LOS ANGELES, December 12, 2013 — Legendary Raiders Coach John Madden once said that while his team was often accused of cheating to win, they never cheated the game of football itself. The 1976 Oakland Raiders could have tanked their final game against Cincinnati Bengals, eliminating hated Pittsburgh Steelers from the playoffs.
Although the Raiders had locked up home field, they were enraged at accusations that they were scared to face a Steelers team that had defeated them in two straight AFC Title Games. The Raiders blasted the Bengals as the Oakland fans chanted, “We want Pittsburgh.” They got their wish, and in 1976 the Raiders destroyed the Steelers and got revenge.
Tanking is for baseball and basketball players. There is no tanking in the National Football League. The 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars began 0-8, and have both since won four of five games. The New York Giants began 0-6 and then won four straight.
Sometimes teams will rest starters in the last game, but that is for the purpose of keeping guys healthy for the playoffs. That is not tanking, since the overall goal is to win.
Yet with the decision of Mike Shanahan to bench Robert Griffin III, the Redskins are being accused of tanking. This is nonsense for so many reasons.
Shanahan may or may not be lying about preserving RGIII for next year. Shanahan could be acting out of jealousy out of his quarterback’s close relationship with owner Dan Snyder. Whatever Shanahan’s motives, he is certainly not trying to lose football games.
Kirk Cousins is a very capable backup who could start for several teams. This is not like replacing Peyton Manning with Curtis Painter. Cousins has played well when given the chance.
Shanahan wants to win. He is not thinking about getting a better draft pick next year. For one thing, that pick would go to the Rams because of the RGIII trade. The Redskins do not have that pick anymore. More importantly, Shanahan knows that if the 3-10 Redskins win out, he may get to keep his job. If the Redskins fall to 3-13, he will not be drafting anybody since he will be fired.
Football players have pride. They want to win. So do coaches. So do owners. One can question Shanahan’s decision in terms of intelligence and even in terms of Shanahan’s veracity. One cannot question that Shanahan and the players want to win the next three games.
NFL players do not tank. They play to win.
With that, here is the NFL 2013 Week 15 Preview, with point spreads from “The Linemakers” and all times EST.
Thursday, December 12, 8:30 p.m.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-10.5)—Denver wants home field throughout the playoffs and the Chargers are fighting for their lives. Philip Rivers will not keep pace with Peyton Manning, but he may keep it close for awhile. Broncos win but fail to cover
Sunday, December 15, 1 p.m.
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)—Players do not tank, but perhaps Mike Shanahan has lost the team. Mike Smith has not lost his players, and they desperately want a win at home to salvage something. Falcons cover
Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns (-2)—Chicago obliterated Dallas while Cleveland lost a gut-wrenched at New England. Jason Campbell can play, so the Browns at home could play spoiler. Browns cover
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-6)—The Colts clinched the AFC South last week in uninspiring fashion and will not be getting a first round bye. The Texans have lost 11 straight, resulting in Michelin Man Wade Philips taking over for the fired Gary Kubiak. This means another uninspiring win for the Colts, which is enough. Colts cover
Buffalo Bills (-1.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars—The Bills have lost five of six, including at Tampa. So for them to be favored against a Jaguars team that has won four of five makes little sense. Buffalo is not going to like Florida any more this week than last week. Upset special, Jaguar win outright
New England Patriots (-2.5) at Miami Dolphins—Tom Brady has had some of his worst games against awful Dolphins teams in Miami. This year the Patriots have a shot at home field. Even without Mark Henderson and a snow plow, the Patriots will bring a steamroller. Patriots cover
Philadelphia Eagles (-4) at Minnesota Vikings—The Eagles have won five straight but the Vikings are playing hard or Leslie Frazier. They took Baltimore to the limit on the road and Adrian Peterson could run wild this week. Upset special, Vikings win outright
Seattle Seahawks (-7) at New York Giants—The Giants are vastly improved in recent weeks, but Seattle is a wrecking ball with angry players coming off a loss. Eli Manning may complete at least one touchdown pass to Richard Sherman, who plays cornerback for the Seahawks. Seahawks in but fail to cover
San Francisco 49ers (-5.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers—After an emotional home win, the 49ers could have a letdown at Tampa, who has won four of five lately. 49ers win but fail to cover
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers (-10.5)—The Panthers are very good and will be angry coming off a loss after eight straight wins. The Jets are awful but won last week. This could get ugly. Panthers cover
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (Pick ‘em)—Both teams are within striking distance of winning their awful divisions, but Aaron Rodgers is still out. Dallas should be ok at home. Cowboys win
New Orleans Saints (-6) at St. Louis Rams—The Saints are too disciplined under Sean Payton and Drew Brees for a letdown game after the big home win against Carolina, but the Rams are tough at home. Saints win but fail to cover
Arizona Cardinals (-3) at Tennessee Titans—Arizona and Tennessee are both up and down teams, and the Titans are at home. Upset special, Titans win outright
Cincinnati Bengals (-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers—The Bengals at 9-4 cannot get respect. Even though Pittsburgh is eliminated, a win would go a long way for the Bengals in getting that respect. They will not get it. Upset special, Steelers win outright
Monday, December 16, 8:30 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions (-6)—A pair of 7-6 teams are hanging on for dear life, and Detroit still has a good chance to win their division. The home field on Monday night should be enough. Lions win but fail to cover
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities.
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