BadNFL continued its long arduous trek back to .500 with the Ravens' 37-13 defeat of the Panthers last weekend. Although the final score reveals that the Ravens covered the 11 point spread by a cool 13 points, this was not an easy cover. In fact, the Ravens lacked fire and focus early in the game, committing unseemly mistakes -- a muffed hand-off in the redzone comes to mind -- that kept the Panthers in the game. Flacco did little to dispel my fears that he remains significantly overrated, as he played an uneven game. Thus, the Panthers kept it close, and they were within 7 points late in the 4th quarter. As a result, the Ravens weren't nearly as impressive as the final score would seem to indicate.
That said, the Ravens did surge late, courtesy of two back-to-back pick-6 interceptions by the two longtime stars of their defense, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. This is somewhat in line with my prediction, since the primary reason for picking the Ravens this week was the nearly unprecedented lack of experience of Brian St. Pierre. And BSP was pretty bad on the day, completing only 13 of 28 passes and throwing 2 INTs. Because of their opportunistic defense and the Panthers' general ineptitude, the Ravens were able to convert a relatively close game into a blowout late.
1. The Ravens certainly lacked focus and motivation in this one, perhaps confirming one of my biggest fears -- that big favorites against teams missing key offensive players tend to underperform. Or perhaps that is just typical of the Ravens, who have especially tended to play to the level of their competition this year. But luckily, the Panthers were so bad late that the pick still paid off.
2. I was right that the Panthers look atrocious. John Fox is a dead man walking on the sidelines, and the continuous roster shuffling has deprived them of any semblance of offensive rhythm. It's hard to see them winning any games right now; it's almost as hard to see them covering even significant spreads.
3. Hilton 100 theory pays off again -- the margin and absolute pick #s were extremely high for this game, and it obviously came through. It's now 8-3 ATS in the five weeks that I've tracked it, with a consistently high margin of victory ATS.
4. Blowouts: the Chiefs and the Redskins, who both were blown out in week 10, both won their games and easily covered this week. On the other hand, the Broncos, who delivered an unforeseen beating to the Chiefs last week, followed it up with a miserable performance. I'm starting to wonder what the stats are on teams following either blowout wins or losses -- because one potentially promising theory of prediction would rely on the "regression to the mean" theory and anticipate teams coming off blowout wins to fail to cover the following week, and vice versa. It's something I'll be following for the rest of the year.