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It’s become commonplace these days to second guess almost every decision made by coaches.

While a number of those second guesses are reasonable irrespective of the outcome of those decisions, there are times when in advance of the outcome, often well in advance, there are few defensible options other than the one that makes complete sense under the circumstances.

While most of the nation was waking up this past Sunday to catch the end of the second of three NFL games this season, the coach (and/or his staff) of one of the participants was falling asleep.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith has generally done a fine job for most of his tenure that began in 2008, along with that of his rookie QB Matt Ryan.

Although his Falcons failed to make it to the Super Bowl, the team did make the Playoffs in 4 of his first 5 seasons at the helm, missing out for just the second time last season when both sides of the football were hurt by an above average number of lengthy injuries, resulting in a dropoff from a 13-3 season in 2012 that ended with a loss to San Francisco in the NFL Title game to a 4-12 mark last season.

Expected to show improvement this season the injury bug hit the Falcons once again, beginning in training camp, and thus Atlanta crossed the pond for its game against Detroit in London with a 2-5 record, with all losses by double digits and looking nothing like the team that led Tampa Bay 56-0 at home on the third Thursday night of the season. That was long, long ago.

The NFL despises Las Vegas and the betting culture as a matter more of public countenance rather than an understanding of the economic benefit’s the league derives from the broad wagering viewership that translates into loads of dollars and happy sponsors.

Many associated with the league understand that there many sharp and savvy “observers” observers of the game when those “observers” have a financial interest in the games’ outcomes. It has not gone unsaid that many coaches could benefit from the wisdom of such “observers” when it comes to clock management and strategy, especially in late game situations.

Such was the case on Sunday. And it absolutely nothing to do with Mike Smith’s Falcons being on the verge of blowing a 21-0 halftime lead.

Held scoreless for the entire second half while witnessing a Detroit comeback that, after a missed two point conversion with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Falcons were in position to win a 21-19 game if they could just gain a few first downs or, at the least, milk the clock so as to leave the Lions with as little time as possible to kick a game winning field goal.

Unless they did something stupid, that is.

Following Detroit’s unsuccessful two point try, Atlanta started from its own 20 and appeared well on its way to running out the clock while forcing the Lions to use all three of its timeouts.

Atlanta gained three first downs, using three running plays and two short pass completions to take the game to the two minute warning, at which point the Lions had just one timeout remaining. A running play on second and 9 forced Detroit to use its final timeout with 1:55 remaining with the football on the Detroit 40.

With Detroit out of timeouts the Falcons could run another play, even accepting the fact that they might not make a first down but would run another 40 seconds or so off of the clock before being forced to punt the football to the Lions.

But, in his wisdom, the Falcons tried a pass play on third and ten which was incomplete and stopped the clock. A great short punt by Matt Bosher pinned the Lions on their own 7 but left QB Matt Stafford and his mates 1:38, rather than just perhaps at most a minute, to march down the field for what turned out to be the game winner.

And to make things even more bizarre, Atlanta took its final pair of timeouts during the Lions’ drive rather than saving the last timeout to attempt to “ice” the kicker, although that often does not work.

The preceding scenario is played out all too frequently with Smith’s mismanaging of the clock just the latest glaring episode.

As bettors, and fans, we should be able to tolerate and accept physical errors such as defenses blowing coverages or quarterbacks failing to spot an open receiver. Even certain penalties are understandable (although there rarely is an excuse for a delay of game penalty except when circumstances call for it).

But organizations should realized how thin the line often is between winning and losing and that there are “observers” with knowledge on how end game situations should be managed perhaps there would be openings for “Assistant Coach in Charge of Situational Strategy” more games that should be won would be won.

Oh, and by the way, this columnist had no financial interest, side or total, in the game so this diatribe is not sour grapes. Rather it is an expression of thoughts held by many and repeated on a much too frequent basis. Like every week!

On to the games of Week 9 with both London participants, Atlanta and Detroit, having Byes along with Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay and Tennessee.

Here’s a preview of the 13 that will be played.


Saints -1 at Panthers (49): The Saints have finally found their rhythm until they demonstrate that they can take their high powered offense on the road and close out games it’s best to back the hosts on the short week with a dynamic quarterback and the better defense. CAROLINA.


Chargers +2.5 at Dolphins (44): The Chargers have extra rest following their 14 point loss at Denver last Thursday. San Diego has a huge edge at QB with Philip Rivers and we might see this line climb to a full FG as the public overreacts to the past few weeks. SAN DIEGO.

Jaguars +11.5 at Bengals (45): The Bengals have been at their best at home and their defense did contain what has been a potent Baltimore offense recently in last week’s win. That defense should contain the Jacksonville offense but the better play would be on the total score. UNDER.

Bucs +6.5 at Browns (43.5): Cleveland plays a third straight weak foe after being upset in Jacksonville and defeating Oakland last week. Cleveland is 3-1 both SU and ATS at home this season, including wins and covers as home chalk in their last two against Pittsburgh and the Raiders. CLEVELAND.

Redskins +2.5 at Vikings: Prior to the Monday game with Dallas, the Redskins had failed to score more than 20 points in four straight games while their defense has played well against struggling offenses all season. UNDER.

Eagles -2.5 at Texans (48): Houston is a perfect 4-0 both SU and ATS when favored this season but 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS as underdogs. The Texans have a solid rush defense led by J.J. Watt but have been very vulnerable to the pass which plays into the strength of the Eagles offense. PHILADELPHIA.

Jets +9.5 at Chiefs (41.5): The Chiefs’ only poor outing this season was their opening game home loss to Tennessee. Since then KC has gone 4-2 SU but an impressive 5-0-1 ATS. The Jets make mistakes (18 turnovers lost) whereas Kansas City does not (7 turnovers lost). KC.

Arizona +4.5 at Dallas: The value play here is on the underdog that continues to suffer from a lack of support despite the fine play, going from a slight favorite to a slight underdog last week while Dallas has started to re-emerge as “America’s Team” in the mind and wallets of many. ARIZONA.

Rams +10 at 49ers (43.5): Normally getting double digits with a Jeff Fisher coached team would be an automatic play. But with his team decimated by injuries such that there is a lack of continuity in starting lineups week to week make that a hazardous tact to take this season. SAN FRANCISCO.

Broncos -3 at Patriots (54.5): The Pats and coach Bill Belichick have a long history of success against Peyton Manning and will again be relishing this challenge in a game that could determine the host of the AFC Championship game next January. Beware of Tom Brady and the Patriots as underdogs, especially at home. NEW ENGLAND.

Raiders +15 at Seahawks (43): Winning the battle of the trenches opens up the passing game, an area in which the Oakland defense has struggled, allowing an average of 263 ypg over its last 5 games. The Seahawks return home after a pair of road games, eager to atone for their last effort on this field, a loss to Dallas. SEATTLE.

Ravens +1.5 at Steelers (47.5): The public, which bet Baltimore from an underdog to a 3 point road favorite at Cincinnati, will likely jump ship this week and support the Steelers off of that impressive win. More often than not, when the public zigs, it’s time to zag. Especially when the “zaggee” has much the better defense. BALTIMORE.


Colts -3 at Giants (50.5): Heading into Monday, prime time games on Thursday, Sunday night and Monday have produced 20 OVERs and just 4 UNDERs. The ingredients in this game set up for that gap to widen even more. OVER.

Last week: 7-6-1

Season: 62-55-3 (w/o MNF)

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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