Why Harbaugh, Not Belichick, Should be Coach of The Year
Former NFL Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman returns to make his Week 13 picks to help you with your NFL betting and discuss the major storylines.
We highlight the New England Patriots surge, the struggles for the Los Angeles Chargers and the end of an era for the Seattle Seahawks.
Leaders Are The Pack
Gambling.com: We’ll start with one of the games of the past week, with the Green Bay Packers handling the Los Angeles Rams. What was your biggest takeaway from the NFC showdown?
Shawne Merriman: The Packers are just a better team. I know that everybody's harping on the Rams right now, but let's not forget it was a 36-28 game. It wasn't like it was a blowout. The Rams just have to learn how to beat good teams. They beat everybody they’re supposed to but they’re not beating anybody worth a damn. That's the problem.
All of November they’ve sucked. Period. They’ve only beaten one team that is a legit team.
Brady’s Pitch to Fournette
GDC: Tampa Bay had a comeback win ignited by running back Leonard Fournette, who had 100 rushing yards and three touchdowns. What can he bring to the team when he’s that dominant?
SM: Well, I'm happy for Leonard Fournette, man. For one, after he left Jacksonville, it wasn't really on a high note. But also, two, being utilized the way he always should have been in the NFL. I watched his whole career at LSU and then he got to Jacksonville, they just didn’t utilize him the way he should’ve been.
That’s Tom Brady’s formula. It always has been. Check down, give it to the back and let him make plays with his legs. When you have a back capable of doing that like Leonard Fournette, he can do just that. That’s honestly what makes Tom Brady great. Take what they give you, utilize what you have, and you’re gonna win some football games. Take some shots when you can, but dump it down to Leonard Fournette and let him use his legs.
GDC: What do you make of the Chicago Bears situation with coach Matt Nagy? The fans regularly chant that they want him fired. How do the players react to something like this?
SM: I'll tell you that when it's out in the public, and you know that's a real possibility, it is very hard to come into work every day and buy into what the coach is selling. Very hard.
Turkey Day Referee Show
GDC: The Thanksgiving game between the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders had 38.3 million viewers. There were 28 flags in the game, making for some controversy. How difficult is it to play in a game where flags are so prevalent?
SM: When you’re calling the same penalty repeatedly, it just gets redundant. There were so many penalties and it slows up the game. Some of it was nitpick stuff to me, like that shouldn’t have been called. But it gets redundant. Dallas had three or four pass interference penalties called on them, and at that point, if you’re the receiver, you’re going to not even catch the ball. Just throw the ball up and hope for a flag. That kind of stuff reminds me of why they changed the NBA rules with these guys going to the rim and getting these BS fouls.
Patriots, Belichick Still Good
GDC: The New England Patriots earned a dominant win over the Tennessee Titans. Do you see the Patriots as an AFC favorite?
SM: Yeah, but you know I said that even when Mac Jones was struggling because the AFC has been wide open for the last several weeks. There was no one team. I mean, we were talking about Tennessee, and we were talking about the Patriots. The AFC has been wide open this whole entire season. There's not one clear-cut team where we just sit back and say, ‘You know what? That team is going to win.’ It's not like Green Bay or how Arizona was. It’s wide open.
GDC: Do you see Bill Belichick as a Coach of the Year candidate?
SM: I know people are talking about it because they’re winning lately, but what has he overcome? Get what I'm saying? He's a great coach, but what did he overcome? You know, if Tennessee now, you know, bounces back from that loss, or the Ravens who have all the injuries. For me with the coach of the year, you have to overcome something and still win a lot of football games. So, my question would be, what has Bill Belichick overcome? You got a first-round quarterback. Even though he’s a rookie, he’s a first-round guy so it's not like your starting quarterback went down and you throw your third string in and you’re winning football games. No, your first-round quarterback is playing well, so what are you overcoming?
GDC: It was another struggle for the Chargers. What’s going on with your former team?
SM: There's no sense of urgency right now, and it's shocking as hell to me. No sense of urgency. If you told me a couple of weeks ago that a team with Justin Herbert, Austin Eckler and Mike Williams and Keenan Allen would score 13 points, I would have bet my damn house on it. There's zero sense of urgency right now, and I don't understand what's going on.
Ravens Overcome Lamar Struggles
GDC: Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson struggled in the win against the Cleveland Browns, throwing four interceptions. What does he need to do to turn it around?
SM: He has to play better from the start. But this actually shows you that we're talking about Coach of the Year candidates and why I talked about John Harbaugh this season so much. The injuries, and quarterback throws four interceptions and you still find a way to win a game. That, to me, is adversity. When you talk about Bill Belichick, they have a damn good team. They don't have as many starters that went down with season injuries. John Harbaugh, if they keep winning football games, should be Coach of the Year.
Saints’ Hail Mary
GDC: After the offense failed to produce against the Buffalo Bills, the New Orleans Saints are planning to start Taysom Hill at quarterback. What can he bring to the team?
SM: He adds a little bit more. You can expand the playbook and use his legs and have him be more mobile, but to me, that still isn’t the answer. I still think they need to get a quarterback. I still think they should bring in Phillip Rivers and just have him there because what do you do now if Taysom Hill doesn’t play well? You just going to ride it out for the rest of the season? You’re running out of options, really.
Now, Let’s Make Some Picks
Here are Shawne’s picks for the week. All moneyline odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Dallas Cowboys (-200) at New Orleans Saints (+170)
SM: I’m taking Dallas. The offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, is the one who calls the plays anyways, so head coach Mike McCarthy missing the game (COVID) doesn’t concern me.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-550) at Atlanta Falcons (+400)
SM: Tampa. This is the time that people who have an actual running game and play smart football, these are the teams that win. Not the big explosive passing. This is the time you start to grind away running the ball, being smart with the ball and the time to start picking it up at this time of the year, and that’s how Tampa is playing.
Arizona Cardinals (-380) at Chicago Bears (+290)
SM: I’m taking Arizona. Matt Nagy holding on by a thread is an understatement.
Los Angeles Chargers (+145) at Cincinnati Bengals (-165)
SM: Man, Cincy is playing too well right now. I’m picking Cincy.
Minnesota Vikings (-310) at Detroit Lions (+245)
SM: Minnesota. I try to keep giving the Lions the benefit of the doubt, but it’s not going to be this week.
New York Giants (+175) at Miami Dolphins (-210)
SM: I’m taking the Dolphins. They are playing better football right now.
Philadelphia Eagles (-290) at New York Jets (+230)
SM: Philadelphia. If Dallas keeps laying an egg like they are, Philadelphia could catch them in the division.
Indianapolis Colts (-400) at Houston Texans (+300)
SM: I’m taking the Colts.
Washington Football Team (+120) at Las Vegas Raiders(-140)
SM: It feels like (Washington coach) Ron Rivera has them clicking right now. They’re running the ball well; I like how Antonio Gibson is running the ball. Finally, these past couple of weeks they’ve picked it up on defense, so I’m picking the Washington Football Team.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+500) at Los Angeles Rams (-720)
SM: I’m picking the Rams. They’re great against teams they should win against. They just haven’t beaten anyone worthy.
Baltimore Ravens (-210) at Pittsburgh Steelers (+175)
SM: I’m taking Baltimore. This is the weekend Lamar Jackson gets back on track. When you’re playing bad and you have an awful game, these are the weeks you hope to have Pittsburgh come into town. This is probably the worst team that (Pittsburgh coach) Mike Tomlin has had.
San Francisco 49ers (-165) at Seattle Seahawks (+145)
SM: I’m taking San Francisco. I don’t think Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll can co-exist after this year. One of them has to go. It’s been an end of an era as far as the team being dominant, but what they’re doing now, we’ve never seen this out of Russell Wilson since he’s been in the NFL.
But we’ve seen it coming this offseason when he was publicly talking about teams he would go play for. Right there, you’re putting yourself in a bad spot to lose the locker room, for one. Two, they’re not giving him much help. There’s no blocking upfront. No offensive line. They can’t get the ball to (wide receiver) D.J. Metcalf. There’s really nothing there. After this year, one of the two has to go because they can’t co-exist anymore.
Denver Broncos (+340) at Kansas City Chiefs (-450)
SM: I’m taking Kansas City. Kansas City has kind of picked it back up again. They’re too explosive for Denver.
New England Patriots (+130) at Buffalo Bills (-150)
SM: I think this is the game of the week. The teams are evenly matched. It’s right down the middle to me, but I’m picking the Patriots. Right now, it just seems like the Patriots are playing with momentum and with that division, for whatever reason, they just play well against them.
(New England defensive end) Matthew Judon is just a monster. I think they will scheme the hell out of (Buffalo wide receiver) Stefon Diggs to keep the ball away from him. And most importantly, the Patriots are creating turnovers right now. They’re turning the ball over. I think that will be the biggest factor is the defense getting takeaways.
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