The Best NFL Predictions You’ll Ever Read, Part 2: AFC Team Records

In case you missed Part 1 of Ross & Neil try to predict each team’s record, check it out here: The Best NFL Predictions, NFC Team Records.

That’s where you can read about the NFC, but more importantly the terrible wager we made on who can be closer to more teams’ actual records at the end of the season.

Neil and I will be back early next week with our final predictions on playoff teams, superlatives (league MVP, passing title, etc) and unperlatives (not a word, I know, but this is where we predict first coach fired, first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, etc).

Compared to the NFC predictions where Neil and I were only more than one win apart on three teams, in the AFC we had five such teams where we were farther apart than a single win difference. It looks like Neil continued to play it safe in predicting no teams to truly bottom out that hard. I, on the other hand, am very pessimistic about the worst handful of teams in the AFC.

Read on for more.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 28/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 9-7

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I thought we learned from the 2005 Red Sox that it is best to bring back as many parts of a championship as you can to repeat. And even if it doesn’t work, your fans will appreciate the effort. They also have suffered some injuries during the preseason that are not minor. That being said they have a good coach and great front office, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they somehow win the division.

Ross: Super Bowl Champs getting no love with the 28/1 Super Bowl odds. I do think they suffer the typical SB hangover, and they’ve certainly lost a lot of their 2012 offense. I think they struggle, but in the weak AFC that means getting nine wins and possibly the division title (more on that soon).

BUFFALO BILLS

2012 Record: 6-10

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 150/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

Ross: 4-12

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Well, at least they are trying to make history in week 1 (first team to ever start an undrafted rookie at QB in week 1). Could be a tough year in Buffalo. At least they have a new coach that seems to have a plan, and initial reports are that E.J. Manual might be the real deal.

Ross: There’s a quarterback fiasco brewing in Buffalo. You never want to read something like this only 13 days from a team’s regular season opener: “…the Bills signed veteran QB Matt Leinart and traded with Detroit for backup QB Thad Lewis. It should also be noted that as of now the Bills are planning to start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel in week 1.” What does this all mean? That this will be the team’s ninth straight year finishing below .500 (way below it in this case).

CINCINNATI BENGALS

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 9-7

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Very similar to Tampa Bay. Very good defense. They added more weapons on offense. They are the trendy pick to win their division. It all comes down to whether or not The Ginger Prince is really an NFL-caliber QB.

Ross: This feels like the AFC’s version of the Tampa Bay Bucs. Specifically that the entire season hinges on the development of the QB. If Andy Dalton keeps being average Andy Dalton, then this team will never do better than nine or 10 wins and a quick playoff exit. Based on my prediction it’s clear I don’t think he’ll take the next step.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2012 Record: 5-11

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 150/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 9-7

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Not to sound like a broken record, but another situation of “what can the QB do.” The Cleve’s defense should actually be very competent. They should have a good running game and will have some weapons at receiver once Josh Gordon comes back from suspension. Unlike Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, I think we already know that Brandon Weeden is not an NFL-caliber QB, and I don’t care that Norv Turner is his offensive coordinator now.

Ross: Stop. I’ll say it for you. I’m out of my god damn mind with this prediction. Every good sports prognosticator has to have one out-of-the-blue, so-crazy-it-just-might-work prediction, and the Browns to go 9-7 and win the AFC North is my version of that. I believe in a huge Trent Richardson year, a better than average Brandon Weeden year and a receiving group that’s a lot better than you think. I also believe they have seven very winnable games: Miami, Buffalo, Kansas City, Jacksonville, the Jets, Minnesota and Detroit. I’m all in on this team.

DENVER BRONCOS

2012 Record: 13-3

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 6/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 13-3

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Unless this is the year Payton Manning really drops off, I think they will be OK passing the ball. I do not believe their defense is going to be as good as last year (they had the 4th best defense in the NFL) and losing Von Miller for six games is a huge loss. They have some offensive line issues as well. That being said, their schedule is so easy they can still go 13-3 in the regular season. But don’t expect much in the playoffs. Again.

Ross: Coming off a year in which they went 13-3 and got the #1 seed in the AFC Playoffs, the Broncos get…the easiest schedule in the NFL. No seriously, it’s right HERE. Even if you think the Von Miller suspension and Elvis Dumervil fax machine faux pas is enough to make this defense bad, LOOK AT THEIR SCHEDULE. Their absolute worst case (barring Brock Osweiler being thrust into the starting QB role for some catastrophic reason) is 11-5. Kansas City x2, Oakland x2, San Diego x2, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Dallas, Philadelphia. You think they’re going to lose any of those games? Makes me sick.

HOUSTON TEXANS

2012 Record: 12-4

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 18/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

Ross: 9-7

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They are going to win double-digit games again because their division is horrible. Maybe they can win their wild card game if they get to play Cincinnati for a third year in a row. Then they will lose to a good team. Sound familiar?

Ross: I think last year was a bit of an aberration and we should expect a record more in line with the Matt Schaub/Gary Kubiak era. I bet the Texans are psyched for a three-week stretch in September/October that goes @Baltimore, home Seattle, @ San Francisco. Seems fair.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

2012 Record: 11-5

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 10-6

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They had a -30 point differential last year but went 11-5? Really?!? They went 9-1 in games decided by a TD or less. I smell a HUGE regression coming.

Ross: I could have made Andrew Luck a keeper in an auction fantasy league for $16. I know his average auction price is much lower than that, but I worry he’s about to make a significant leap this year. On the flip side, the inexperience of this team makes me think a bad loss, such as blowing a game at San Diego or Tennessee, could definitely be on the horizon. But I’ll stick with my original 10-win prediction.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

2012 Record: 2-14

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 300/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 4-12

Ross: 3-13

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Rather than show Jacksonville’s games on TV, can the networks just show an “under construction” banner for every Jacksonville game and we can check back in on them in two years?

Ross: You watch a preseason game where Chad Henne is slinging the football all over the field to Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, and you see Maurice Jones-Drew running wild. And you think, hey maybe this team will be frisky. But then you realize the Jags already named Blaine Gabbert the starter (and then promptly shut him down because of injuries…what did Henne do to deserve no shot at winning the job?), and Blackmon misses the first four games of the regular season, and that MoJo would have to put up an AP in 2012 type season to have a huge effect on this team’s record. And you realize they’re heading for the second pick in the 2014 draft.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

2012 Record: 2-14

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Yes, this team was very injured last year. Yes, Andy Reid is a huge upgrade from RAC. Yes, Alex Smith is a huge upgrade over Brady Quinn (and this is coming from a huge “Alex Smith is not a good QB” evangelist). But people are really picking them for nine or 10 wins and the playoffs? They only won two games last year. Seven wins would be a huge improvement.

Ross: I get all the reasons people are using to predict a big jump in wins for the Chiefs in 2013. I agree that their QB is going to be significantly better, that Jamaal Charles will be better another year removed from knee surgery, and a healthy and motivated Dwayne Bowe will be a stud. And while I agree that the coaching position got an upgrade, I do still think we need to remember they went from Romeo Crennel to Andy Reid, not Crennel to Bill Walsh. Reid is still the same guy he was in Philly. I’m fine with some improvement, but not playoff-level improvement.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Let’s give it a second year to make sure Ryan Tannenhill is competent before we decide if Miami is on a path to competitiveness.

Ross: Make no mistake, this team’s ceiling is 8-8. Why? Because they have a sneaky hard schedule with an opening seven games that could see them at 2-5 or worse (look it up). But more importantly, Ryan Tannehill was 100% healthy last season, played in all 16 games, and threw exactly 12 touchdown passes. And yet I keep hearing his name thrown around as a guy to watch out for this year, in real football and fantasy. When did throwing 12 touchdowns over a full season become an indicator for good things to come?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

2012 Record: 12-4

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 10/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: The defense has been rebuilding for years and should be at least average this year. I know they completely overhauled the receiving corps and the whole offensive philosophy since they went from “monopolizing the two tight end offense” to “we don’t have any tight ends”, but they still have Brady, they still have Belichick, and they should easily go 6-0 in a weak division.

Ross: Pretty quiet offseason for them huh? It’s like, jeez, Patriots, stop being so friggen boring. Get in a public contract dispute with the guy who’s been your best receiver for the past six years. Find a high-profile offensive star to reveal a crazy double life full of murder, paranoia and PCP. Turn over your entire receiving corps right as your Hall-of-Fame QB is getting down to his final few years to compete. DO SOMETHING THAT’S NOT SO BORING FOR ONCE. (You wanted objective analysis on this team? Fine, here it is: There will be some growing pains with the young receivers, it’s possible Danny Amendola really is injury prone, which would be bad news for the Pats. Their one offseason acquisition to help out in the secondary, Adrian Wilson, might get cut by the end of the week. They will win 11 or 12 games because the AFC is terrible, but the entire fan base will be pessimistic going into the playoffs.)

NEW YORK JETS

2012 Record: 6-10

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 100/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 5-11

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I actually think the defense is going to be good enough to win them a few games against their relatively easy schedule. I am sad because no matter how disastrously their QB and coaching situation plays out this year, nothing will top my favorite moment of the entire 2012 season.

Ross: For as fun as the 2012 Jets’ season was, they didn’t really bottom out like I hoped. If you remember, because of the weak AFC, they were still technically in the playoff hunt through week 14. This year I want to see a disaster coming out of the gate, which shouldn’t be too hard considering they play a schedule that could legitimately put them at 2-7 just in time for their week 10 bye. When you factor in Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith playing hot potato with the starting QB position throughout the preseason, I have no doubts the bottoming out that I’ve longed for is finally here. Sad to see you go, Rex, Mark, et al.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

2012 Record: 4-12

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 250/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 5-11

Ross: 2-14

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Another team completely rebuilding, which might actually work this time since the old owner isn’t around to derail the construction.

Ross: If the NCAA told Johnny Manziel he could either accept a five-game suspension or be guaranteed to get drafted first overall by the Raiders in 2014, which punishment do you think he’d pick? (Side note: It feels like a slap in the face to Jacksonville that Oakland’s getting better Super Bowl odds. The 2013 Raiders are going to make the 2013 Jaguars look like the 2007 Patriots.)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

2012 Record: 8-8

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 28/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 9-7

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: The defense, especially the pass defense, might be old and not that good. And the injury to Le’Veon Bell basically makes their offense “pass only,” which is tough since their QB never plays a full season. They are still the Steelers though, and the division is wide-open with Baltimore’s injury and personnel issues, and they have not missed the playoffs in consecutive years since 2000.

Ross: Yes, I’m picking all four AFC North teams to finish 9-7, however unlikely that is. More importantly, if you were the Steelers, why would you ever design a play again where Ben Roethlisberger stays in the pocket? Why would you even attempt to form a pocket around him? Couldn’t you come up with an entirely new offensive philosophy where you purposely let the pocket break down so the QB can scramble? Roethlisberger is Mark Sanchez as a pocket passer, but he’s Joe Montana when the pocket breaks down. If I found out right now that the Steelers were designing the first pocketless offense for the 2013 season, I’d pick Pittsburgh to go 14-2.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They finally got rid of Norv Turner, so that’s a plus. Seems like they got a good head coach that knows the division and knows QBs. I think the plan this year is “let’s see if Phil Rivers is our guy, or if we need a new QB.” Unfortunately for Rivers, their receiving corps has already taken a huge injury hit.

Ross: No read on this team, but I can tell you that an awful 2012 is not going to humble Philip Rivers. I watched San Diego’s second preseason game and the guy was in midseason form…yelling at refs, shaking his head at teammates. I don’t think we need to worry about Rivers toning it down in his old age.

TENNESSEE TITANS

2012 Record: 6-10

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 150/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Tennessee’s strategy this year: let’s rebuild our offensive line so that Jake Locker can not use that as an excuse, and let’s decide if Jake is our QB of the future. It is not like they were going to the Super Bowl this year anyway.

Ross: Jake Locker almost tricked me in their 3rd preseason game. He actually looked competent. But he texted me after the game to make sure I wasn’t getting any crazy ideas like drafting him in fantasy or predicting the Titans to go .500. Love that man’s honesty.

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The Best NFL Predictions You’ll Ever Read, Part 1: NFC Team Records

For those of you who followed our football content last year, you remember that guest blogger Neil and I wagered on who could most accurately predict each NFL team’s record for the 2012 season. He beat me somewhat easily and I still haven’t settled up the bet yet, which was for me to do a full day of babysitting his son. If I can just keep pushing that payment off a little while longer, we’ll get to a point where it would be extremely awkward for Neil’s college-aged son to be babysat by his creepy Uncle.

We’re running back the same competition this year, only the wager has changed. The winner will be picking eight different alcoholic beverages for the loser to consume over a 12-hour period during our annual March Vegas Trip in 2014. It’s not that eight drinks over 12 hours is a lot (especially not in Vegas), it’s that we can punish each other with some really terrible concoctions. My biggest complaint about this bet is that I’ve always been very vocal about the types of alcohol that immediately make me puke or start dry heaving. I’m not as familiar with which liquids will do that to Neil. Oh well. Just puts more pressure on me to win.

Below you’re going to find Part 1 of this competition, where Neil and I predicted the record for each NFC team and included a comment we thought was relevant to the team or our prediction. We’ll be back with Part 2, the AFC predictions, later this week.

Away we go…

Arizona Cardinals

2012 Record: 5-11

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 125/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 5-11

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I don’t think Carson Palmer is a great QB, but he has to be better than Skelton, Kolb, Lindley, & Hoyer, all who started games for Arizona last year. I would be higher on them if they were in the AFC, but they are in one of the top two divisions in the NFL. Very good and very underrated pass defense.

Ross: Their schedule is pretty brutal, playing seven out of 16 games against 2012 playoff teams. If it wasn’t for their defense and some Patrick Peterson plays that’ll swing some games, they’d be a four-win team. That’s how much confidence I have in Carson Palmer.

 Atlanta Falcons

2012 Record: 13-3

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 10-6

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: This team was within one drive of going to the Super Bowl last season, why am I so down on them? They went 7-2 last season in games decided by a touchdown or less. And their division should be much tougher this year, probably one of the two toughest in the NFL.

Ross: I’m actually not worried about the potential offensive line problems. Their talent at the skill positions give me confidence they’ll figure it out. Departures on defense in a tough division where they face potent offenses in New Orleans and Tampa could be the problem. Regardless, I’m excited for their return to being a playoff team that makes absolutely no noise in January.

Carolina Panthers

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 66/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I would not be surprised if this turns out to be 9 or 10 wins. I really like how they finished the season last year. Plus I think Cam Newton had an entire offseason to dwell on the fact that people don’t lump him in with the “core 4” of great young QBs. My biggest concern is that Ron Rivera might be a terrible head coach. We should know the answer to that at the end of this season.

Ross: I’m worried the Panthers are doing to their fans what a golf course does to me whenever I play. I play like a lefty who should probably switch to righty for about 17 holes, but without fail I birdie the 18th, luring me into wanting to play again in the future. Carolina has started 2-8 in each of Cam Newton’s two years on the team before winning the majority of their final six games to instill unnecessary hope in their fan base.

Chicago Bears

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: The Bears offense should be great this year. Probably their best offense in the last 25 years. Unfortunately their defense is getting old and I don’t see it scoring eight TDs like last year.

Ross: Their schedule is tough not because they play many of the best teams but because they don’t get to play any of the expected worst teams. It’s 16 games of either good teams or frisky average teams, which puts a lot of pressure on the Bears to bring their best every game. They will for about half the schedule.

Dallas Cowboys

2012 Record: 8-8

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 7-9

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I cannot find a reason why this team will be any different than last year’s 8-8 team. I’m going one less win because in early December they realize that Jason Garrett is not the answer and they mail-in the rest of the season.

Ross: Dallas is one of the many NFC teams who can lay claim to theory that they’d be a playoff lock if they played in the AFC. Another year of the dreaded 8-8 will be their fourth straight non-playoff season, obviously enough to get Jason Garrett fired. But what will be fun to keep our eye on (or perhaps start a betting pool on) is what week during the regular season he gets the pink slip if they dip way below .500.

Detroit Lions

2012 Record: 4-12

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 6-10

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: A lot of people are expecting a nice bounce-back year from Detroit, and I agree with those people. Just don’t get too crazy with the win total. Remember that 8 wins will double their total from 2012.

Ross: I think this team is average enough to initially put them down for eight or nine wins. But after watching them in the preseason, I realize they’re still the same undisciplined cheapshot-loving team whose head coach is apparently letting the inmates run the asylum. They don’t make any real noise in this league until they replace Jim Schwartz. And unnecessary dickheadedness will cost them a couple should-be wins in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

2012 Record: 11-5

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They went 11-5 last year and were the most injured team in the league. Injuries have a way of evening out from year to year. If they’ve figured out that the read option is a thing, they might even go a win or two higher than this.

Ross: Opening the season against three consecutive 2012 playoff teams should tell us a lot about whether the Packers are back to their 2011 level when they rolled through the season and finished 15-1. This is a situation where I wish we could just fast forward to that day in January when Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers realizes he’s facing the 49ers in the upcoming playoff game and spontaneously pisses himself. With the way those two teams are going, that could become an annual tradition for the next five years!

Minnesota Vikings

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They went 5-1 last year in games decided by a TD or less. What Adrian Peterson did the last ten games of last season to carry this team into the playoffs was super human. Christian Ponder is still the QB. I think six wins is actually the ceiling for this team. Big crash back to earth.

Ross: Harder schedule than 2012 + No fucking way Peterson replicates 2012 + Trying to replace Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield with Greg Jennings and rookies + Ponder might get benched quicker than Mark  Sanchez…It all adds up to a 7-9 season. No logical Vikings fan should be expecting more.

New Orleans Saints

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 18/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I appreciate that they get the second best coach in the NFL back, but he is not an all-pro defensive end or defensive back, right?

Ross: Tough one to predict because of last year’s unique circumstances. In case you didn’t know, the Saints not only had to employ an interim Head Coach, but before that an interim interim Head Coach had to grab the reigns for the first six games. Not sure if the big drop from 13-3 in 2011 to 7-9 in 2012 was purely a product of the Bountygate fallout, or if it was an accurate depiction of who the Saints are now.

New York Giants

2012 Record: 9-7

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 22/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I still get angry (read: bitter) thinking about how mediocre this team becomes the two seasons after their last two Super Bowl wins.

Ross: I don’t have much on them. They feel like the NFC’s version of the San Diego Chargers. Not because they’ll be as bad as San Diego, but because they’re as forgettable as those Chargers. I’ve barely heard a thing about either team during the two months of preseason. I guess that’s not a bad thing when the alternative could be lots of negative attention (*cough cough* that other New York team *cough cough*). And of course plenty of attention will be paid to the Giants when David Wilson breaks out or Eli Manning admits he was cycling with A-Rod during the 2008 and 2012 playoffs.

Philadelphia Eagles

2012 Record: 4-12

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 8-8

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: I really wanted to go with seven wins here, but it may take the league a few weeks to figure out Chip Kelly’s offense, so that may be good for an extra win.

Ross: I actually think this Eagles team with a full season of Michael Vick could win nine games. But I was totally caught off guard when I learned that Vick has only made it through a full season twice in his NFL career. Even though he could buck the trend in any given year, it’s just not possible to confidently predict this team’s record without accounting for at least one or two subpar Nick Foles starts. That’s why I put them in for only seven wins.

St. Louis Rams

2012 Record: 7-8-1

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 6-10

Ross: 7-9

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Seems like a team that is going to play everyone tough, but they have a difficult schedule and are probably a year away. Is it too early to pick them as my 2014 sleeper?

Ross: The Rams face either a 2012 playoff team or a team that’s expected to be much improved every other weekend this year. I could see them winning about half their games but never stringing together consecutive wins.

San Francisco 49ers

2012 Record: 11-4-1

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 6/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Solid defense, really solid offensive line. I think the Crabtree injury hurts them more than people realize, especially because the game plan should always be to make sure Kaepernick does not beat you with his legs. I’m very excited to find out if he’s an accurate passer or not.

Ross: After dealing with Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck to start the year, the 49ers get six straight games where they’ll be big favorites. There’s a reason they’re the odds-on favorite to win the NFC, and only a Colin Kaepernick injury or Jim Harbaugh getting assassinated by a referee (due to the constant tantrums he throws every time they make a call against his team) can derail them.

Seattle Seahawks

2012 Record: 11-5

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 17/2

2013 Prediction

Neil: 11-5

Ross: 12-4

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: They may lose out on the division championship to San Francisco by a game or via a tiebreaker, but this team is in much better shape that the Niners for a Super Bowl run. They have a better passing game and can stop the pass better than the Niners can, and that will make a huge difference come playoff time.

Ross: Seattle feels like a replica of the 49ers right down to me thinking their absolute worst case is 11-5. It would be shocking if both teams didn’t make the playoffs, which means the difference between winning the division or getting stuck with a wildcard spot will come down to the two head-to-head matchups between them. I’ve got Seattle at 11-3 before factoring in those two huge division games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2012 Record: 7-9

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 9-7

Ross: 8-8

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: Nine wins might be a bit low for them, but they are in such a tough division that one or two bad breaks can be costly. Assuming they stay relatively healthy, their entire season rides on Josh Freeman. The defense appears to be somewhere between “very good” and “stacked.” Great offensive line. Great running back. Great receiving corps. So how far can Josh take this team? He’s also in a contract year. No pressure.

Ross: I keep saying “explosive offense” over and over in my head when I think about this team because I love the combination of Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But then I remember Josh Freeman. Is his ceiling essentially what we’ve seen from Andy Dalton the last couple years? That would give them a chance at the playoffs. But I worry his upside might be lower than that. And when I see that his combined stats from the Bucs’ three preseason games are 12-of-26 passing for 101 yards and nine sacks taken, I’m not apt to shake this bad feeling about him.

Washington Redskins

2012 Record: 10-6

2013 Super Bowl Odds: 33/1

2013 Prediction

Neil: 10-6

Ross: 11-5

Comment We Strongly Felt You Needed To Read

Neil: If RGIII is healthy all year, the Redskins are going to be in very, very good shape. They might not be as good as Seattle, San Francisco, or Tampa, but they are in a much easier division than those three teams, which puts the #1 playoff seed in play, something that’s going to be very important in the NFC. A healthy RGIII in a home playoff game is the great equalizer.

Ross: I stand by my comments at the start of last year’s playoffs that the Redskins were good enough to get to the NFC Championship. If RGIII doesn’t get hurt in their first and only playoff game, I think they do it. And a healthy Griffin this year will give me the same confident prediction. The NFC East is going through a slight down period and the ‘Skins can take advantage. 11-5 seems totally reasonable if The Man plays 15 or 16 games. I’m thinking the 33/1 odds for Washington to win the Super Bowl might be the best longshot bet in all of football.

 

Not a ton of variation as we were more than one win apart in our predictions for only three of the 16 NFC teams. I think that actually says a lot about the NFC. It’s extremely competitive with a handful of upper-tier teams, a HUGE middle class and only a couple bottom feeders. I’m thinking we were both hesitant to predict too many extremes in a conference where the schedules are so tough that “average” might be a really good year for most.

We’ll be back with the AFC predictions later in the week.

According to Yahoo, I Shouldn’t Even Bother Playing Fantasy Football This Year

I haven’t played fantasy football through Yahoo in several years. ESPN is my service of choice. But this year I joined a new league that’s being run on Yahoo. No big deal, all the draft applications are more or less the same at this point.

But at the conclusion of yesterday’s draft, Yahoo sent me this email:

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 11.08.01 AM

Cool, right? They give me a nice compliment (“With a manager like you…should be in great shape”), and then they say my “C” grade is short for championship. Fuck yeah. Championship team guaranteed it sounds like.

Then I clicked the link to read my full report card (click on the pictures to make them larger):

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In case you decided not to read Yahoo’s scathing remarks about my team, I’ll give you the short version: Apparently the C grade does correspond to the typical letter grade scale where A is good and F is horrible. So it doesn’t stand for Championship after all? That was just their way of fucking with me in the email? And then they say I’m projected for a 4-10 record, 8th place in the league and called four of my running backs “the worst foursome of RBs in the league.” (Marshawn Lynch, Stevan Ridley, Darrent Sproles and Shane Vereen)

The final part of the report card that I didn’t attach to this post said that my strongest position is defense, where I selected Cincinnati. Fan fucking tastic.

So my question, obviously, is where the hell does Yahoo get off telling me to give up on the season before a single game is played? Oh right, because all of their expert player projections are always spot on. You’re right, Yahoo, you know exactly how many points each player is going to score each week, and you obviously know that my competitors are going to set the exact lineup every week that you think they should.

Maybe they’re just trolling me with this report card?

Obviously it’s a bunch of crap. On top of those four “worst RBs” I also grabbed Montee Ball and Bernard Pierce for depth, I have Matthew Stafford (guaranteed 5,000 passing yards) as my QB, Randall Cobb, Dwayne Bowe and DeSean Jackson as my starting WRs, and Fred Davis (accidental autopick) as my TE.

That’s championship caliber with a capital C. Any idiot can see that.

So after I win the championship in this league I’ll go back to what most of the world already does with Yahoo…completely forget that it exists.

2013 New England Patriots Preview (By A Guest Blogger Who’s A Real Life Journalist!)

[Editor’s Note: As I mentioned in my “What To Expect” blog post yesterday, I’ve commissioned the services of a real life journalist (read: someone who doesn’t just sit at home and blog in his undies) to preview the New England Patriots for us. Matt Blanchette is a Sports Anchor at ABC in Providence, Rhode Island. And unlike me, Matt has actually been attending Patriots training camp all summer so he’s a much better resource to update us on what’s actually taken place up to this point. Take it away, Matt.]

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I volunteered to be a guest blogger for Ross to provide a less biased opinion of the Patriots as we head into the 2013 season. I’ll do my best.

I am hardly the first to say it, but despite losing Rob Gronkowski to frailty, Aaron Hernandez to murdering, Wes Welker to Peyton Manning, Danny Woodhead to the Chargers and Brandon Lloyd to a local car wash, the Patriots offense will be fine. It is very simple. As long as Tom Brady is taking snaps, this offense will put up points. Sure, they won’t break records like the 2007 team, but the idea here is to win a championship, and you do that with a balanced offense and defense. Here is a position by position breakdown.

Quarterback

Tom Brady has only thrown one incompletion in two preseason games and seems to be “clicking” just fine with his new weapons. Despite the twitter meltdown last week after he left practice with a knee injury, TB12 looks as good as ever, and will be counted on perhaps more than ever. Ryan Mallet is developing and proving to be a worthy backup, though maybe not the trade bait some want him to be. And for anyone who thought Tim Tebow would elevate himself to #2, you are mistaken. Tebow has looked awful in camp and in the two preseason games. The Pats have actually changed the offense for him, and when he does run their typical offense, he continues to look lost. I still think he makes the team, but he will never be the starter.

Running Back

The Patriots deepest position on offense. I could see them keeping six players here. Steven Ridley is a beast, and if he cures his fumbling woes could be a top five back in the league. Shane Vereen is Kevin Faulk 2.0 and will be ideal on third downs. He has also proven he can run the ball in addition to catching it out of the backfield. Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount has been one of the biggest surprises of camp. The former 1,000-yard rusher looks like he did when he was the starter for Tampa Bay. He is huge, and will be used on 3rd and short and goal line situations, but showed with his 51 yard touchdown run against Philly he can still bust the long one and is capable of finishing off runs. His emergence could cost Brandon Bolden a spot, but the second year player has also impressed in the limited time he has seen the field. Leon Washington hasn’t shown much as a RB, but with Welker gone, he will play a pivotal role as a return man, and his roster spot should be safe. Which leaves fullback James Develin. The college linebacker seemed like a long shot to make the team, but performed well in the second preseason game, and could take the spot of a tight end. 

Tight End

Which leads me to the TE position. There is no indication Rob Gronkowski is going to be healthy anytime soon, and will likely miss the first 6 weeks of the season, or more. Currently I would put undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld at the top of the depth chart. He stands out in practice almost every day, and proved he can make a catch in traffic when he hauled in a TD against the Bucs. He is like a mini Gronk, has the 6-7 height and could grow into a great player. This leaves Jake Ballard to be primarily the blocking tight end on the two TE sets. He is proven, though his pass catching ability has been suspect at camp. Daniel Fells has dropped, and Michael Hoomanawanui could be a roster casualty in lieu of the aforementioned Develin.

[Editor’s Note: “Studfeld” is suddenly the cool nickname for undrafted rookie TE Zach Sudfeld, but I’ve got a pending copyright on Gronk Jr. and Baby Gronk. Based on the catches he’s made in preseason, get ready to hear a lot about Baby Gronk during the regular season.]

 Offensive Line

Brady will have his most solid unit in years. Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Dan Connolly are all mainstays. Ryan Wendell, Marcus Cannon and Will Svitek provide depth. This unit should not be an issue.

Wide Receiver

This is the most talked about unit on the team. Who is going to replace the production of the departed? Danny Amendola has shown an immediate chemistry with Tom Brady and the comparisons to Welker are accurate and just. If he stays healthy, Amendola will be a Pro Bowler. The rookies have all looked good, but not consistent. At this point undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins is leading the pack. He’s shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time and has already earned Brady’s trust. Aaron Dobson is the best deep threat the Patriots have had since Randy Moss. He has the size, speed and hands to be a big time player in time. Julian Edelman and Josh Boyce are also in the mix.

Defensive Line/Linebacker

This could be the Pats’ strongest unit. Tommy Kelly has a lot left in the tank and could team with Vince Wilfork to be a force in the middle of the 4-3 defense. Chandler Jones is healthy again on one end, and is poised to have the breakout season everyone predicted during his rookie campaign. On the other end is Rob Ninkovich, who continues to make plays and is one of the leaders of the D. The linebackers are solid with Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Donta Hightower. Rookie Jamie Collins is in the mix and is an athletic freak, but part of me doubts he has that natural football instinct to ever be a star in the league.

Defensive Back

This unit has the most question marks. Alfonso Dennard has missed most of camp and has pending legal troubles. If healthy, he is a lock to start at corner, but that remains a question. Aqib Talib will start at the other corner, and should be motivated as he returns to the Pats on a one-year deal. He will almost always lock up with the opposing team’s number one. If Dennard plays, Devin McCourtry will start at safety. He too is dealing with an injury and has sported the red no-contact jersey for most of camp. Much like last year I expect him to rotate between corner and safety. Kyle Arrington can pick up the slack there, as well as subbing in nickel and dime packages. The other safety position will go to either incumbent Steven Gregory or veteran Adrian Wilson. Two former high-round picks Tavon Wilson and Ras-I Downling have looked shaky and appear to be complete misses.

So back to where we started, and maybe I am biased too, but playing in a weak AFC East, the Patriots should easily get to 12-4 again this year and put themselves in a position to make noise in the playoffs. How far they can go will depend on how quickly the new-look offense gels, and if the defense can keep from giving up as many big plays as they have the past two seasons. But once again Pats fans have plenty of reason for optimism in Foxboro.

Football Is Taking Over The Blog (Again), Here’s What To Expect

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All the experienced will-blog-for-food readers know that this is the time of year where 97% of the content turns into sports talk. Listen, it’s not that football is the only thing I want to write about from August through February, but it’s pretty hard to have new experiences to relay to my readers when I spend every waking minute watching football, tinkering with my fantasy teams, second-guessing my suicide pool & pick ‘em league decisions, and sweating out $5 bets that will determine whether I can splurge for the beef-flavored Ramen or not.

I promise to try to get my girlfriend or dog to do something ridiculous enough from time-to-time that it becomes blogworthy material, but no promises.

But for the football fans, rest assured that I’ll be building off last year’s success of putting out a weekly picks and a weekly recap article during every week of the football season.

Now the biggest dilemma I wrestle with here at the WBFF headquarters is how to entice sports fans to read my material when they’re already getting blasted in the face by the constant fire hose of information coming from respected websites and columnists. If you’re like me, you can seriously waste an entire day refreshing your Twitter feed and clicking on all the interesting football links. There are the updates from local media outlets on your favorite team, the ESPN.com articles, the more hardcore sites like Rotoworld and Football Outsiders, the newer sites like Grantland and Sports on Earth…In my world, it can seriously go from 7am to 6pm in the blink of an eye on a good football-reading day.

The most obvious reason you should put more value on my football posts than anything else you read is because of the actual results. In my picks against the spread during the 2012 season, I went 150-109-8, a 58% win rate. I was good over a long sample size during the 17-week regular season (57%), and I was better in the small sample size of the playoffs, going 8-3 (73%).

If you had bet $110 on every game I predicted over the season, you would have profited $3,010.

I also won my two season-long Pick ‘Em leagues and one of my two fantasy leagues. And if you stuck with me for the Suicide Pool picks, you at least got through week 9 alive.

I’m not saying this to brag, but I am telling you it’s probably not a coincidence that the first year I’ve paid such close attention to the NFL (watching every preseason game, reading as much info about all 32 teams as possible, having a minimum of three devices broadcasting games on Sundays at my apartment) is also the year where I’ve had the most success.

And 2013 is no different. We’re only 16 days away from the Thursday night opener between Baltimore and Denver, and I’m finally caught up on all things football. I’ve read all the football content the internet has to offer—fantasy and regular—and I’ve watched more preseason football than I thought humanly possible while maintaining a only-slightly-strained relationship with my girlfriend.

I’m about one week away from locking in all my predictions for the year.

And that’s what you’ll see coming up over the next two weeks on the blog. Later on Tuesday we’ll have a New England Patriots preview from a Rhode Island news reporter who actually makes a living covering the team. He did me the favor of providing a guest Patriots blog while I focus my attention across the entire NFL landscape.

And early next week you’ll get predictions on the exact number of games each team will win in 2013. Guest blogging regular Nkilla will be assisting me like last year, and we’ll be competing to see who can come closest to guessing each team’s win total (a bet that involves the winner picking the loser’s alcoholic beverages in Vegas is on the line).

We’ll also be providing answers to key questions like “Who will pass for the most yards in the NFL this year?” and “How many times per game will Jim Harbaugh berate a referee or act like a five-year-old whose parents told him he couldn’t have any ice cream?”

And that’s where the other main reason to read my stuff comes into play, for the lighter side of football. Why shouldn’t we debate whether it’s Jerry Jones or Titans owner Bud Adams who’s really the new Al Davis? Why wouldn’t we create a fake scenario in which Larry Fitzgerald orchestrates the murder of all three of his 2012 quarterbacks? (Note to Carson Palmer: Fitzgerald just might finally snap if you don’t prove to be at least a minor upgrade from Ryan Lindley.)

So for as much as we’ll be giving intelligent, game-changing advice throughout the football season, we’ll also be putting an equal amount of energy into calling out the ridiculous shit that will inevitably transpire when two teams of HGH-enhanced guys battle on the football field. Speaking of unnecessary rage, here’s the play that’s getting the most buzz these days. I guess because one guy tried to use another guy’s helmet as a weapon and he’s now suspended for week 1 of the regular season.

My final thought for the day is this: Every football fan should be watching preseason football. Why? Because for as much as you can read about other peoples’ choices for breakout players, sleeper fantasy candidates and important position battles, only watching with your own two eyes will really give you the insight you need. Have faith in your ability to accurately predict which fringe wide receivers look good enough to grab at the end of your fantasy draft, only after you’ve watched them in preseason.

And besides, it’s about time to recondition your girlfriend/wife/mother/whoever you live with that football is coming and they’d better get used to you sitting on your ass for upwards of 11 hours each Sunday.

Oh yeah, and….IT’S FUCKING FOOTBALL! What more do you need?

My advice is to DVR all the preseason games (especially week 3 coming up), which are available on the NFL Network, and then quickly go through at least the first half of each one. If you fast forward all the non-football stuff and even use the “skip ahead 30 seconds” button on your remote control in between plays, you’ll knock out a half of football in 35 minutes while still seeing the important stuff. No-brainer.

And my second piece of advice is to come back to this blog often over the next six months for entertaining goodness.

My War With DirecTV

My relationship with DirecTV is easily the most complicated relationship I have with any person, place or thing in my life.

There’s the normal love-hate feelings that everyone probably has with their satellite or cable provider. I love that I have access to every TV channel ever invented, and I especially love the option to watch every Boston sporting event on TV when I’m 3,000 miles away (thanks to NFL Sunday Ticket, NHL Center Ice, MLB whatever it’s called).

But I fucking hate when I accidentally do the math on how much money I’ve paid them over the nearly seven years I’ve been a customer (modest estimates put the total at around $11,000).

But the more complex part of my ongoing fling with DirecTV is the yearly dance we do when I call and threaten to leave them if they don’t give me crazy discounts to show their appreciation for my blind loyalty.

[Editor’s Note: If you are in good enough shape financially and hate the thought of dealing with customer service calls, trying to negotiate with large companies, and trying to “pull a fast one” on someone in general, the rest of this article may be useless as you’d never waste your time going through this process. And that’s perfectly fine. Good for you. But an extra $60 a month for me is the difference between getting to use the electricity in my apartment or making due with the leftover stubs of old candles to light the place.]

Just a few years ago I didn’t actually know these conversations even existed. I always assumed that the price of a service was the price of a service, end of story. But then people started telling me that if you call and pretend like you’re going to switch to cable, DirecTV might throw in some free programming or give you a loyalty discount. I even have friends who claim they call their credit card companies every six months and chastise them for their awful rates or rewards programs, and in return they walk away with some extra perks.

Brilliant, right? And if you don’t have the balls to scream at these faceless customer service reps in order to get these bonuses, then you’re an even bigger wuss than I am.

So about 15 months ago I finally put this theory to the test when I called DirecTV to complain about my monthly bill being way too expensive (I was probably paying $125ish a month for their “Choice Xtra Package” and HBO/Cinemax access). Well wouldn’t you know it? After initially resisting my advances, the customer service rep spoke with a manager who “found” a customer loyalty discount of $10 off per month for the next 10 months. And then they “found” a promo that would give me HBO/Cinemax for free over those same 10 months. And then, by the grace of god they “realized” they could offer me the NFL Sunday Ticket package (typically like $300 a year) at no cost, but just for this one time.

Based on one simple phone call, my 2012 DirecTV bill was reduced by about $650 (with the savings funneled directly into my sports gambling account).

So fast forward 10 months and now it’s the spring of 2013. I get my monthly bill and sure enough the promos have ended. I’m paying full price again for everything. Not cool.

But fine, let’s go through this whole charade again.

Except this time when I call, they don’t fall all over themselves trying to keep me as a customer. They tell me that my previous discounts were one-timers and not available to be renewed. They tell me the only promo available is three months free of Starz. I don’t want fucking Starz, I want a monthly bill under $100.

They call my bluff, and I’m stuck with nothing (wasn’t even smart enough to say yes to the free Starz offer).

[Quick note for the uninformed: DirecTV is the only satellite or cable package that has the full NFL Sunday Ticket. This is how they’re holding me hostage. The moment the NFL decides to end its deal with the devil I’ll be jumping ship to a different service.] 

And now we get to the present with this overly-detailed story. Football season is rapidly approaching. As I mentioned, the NFL package was free for me last year. Prior to that I lived with other guys who would split the cost with me, so I was never paying more than $100 for access to all the games. Now I’m faced for the first time with having to shell out $300 on my own for football. FUUUUUUCK.

I’m basically screwed, but then the epiphany happens…

I’m constantly getting these taunting offers in the mail from DirecTV:

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But of course it’s for new customers only. Apparently new customers can get access to all of DirecTV’s products and some stuff that hasn’t even been invented yet for like $7 a month. Don’t give the guy who’s paid you $11K a deal, but give all the new people the “super duper package with a free blow job” deal.

Anyway, that’s when it hits me. Why wouldn’t I cancel my DirecTV account entirely and have my girlfriend, who has never been a customer, set up a brand new account in our apartment? It’s the simplest, yet most brilliant idea I’ve ever had.

For the next 12 months, our bill goes from $112 to $60, we get all the channels we’re used to getting plus more (Showtime, HBO and Max for free), and they’re giving us the NFL Sunday Ticket add-on at no cost.

Sure, we have to pay about $75 for a one-time installation fee since someone needs to come to our apartment to make the switch, but we’re saving $745 over the next year (over $1,000 in savings if you include the free NFL package).

All-time no-brainer, right?

So why wouldn’t DirecTV just hook me up when I called them one last time and carefully explained exactly what I was plotting? I don’t know, and I no longer care. They called my bluff again, but this time I was holding the better hand. I win, they lose. They fucking suck, I fucking rock.

And I just created the blueprint for everyone who shares an apartment to screw over DirecTV.

Now I understand what “laughing all the way to the bank” means.

DirectTV fuck you

Comparing The Dramatic Payoffs of Two TV Shows That Don’t Belong In The Same Sentence

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SPOILER ALERT!

(Though I doubt there’s anybody out there who plans to watch Breaking Bad and hasn’t caught up yet. That would just be stupid.)

This could be the most unnecessary commentary in the history of the written word.

When the epic confrontation in the garage happened on Breaking Bad this past Sunday, I was so pissed. Not because I was unhappy with what I was seeing, but because it immediately made me think of a significantly inferior show, How I Met Your Mother.

Let me explain.

When Breaking Bad took less than one full episode to go from Hank’s realization regarding Walter White as Heisenberg to the two men coming face-to-face in an incredible showdown, it was one of the most surprising decisions in the history of television for multiple reasons. Think about how many shows, both past and present, would string the audience along for a handful of episodes (or perhaps an entire season) before finally allowing that one-on-one sniff-out in Hank’s garage to happen.

We’re talking about a show with the highest of high stakes—a meth kingpin who happens to be dying from cancer, a man who has killed countless people and destroyed even more lives, a man on the verge of being found out by his DEA Agent brother-in-law—and they gave us the biggest payoff in the history of the show less than one episode after they put the setup in place.

About three months ago I informed my girlfriend that I would not be watching the ninth and (thank god) final season of How I Met Your Mother this fall. There’s really nothing redeeming about it at this point, and it’s been that way for a while. I was holding on because, hey, we needed to find out who this mother was. The person the entire show was building up to for 184 episodes. And when they finally revealed her for all of six seconds last May, no one gave a shit because she was a brand new character that had no effect on the main character’s life up to that point.

So to recap, a show with the highest stakes possible took less than one episode to go from setup to payoff on the biggest confrontation in its history.

And a show about a whiny douche living in New York whose only problem is not being able to find his fairy tale love-at-first-sight future wife has taken eight years to go from setup to payoff, and it was the least impactful reveal in TV history.

Hey it could be worse. You could invest five years in Lost and end up getting no legitimate answers from the creators after wasting those 100+ hours of your life.

(I could write about 25,000 words criticizing How I Met Your Mother, like how the main character is the worst of the five regular actors on the show, and how he must be so bad that they completely stopped creating major story lines for him years ago, and how it’s morphed into a story about Barney and Robin, and how they forget to have any storylines revolving around Ted’s love life (presumably what the entire show is supposed to hinge on) for handfuls of episodes at a time. Awful, awful show. But that’s another blog for another day.)

I just wanted to put this in writing so the five people still watching HIMYM could maybe understand why the rest of us quit on this show a while ago. Nobody can pretend to care about Ted Mosby’s search because no one gives a shit if he succeeds or not. I think it’s insane for a dopey sitcom to treat its future revelations the same way dramas with life-or-death stakes do.

I know it’s pretty ridiculous to even compare these two shows. It would be like someone watching the Little League World Series and complaining that those pitchers don’t throw nearly as hard or precise as Matt Harvey, Felix Hernandez and the rest of the major league pitchers. But the contrast in the way the shows decided to deal with their “big reveals” was just striking to me.

And finally, if you’re someone who has watched both Breaking Bad and HIMYM in the past, there’s this legitimately funny seven seconds on YouTube:

Elysium: A Solid Movie Starring Matt Damon (aka The Director’s 2nd Choice Behind…Eminem??)

I went to see the sci-fi action movie Elysium on its first day in the theaters for three main reasons:

  1. Matt Damon in a starring role gives any movie a ton of credibility. I know his filmography isn’t mistake-free (Adjustment Bureau was terrible, can’t imagine We Bought a Zoo was very good), but over the course of his 20-year career he’s earned the benefit of the doubt on most projects he chooses (especially when it comes to action roles).
  2. The concept. From the trailers on TV I gathered the film was about a future where the most elite humans have left an uninhabitable Earth to live the utopian life on a space station while the rest of mankind is trying to survive on the ravaged planet. And of course a group of those Earth-dwellers would be plotting their way onto that paradise floating in the sky.
  3. Neil Blomkamp, the director and co-writer of the movie, has made only one other well-known film, District 9. If you enjoyed that flick as much as I did, you probably agree that any other project he’s involved in is worth seeing.

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I assumed Elysium would be a can’t-miss hit for Sony because it just seemed like the obvious choice for “best action film of the summer.”

And when I showed up for the 10:45 a.m. playing of Elysium at my hole-in-the-wall Culver City theater, I was certain the movie would be all the talk after the weekend. Typically when I go to a weekday movie at this theater, there are anywhere between zero and five other people in attendance (even for the most-hyped of movies). When I walked in on Friday, there were at least 30 people. That’s a 600% increase. How could this film not knock it out of the park?

But then I read about their underachieving opening weekend

I’m wondering if the stench of two disappointing movies from earlier in the summer that also featured a destroyed planet Earth have made people wary of this latest installment. The two in question would be Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, and After Earth, starring the entire Will Smith family.

If that’s your reason for staying away from Elysium, I’m urging you to reconsider. It doesn’t come close to getting a 10 out of 10 in my official watchability scale (see below), but it’s a fun movie with a ton of great action.

If the “sci-fi” tag typically keeps you away from a movie, I can tell you it’s only sci-fi in the most technical sense that it takes place in the future and there are certain scientific truths that don’t yet exist in our world. It’s not a movie about aliens, zombies or ghosts.

It’s really a story about people trying to secure or elevate their social status in a world where that status could mean the difference between life and death.

Max Da Costa (played by Damon) always wanted to get up to Elysium (the space station), but as an adult he’ll settle for being a working-class citizen rather than the ex-con-on-probation status that we see him in at the start of the movie.

Secretary of Defense Delacourt (played by Jodie Foster), already a high-ranking citizen on Elysium has even grander aspirations.

Even the character Spider, a smuggler on Earth, who knows he’s doomed to live out his life on the self-destructing planet aspires to be among the most elite non-Elysium dwellers.

It’s all about status until certain people start to get sick, and then it becomes all about getting to Elysium where their magical medical pods can cure anything, including natural aging.

The movie has a few good twists so that by the end you’re not so concerned with whether Damon’s character will make it up to Elysium, but rather if he’ll stick with his goal of saving himself, or if he’ll do what needs to be done to change the course of human history.

The biggest criticism I had after walking out of the theater is that many details and backstory were skimmed over in exchange for more time with the action. We never really learn any character’s motivation for doing what they do except for Damon’s. We never get any insight into how the elite make their paradise run so perfectly. 

With the movie coming in at one hour and 45 minutes, I actually wouldn’t have minded them stretching it to the full two hours if they would have used that time for backstory and subplots.

You should see this movie if: You enjoy a ton of action, especially chase scenes and one-on-one combat. You enjoy all things Matt Damon. You enjoy films with not-so-subtle social messages (just like District 9). The underdog stories always fascinate you. You want to see the best action movie of the summer.

You should not see this movie if: Your least favorite movie genres are sci-fi and action. You can’t enjoy a movie unless there is explanation and backstory for everything. You dislike violence. You piss yourself at the sight of a little gore. You like deeply developed characters and lots of subplot.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it a 7 out of 10. If you haven’t been keeping up with my summer movie reviews (which you can find HERE), this means I’m ranking Elysium slightly ahead of World War Z (6.5 out of 10), but behind Star Trek Into Darkness (7.5 out of 10) and Fruitvale Station (8.5 out of 10).

I was going to end this post by saying I will continue to see any movie that Neil Blomkamp makes because they are fun, action-packed films…But then as I was fact-checking some information about Elysium, I saw this on Wikipedia: “The main role was offered to rapper Eminem, but he wanted the film to be shot in Detroit. That was not an option for the two studios, so Blomkamp moved on to Damon as his next choice.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement, but mostly the fact that Eminem was the choice to play a lead role in a $115 million film over Matt Damon. Now I have to question everything Neil Blomkamp does for the rest of his life.

Watch A 30-Year-Old Try Coffee For The First Time (A Puke Bucket Was Almost Needed)

At this tender age of 30, I consider myself to be a mature, responsible adult, but there’s one thing I see all the other adults doing that makes me feel left out. They’re drinking coffee, and they’re loving it. They’re ordering up a Skinny Vente Mocha Latte at Starbucks, or an Espresso Drip from Blue Bottle, or they’re whipping up an individual cup at home with the Keurig.

And I’m sick and tired of being on the outside looking in.

My disdain for anything with the coffee taste is well-documented…a cup of coffee, coffee ice cream, tiramisu, Guinness beer. The slightest hint of that coffee taste usually makes me gag.

But I’m all about being included.

AND, I’ve heard there are actual benefits to drinking coffee. Well, one at least. It gives you energy. I see people wake up as zombies, but the moment a hot cup of coffee hits their lips, they start bouncing around and annoying the shit out of me.

I want that instant energy.

And so Wednesday, August 7th, 2013, will go down as a historic day in the life of Ross.

I drank an entire cup of coffee, and I video-documented the entire thing. Take a look below at the YouTube video.

(Quick Note: The video is six minutes long. I’m not saying it’s going to be the best six minutes of your week, but it definitely won’t be the worst. Give it a watch on the toilet, on your train/bus ride to work, while you’re waiting in line at the store. Just watch it. And since this is my first attempt at a video, things aren’t perfect. Like next time I won’t sit in front of that big window when the sun is coming directly into the apartment because everything looks so dark on the video. Enjoy.)

Fruitvale Station: A Fantastic Movie That You’ll Never Watch Twice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Editor’s Note: In my ongoing attempt at bringing my readers something other than sports blogs, here is my third movie review of the summer. It’s incredible how at-home you can feel on a Tuesday afternoon in an empty movie theater. Like I’m just watching a show in my living room, hand down my pants and all. If you didn’t read my other movie reviews from earlier in the summer, check them out HERE and HERE. Enjoy]

If you haven’t heard much buzz over Fruitvale Station, that’ll probably be changing soon. Though it came out on July 4th, it only got released nationwide about a week ago. And come award season, you’ll be hearing all about this film and its lead actor, Michael B. Jordan.

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The film is based on a true story about the last day of Oscar Grant’s life leading up to his savage murder by a Bay Area Transit Police Officer on New Year’s Day 2009.

The murder and the subsequent trial of BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle became a national topic not unlike the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

I’m not one to traditionally seek out politically-charged movies where race is at the center of a tragedy, but this all happened in my backyard as I was living in San Francisco at the time. I’ve gotten off the BART train at the exact station where Grant was shot (Fruitvale) a handful of times. It also turns out that a friend of a friend edited this entire movie, and I heard some Oscar buzz rumblings before the movie was even released. All of that plus my appreciation for all things Michael B. Jordan made it a must-see.

Jordan has been on a nice career path over the past 12 years (I say if he wins an Oscar he gets to drop the “B” and just go by Michael Jordan): He played Wallace on The Wire, a small but impactful role; then came the hotshot high school quarterback role of Vince Howard onFriday Night Lights; he followed that up with his first major movie role as a teenager with superpowers in Chronicle (I hated it, but plenty of people enjoyed it); and finally the lead role in Fruitvale Station. There’s also a rumor out there that he’ll play the lead role of Apollo Creed’s grandson in a Sylvester Stallone-produced spin-off of Rocky.

Needless to say, the guy can act. I can’t see his career not taking off on an even grander trajectory after his turn as Oscar Grant.

It’s a tough movie to get excited for because you know the ending ahead of time, and it’s a terrible, gut-wrenching ending. This innocent man is going to die. And that’s why I said it’s a fantastic movie that you’ll never watch twice. It’s not a comedy where you can pick up more humor the more you watch it, or an action movie where you want to see a crazy chase scene a second time.

You’re literally watching the final 24 hours of a young man’s life, hoping that somehow the ending is different than what you saw on the news in January 2009.

When I say innocent, certainly I don’t mean that Oscar Grant was a saint. He had spent time in prison, he was trying to quit dealing drugs to make sure he’d be around for his daughter and girlfriend, but early on in the movie we see that he just got fired from his grocery store job for constantly being late. 

And that’s pretty much what we get to see Grant go through on the final day of 2008: he knows what’s important to him now, and he’s trying to get his life on track to provide for his family, but he keeps getting in his own way.

It’s a simple story all the way up until the fateful BART ride home to the East Bay after Grant and friends watch fireworks in San Francisco. That’s when things get complicated, inexplicable and tragic. 

If you saw the movie Argo, you remember that final 10 minutes when they were going to the airport to make their great escape. You were probably sweating from the suspense even though you knew the outcome ahead of time.

It’s the same way in this movie once the cops show up to Fruitvale station and all hell breaks loose. You want to jump through the movie screen and tell the cops they’re overreacting, and that the guys they’re holding aren’t the ones who started the fight.

But it’s a pointless struggle as we watch the inevitable happen.

You should see this movie if: You enjoy movies based on true stories, even if it’s a sad story. You enjoy thought-provoking, authentic-feeling movies. You know of the Oscar Grant shooting vaguely, and you want more details. You want to knock one of the Academy Awards contenders off your must-watch list before the January/February scramble where you try to cram all the nominees into your viewing schedule. You’re a fan of brevity…this movie clocked in at 85 minutes long (I waste more time nightly watching Kardashians, Houswives or one of the 35 wedding shows that my girlfriend watches on an endless loop).

You should not see this movie if: Either by being a blatant racist or just an old person, you assume young black men are up to no good and you were OK with seeing the BART Police Officer get off with only involuntary manslaughter. You support George Zimmerman. Hearing someone call San Francisco “Frisco” will make you want to strangle that person (Oscar’s girlfriend keeps referring to the city as “Frisco,” which no one really says, right?). You only enjoy movies that take place in fairy tale worlds where everyone eventually gets what they want. You don’t enjoy heavy content in your movies. You want to walk out of the theater smiling and feeling good. You’re a mother who won’t be able to hold it together as you watch another mother lose her son.

On the Ross Watchability Scale, I give it a 8.5 out of 10. 

Like I already said, I can’t imagine Fruitvale Station is a movie you’re going to want to watch over and over, but everyone should see it once…for the story itself and the brilliance of Michael B. Jordan.