There is a myth out there that football players and student-athletes are big, dumb oafs, chosen for their size, speed and lineage and not much else. While the toxic air of unhinged machismo still haunts the gridiron (and gets people thrown out of games occasionally) the facts remain that FBS players are getting a major University education while Minor League Baseball players are not, and neither for that matter is every 18-year-old soccer prodigy from Belarus or Croatia. (It’s the Beautiful Game…not the Beautiful Curriculum.)
So BetFirm will get lots of hate mail now from futbol fans around the globe, saying that the youngsters on reserve/training clubs do get a fine education. Having covered soccer for many websites and enjoyed 99% of the work, all I’m trying to say is that NFL athletes often wind up just as educated, or more educated than their counterparts in some other major sports leagues.
There is more than 1 reason for that. Yes, they all get scholarships to nice big campuses. But the aptitude has to be there too. It’s impossible to be a good football player on a pro level and have Wheaties for brains. Dumb NFL prospects end up playing elsewhere or giving up the game, because the playbooks and systems (and chain of command on a defense) are so complex that high-IQ draftees just have a better shot at getting them.
Take J.J. Watt, a player who is known for his ferocious pursuit and violence on the field and one-track dedication and stubbornness off the field. But he’s not J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans by accident. The All-World linebacker is capable of hell-for-leather style leadership, of course, but he knows how to strike the right tone.
Teams grumble and complain about Thursday Night Football, and their concerns are legitimate. Thursday Night Football can be wildly entertaining, but it has also produced some of the biggest duds the NFL has ever seen. Watt, however, is not to be counted among the players saying “they should cancel this” or “I don’t know if I can heal in time for Thursday.” Watt is telling the media that the TNF setting is equally-unpleasant for all 32 teams who must endure it, and spelling out a not-so-subtle message to teammates to copy his head-down Spartan approach for what he describes in terms of a difficult challenge.
If only his teammates would pay attention. Houston is on a 4-game winning streak…not the ideal time to be serving-up motivational help to opponents.
The visiting Miami Dolphins must also journey westward on a short week, and lost to Detroit on Sunday. That has cast the Dolphins as more than TD + XP point spread underdogs against Watt’s Texans on Thursday night.
Who: Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
When: Thursday, October 25th, 8:20 PM EST
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Lines: Miami (+7.5) at Houston (-7.5) / O/U Total: (44.5)
Unfortunately for Texans fans, while their best player is saying all the right things, others are supplying the Dolphins with bulletin-board material:
Two Texans players verbally dismissed Dolphins players on Tuesday as the teams prepare for Thursday’s matchup in Houston. Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, asked by Houston media about Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard’s claim that Hopkins “likes to push off a lot” to get separation from defenders, responded: “Who’s Xavien Howard?”
But Dolphins cornerback Cordrea Tankersley insists that Hopkins knows who Howard is and that they had a conversation about him a while back in which Hopkins said he was impressed by Howard. And then there was this comment from Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on former teammate and current Dolphins starting quarterback Brock Osweiler. “He’s not here anymore. So I don’t really care for him. We didn’t win a lot with him…Try to get after him this week upfront, make him rattled in the pocket.”
Osweiler was 8-6 in his one season as Houston’s starter in 2016, but had a 72.2 passer rating with 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
It’s amazing how trash-talk is reported as hard, straight news these days. “After a short interval, Player X then accused Player Y’s mother of being overweight and homely.”
I wouldn’t sell the Dolphins short if I were a Houston Texan. The Finns knocked-off Chicago when the Bears were hot, winning 31-28 on October 14th. Osweiler had almost 400 yards passing in that scrum, and Frank Gore rushed for a prodigious 101 yards on just 15 carries from scrimmage. The Miami defense intercepted Mitch Trubisky and did not allow a 75+ yard rusher, while the offensive line held off the Chicago pass rush.
The Texans are on a tear, but have they exhibited such “quality” (as the soccer previews say) lately? Well, the defense crushed Blake Bortles in Jacksonville with 4 sacks last week. That was pretty good.
Deshaun Watson and the Texans’ offense will look better this week at home than they did in a cautious 20-7 road win last weekend. I’m liking Watson to put a few big plays together, but he won’t control the entire game and keep Osweiler from making a statement of his own.
I’m liking the Over (44.5). I think that the fatigue factor may work against the defenders more than the passers and catchers in this contest, and if there’s a QB who’s not ready to go along with his WR corps, it’s Watson and the Texans…not the under-valued visiting attack.