a game. The best laid plans of mice and head coaches are sometimes blindsided by plain bad luck.
NFL week 13 theme picks will look at the most unlucky moments in each team's history. Thirteen is considered the unlucky number so why not?
Physical and mental errors will not be considered bad luck. So there will be no 'Miracle in the Meadowlands' or 'Music City Miracle' listed here. Those plays were controlled by the players.
No, all of this bad luck will come from situations and circumstances completely out of the victim's control. Today, we will look at fluke plays which caused a team to lose a game seemingly won. We will look at calls by officials that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We will see ways that Mother Nature reared her ugly head and destroyed any chance a team may have had of winning.
Baltimore Colts hall of fame split end Raymond Berry is quoted as saying, 'Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I must be prepared to create my own luck'
Well, sometimes a team can prepare for a situation to perfection and have fate intervene.
Last week, fate intervened and I went 7-6-2. The Houston Texans and Detroit Lions pushed, because of a touchdown by Houston that should have been nullified. The Atlanta Falcons missed two field goals and earned me a tie as well.
After three weeks, I stand at 21-16-2. If you are using these picks for betting purposes (and I suggest that you don't), then you're doing pretty well. If you have taken my hint about being wrong on the New York Jets every week, then you're very happy at 24-13-2.
With this said, let’s now look at a history of NFL bad luck which has caused people like me to give up gambling.
As always, home teams are in capital letters.
CHICAGO BEARS -3.5 vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Bears are one of he oldest teams in NFL history so have had their share of good and bad luck. Since we are focusing on bad luck, lets look at a time when fate did them in.
How about December 2, 1985? The undefeated Bears went into the Orange Bowl to play the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were coached by the only man to lead a team through an NFL season undefeated in Don Shula. He wanted nothing more than to give Chicago its first defeat and keep his undefeated 1972 team the only members of 'Perfectville.'
Dolphins 38 Bears 24. Chicago did not lose another game and went 18-1.
Seattle Seahawks fans would say that Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers was nothing, but bad luck. Seattle had a touchdown called back by a questionable pass interference call and a big third down completion nullified by a questionable holding call.
The Seahawks lost 21-10 and have yet to win a world's championship.
GREEN BAY PACKERS -8 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Everybody remembers Terrell Owens of the San Francisco 49ers catching a game winning touchdown pass to beat Green Bay in a 1998 NFC wildcard game. Few remember that during the winning drive, San Francisco wide receiver Jerry Rice caught a pass, was hit and fumbled. The covering official thought that Rice was down and blew his whistle. Replay showed that Rice was not down and had, indeed, fumbled. However, since the play was blown dead it could not be reviewed.
If the Packers had been given the ball, the game would have been over and Owens would be known for dropping four passes and fumbling once instead of catching the game winner.
With time running out in a 1975 playoff game, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a deep pass for Drew Pearson. Minnesota's Nate Wright had Pearson covered like a blanket, but just as the ball got to them Pearson pushed him down and made the catch. No flag was thrown. Dallas won on what is known as the 'Hail Mary' and ended up going to Super Bowl X. To this day, members of that Viking squad say it was their best team.
San Francisco 49ers -7 vs. ST. LOUIS RAMS
The 1984 49ers almost finished undefeated. Their only loss came against the Pittsburgh Steelers when the Niners were called for pass interference which kept a game tying drive alive. The call was questionable at best. Pittsburgh kicked a field goal in overtime and won 20-17 causing San Francisco to lose their place in NFL history.
While in Los Angeles, the Rams faced the Vikings in a 1977 playoff game. After having to travel to Minnesota and play post season games in the cold three times, Los Angeles was finally playing at home. A torrential rain storm hit southern California on the day of the game. With their passing game and speed neutralized by Mother Nature the Rams lost 14-7.
NEW YORK JETS -4.5 vs. Arizona Cardinals
In 1982, the Jets made it to their first AFC championship game since 1968 and faced the Dolphins. For once, New York may have had the better team, but no one will ever know. The Orange Bowl was hit by heavy rains on the day of the game. Some say that the tarp was left off of the field by Miami on purpose. The mud and Dolphins defense shut down the Jets and they lost 14-0. It was another chapter in the 'curse of Joe Namath.'
Rain and mud did in the Cardinals in 1976. While representing St. Louis, they played the Washington Redskins in a downpour on Monday Night Football. With their speed neutralized the Cardinals lost a game which ultimately cost them the division title and a playoff spot.
p.s. I still haven't gotten a Jets game right.
Carolina Panthers -3 vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
In game 14 of the 2004 season, Carolina traveled to the Georgia dome to play the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina still had an outside shot at the playoffs. With a 31-24 lead and under two minutes to play all the Panthers had to do was stop Atlanta from converting a fourth and goal from the 12 yard line. Carolina forced Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to run and he barely scored the tying touchdown by diving inches off of the ground. Only Vick could have made that play. The Panthers lost in overtime and missed the playoffs.
The Chiefs had a 1970 game against the Oakland Raiders all but won when Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson hit Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson after he was down. Chief wide receiver Otis Taylor jumped Davidson and a fight ensued. Since both teams were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, Kansas City's first down was nullified. The Raiders stopped the Chiefs, got the ball back and kicked a field goal to tie the score.
Today, the penalties would have been administered after the first down since they were dead ball fouls and Kansas City would have run out the clock. As it was, the game cost the Chiefs the division title and a chance to defend their world's championship.
Buffalo Bills -6 vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Call it whatever you want, but how do you explain your best offensive player losing his helmet at the beginning of the Super Bowl? This is exactly what happened to Bills running back Thurman Thomas at the beginning of Super Bowl XXVI. He put his helmet down and it was moved during the playing of the National Anthem. When Thomas went looking for it, Buffalo was on offense and he couldn't take the field. Thomas and the Bills never found their heads and lost to the Washington Redskins.
The Jaguars had a chance to make it to the Super Bowl in their second season, 1996. After defeating the Bills and Denver Broncos, Jacksonville traveled to New England and found a field covered with ice. With quarterback Mark Brunell's running ability curtailed an offense that had scored 30 points in back to back wins was held to 6. The Jaguars are still searching for their first AFC title.
DETROIT LIONS -5 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Only the Lions could fall victim to a game winning kick that shattered the record for longest field goal in NFL history. Before Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints kicked a 63 yarder to beat Detroit 19-17 in 1970, no one had made one from more than 56 yards. Dempsey broke the record by a full seven yards. To this day, no one has kicked one further.
In 1967, the Baltimore Colts went 11-1-2 and missed the playoffs. The Colts did not lose until the final game of the season. Since the loss came to the 10-1-2 Rams, who they had tied earlier in the season, Baltimore lost the Coastal Division title to Los Angeles on a tiebreak. Despite having the best record in the NFL, the Colts sat at home while three teams with nine wins, Dallas, Green Bay and Cleveland advanced to the playoffs.
New England Patriots -7.5 vs. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Leading 21-17 in a 1976 AFC playoff game, New England was driving for a game clinching touchdown against the Oakland Raiders. A third down pass to tight end Russ Francis was ruled incomplete. Replays showed that Francis had been interfered with by Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano, but no flag was thrown. The Raiders took over and drove to the game winning touchdown. The Patriots went home while Oakland continued marching toward its first world's championship.
The Patriots got one over on the Dolphins in 1982. In a game played on a frozen field, the teams were tied at zero when New England drove into field goal range. Patriots head coach Ron Meyer had a snowplow sent onto the field to clear a spot for his kicker Jon Smith. While Dolphins head coach Don Shula protested, Smith kicked the winning field goal. Shula called it the most unfair act in league history, but the 3-0 score stood.
Houston Texans -6 vs. TENNESSEE TITANS
The Texans needed only to stop the Jaguars one more time to send a 2010 game into overtime. Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard threw a 'Hail Mary' pass that Houston's Glover Quin batted down at the goal line. The ball went right into the hands of streaking Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas who had no business catching it. He almost dropped it, but held on and crossed the goal line for the game winning touchdown.
When the Titans were in Houston and known as the Oilers, they had to battle the Steelers every year. In the 1979 AFC title game, the Oilers had a chance to tie the score when wide receiver Ray Renfro caught a pass in the back of the end zone. Officials ruled that he was out of bounds. Replay, which was not used then, showed Renfro was in. The Oilers had to settle for a field goal. They lost the game 27-13.
DENVER BRONCOS -7 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sure, the Broncos probably would have lost Super Bowl XXIV to the 49ers no matter what. But it didn't help Denver that their quarterback John Elway was sick all week and went into the game not at full strength. If having a sick quarterback on the day of the Super Bowl isn't bad luck, then what is?
The Buccaneers were on the verge of beating the 'Greatest Show on Turf'' St Louis Rams in the 1999 NFC championship game. Then a key third down pass that Bert Emanuel seemed to catch was called incomplete. The play was not overturned by replay and Tampa Bay failed to score. The Bucs lost the game and the title 11-6.
BALTIMORE RAVENS -8 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens had a chance to hand the Patriots their first loss of the 2007 season and stop them from going 16-0. With New England down to its last chance, Baltimore's defense forced Tom Brady to throw an incomplete pass. With the game seemingly won, the Ravens began to celebrate.
Then, the officials informed them that a time out had been called before the ball was snapped. Of all people, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan called it. With new life, the Patriots converted, went on to score and won the game in overtime.
The Jerome Bettis Thanksgiving Day overtime coin toss fiasco is not Pittsburgh's worst luck as Bettis could clearly be heard saying heads.
The Steelers unlucky break came in a 1976 playoff game when Baltimore Colts defensive tackle Joe Ehrmann decided to break Franco Harris' ribs. Disgusted that Baltimore was being beaten so badly, Ehrmann jammed his knees into Harris' ribs after the play was over. The injury put the big fullback out of the game. With him, went Pittsburgh's chances of becoming the first team to win three Super Bowls as Harris did not play in the AFC title game and the Steelers lost to Oakland 24-7.
Pick: I don't pick Steelers games, but with Ben Roethlisberger out this one should be pretty obvious.
Cleveland Browns -1 vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS
The truth is that Cleveland's bad luck was having Art Modell move the original Browns to Baltimore where they have had much success, including winning a Super Bowl, while the new Browns have struggled mightily.
The Raiders could right a book on bad luck. Of course, they were victimized by, arguably, the most famous play in NFL history. The 'Immaculate Reception' by Pittsburgh's Franco Harris which defeated Oakland in a 1972 playoff game is still being debated to this day. No one knows if the ball hit Steelers running back John Fuqua first, then was caught by Harris (which was illegal at the time). No one knows if Harris caught the ball. All anyone knows is that the officials said Harris scored and the Raiders are still grumbling about it to this day.
Cincinnati Bengals -1.5 vs. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
The 1976 Bengals were led by quarterback Ken Anderson who was one of the most accurate passers in NFL history. Cincinnati led the AFC Central for most of the season. With the division hanging in the balance, they hosted the defending world champion Steelers who were without quarterback Terry Bradshaw. With Bradshaw out, it seemed nothing could stop the Bengals from winning.
Mother Nature played a cruel trick on Cincinnati by sending snow to Riverfront Stadium. Unable to pass, the Bengals could only manage one field goal and lost 7-3. Pittsburgh went on to win the division while Cincinnati missed the playoffs.
The Chargers lost a 1978 game to the Raiders on a play called the 'Holy Roller.' Everything Oakland did on it was illegal. First, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler flipped the ball forward, which should have made it a forward pass. Then, running back Pete Banaszak batted the grounded ball forward, which is not allowed. Then, tight end Dave Casper kicked it into the end zone which is another foul. None of the fouls were called. Casper fell on the ball for a touchdown and San Diego lost 21-20.
DALLAS COWBOYS -10 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Cowboys were victims of the weather in one of the most famous games in NFL history.
On December 31, 1967, Dallas played the Packers in the 'Ice Bowl.' Cowboy players were numbed by the -17 degree temperature and frozen field which neutralized their speed advantage. Green Bay scored the winning touchdown with 13 seconds to play when Dallas defensive end Jethro Pugh could not get his footing and was pushed back by Packers guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman. Green Bay went to the Super Bowl while the frostbitten Cowboys went home.
Only the Eagles could lose a playoff game that nobody saw. In 1988, Philadelphia traveled to Chicago for a second round game against the Bears. Late in the second quarter, a fog rolled in which covered the entire field. With little or no visibility the Eagles lost the infamous 'Fog Bowl' 20-12.
New York Giants -2.5 vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
The Giants traveled to play the Bears in a 1985 playoff game and found out why Chicago is called the Windy City. New York's Sean Landetta attempted to punt from deep in his own territory, but never put foot on the ball. A gust of wind blew the ball sideways when he dropped it to punt. The Bears picked up the loose football and scored a touchdown. Chicago went on to shut out the Bears 21-0.
In 1975, the Redskins were victims to the original catch. Playing the St. Louis Cardinals with the NFC East title at stake, Washington was done in when a dropped pass by Cardinal wide receiver Mel Gray was ruled a catch and touchdown. The score tied the game and sent it into overtime. St. Louis won 20-17 and went on to win the division. The Redskins failed to make the playoffs for the firs time under head coach George Allen.