Week 9 NFL Picks (And My Search For Gainful Employment)

old-man-crystal-ball

This is shaping up to be a shorter-than-usual picks column. I’ll pause while you scream with joy.

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Done?

Awesome.

Typically I spend most of my Tuesday and Wednesday combing through NFL results, stats, analysis…anything to distract me from my pursuit of writing.

But this week I’m learning a tough lesson. And that lesson is this: Restaurant jobs are a young man’s game.

Deciding after 18 months of semi-retirement that getting some income might not be the worst idea, I spent the last few weeks debating what type of work I wanted to dabble in. The key is for that work not to take away too much time from my writing.

I have experience in only two professions…selling software and waiting tables.

Oh, make that three professions actually. Sunglass sales too.

OK fine, four professions. Library security guarding would be the fourth.

I’ve been out of the sunglass game so long I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And I haven’t seen the inside of a library in 10 years. Do they exist anymore? Didn’t the internet + Kindle + iPad + the world moving towards an uneducated majority put libraries out of business?

So that leaves two options. And I came to the realization long ago that the reason I become voluntarily unemployed for a few months every couple years is because I hate software sales so very much.

The pattern is: work at 70% effort level for three years, save money, don’t put money towards the things adults eventually need money for (house, wedding, kids, timeshare in Aruba), instead drain all that money by “taking a break from the sales career,” decide during that break that I’m never going back to sales, beg my way back into sales when the money runs dry.

Long story long, I started a job at a fancy Mexican restaurant this past Tuesday. Even though I interviewed to be a server, they start everyone off as a busser for training purposes. When I first worked in a restaurant 10 years ago, it was the same thing. But back then I had a young man’s body and energy. Back then it was a bunch of college kids socializing and flirting throughout our shifts. Back then I spent more time figuring out which waitress I was going to bend over a barrel and show the 50 states to later that night.

These past two days I’ve come home from three-hour shifts and felt like I needed to soak in one of those ice baths for 30 minutes. I can hardly walk. I dislike the thin layer of sweat, cooking oil and salsa that covers my entire body. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of college kids hanging out and planning the after-work party. It feels like adults who are actually trying to make a living. I almost threw out my back hauling a full trash barrel to the dumpster on Wednesday.

Part time restaurant jobs do not typically include benefits. Therefore if I do throw out my back, it’s going to take somewhere in the range of 15-20 shifts to make enough money to cover the costs of a chiropractor.

This is not good.

In conclusion, it turns out I don’t hate software sales that much after all.

In further conclusion, my football research time this week was spent trying to play a young man’s game. And I lost.

 

Here are the week 9 picks:

Cincinnati (-3) @ Miami

When I did my line guessing on Monday night, I had Cincinnati as a 6.5-point favorite. So you can probably guess which way I’m going in this game. Now that the Dolphins have lost four in a row to fall to 3-4 on the season, the only result that’s confusing through their first seven games is their win at Indianapolis. Don’t know how to explain that one. But wins over Cleveland and Atlanta don’t seem that good at this point, and they’ve lost home games to Baltimore (3-4) and Buffalo (3-5). They aren’t good and they’re also down an important receiver in Brandon Gibson. What am I missing? The Bengals roll, 27-16. 

Side Note: Another strike against the Dolphins’ chances on Thursday is THISIf the prank was anything other than the rest of the O-line showing him pictures of them gang-banging his wife/girlfriend, he’s a friggen wimp and should be cut.

Atlanta @ Carolina (-7.5)

I would have loved to see Vegas still refusing to give the Panthers the respect they deserve. But alas, the Falcons have been so bad the line makers had no choice but to stretch this to more than a touchdown. I’ve placed my biggest bet of the week each of the past three weeks on a Carolina cover, and they’ve come through each time. I know my luck is going to run out sooner than later, but I just don’t want to bet against them until they face a team that actually has a chance to win. I think Cam Newton can tear up this atrocious Falcons defense. I say Carolina wins by 10….30-20 final score.

Minnesota @ Dallas (-10.5)

I’m making this pick before we even know which terrible option the Vikings are going with at quarterback on Sunday. And before we even know if Minnesota’s going to make the trip to Dallas or just forfeit the game. And I’m still picking the Vikings to cover. This Cowboys team doesn’t deserve to be this big of a favorite against anyone not named Jacksonville. And coming off that loss in Detroit…the Cowboys being the most mentally weak team I’ve ever seen. No way they cover. If Minnesota was starting someone at QB that was at least the caliber of Tim Tebow or Brady Quinn, I’d be picking them to win outright. Instead I’ll go with a Cowboys win, 24-20.

New Orleans (-6) @ NY Jets

I was hoping this line was a little bit higher so I could feel even more sure about the Jets covering. Yes, the Saints were one play away in that Patriots game from still being undefeated. And no team has lost a game by more points in 2013 than the Jets’ no-show at Cincinnati last week. I feel like people would bet on the Saints even if the line was closer to 10. But not me. I love the Jets in this game. I dare you to look at who the Saints have played so far this year and still feel like they’re a sure-thing Super Bowl contender (the combined record of the six teams the Saints have beaten this year? 16-28). On the road against a good defense (I know, I know, that “good D” just got torched for 35 points)…and don’t forget the Saints have the uglier Ryan twin. And looks are extremely important for determining who’s better just as much in football as they are in all parts of life. Give me a Jets cover, but a Saints win, 31-27.

Side Note: As I mentioned in my week 8 recap column, this Jets team might be really difficult to pin down for the rest of the year. Win one, lose one. Keep a game close, get blown out. It seems like as Geno Smith goes, so go the Jets. And rookies tend to be pretty unpredictable. A pick for or against the Jets will almost never be a confident one from me.

Tennessee (-3) @ St. Louis

This is one of those games that leaves you feeling clueless about football. Should the Titans really be favored against anyone on the road? Should the Rams be even more of an underdog because Kellen Clemens is their best option at quarterback? It’s a waste of time to try to pick this game based off of statistics and research. I’m going to say that since the Rams were able to keep their game against Seattle on Monday to a five-point loss, they will also play Tennessee close. I’m taking the Rams to cover with a 21-18 win (I’d really like to call a push here and say the Titans win in overtime, but that seems like a very specific prediction).

Kansas City (-3) @ Buffalo

This line makes no sense. The 8-0 Chiefs against the 3-5 Bills. Of course it seems like this should be a 7-point spread regardless of Kansas City being on the road. But it looks like Vegas won’t let me outsmart them this time. I’ve been picking against the Chiefs the last two weeks and even promised to keep picking against them as recently as two days ago. I was just waiting for them to be a heavy favorite so I could roll over my World Series profit on the Bills (I did actually take the Sox to win it all back in April at 30/1 odds. Hurray for me!). You know what? Screw it. I’m still taking Buffalo to cover. Here comes KC’s first loss of the season. The Bills win 27-23.

Side Note: You know dynamic runner/receiver Jamaal Charles? The guy with all the speed who you think should be able to carry the load for the Chiefs in this game? Well keep in mind Darren Sproles had 0 rushing attempts and only 4 receptions (for 0 total yards) against the Bills last week. Not saying they’re the same player, but this Bills D might be really good against guys like that.

San Diego (-1) @ Washington

This is already the fourth game of the week where we have a road team favored by three points or less. These are frustrating games to pick. In the Norv Turner era, I would have quickly taken the Redskins and moved on, mostly because I would have felt like the Chargers would be looking ahead to week 10 where they’ll be facing Denver for the first time this year. But this is not the Norv era anymore, and the Chargers have had two weeks to prepare for RGIII. And don’t forget that while San Diego was relaxing on the beach last weekend, the Skins were getting beat up against the Broncos. Let’s dub this game “The One That Caused Obnoxious Media Personalities To Start Screaming For Kirk Cousins To Be Named The Starter So RGIII Can Get Healthy For Next Year.”

San Diego wins 31-24.

Philadelphia @ Oakland (-2.5)

On Monday I saw some websites that had the Eagles actually favored by the 2.5 points. Unfortunately my gambling website hasn’t posted a line for this game all week. Probably waiting on more certainty around the Eagles’ starting QB. But if Bovada had listed the Eagles as any kind of favorite at any point this week, I would have bet so hard on Oakland. You already know that I’m sneaky in love with the Raiders so the change to them being favored in this game does nothing to my pick. I’m taking the Raiders to cover and improve that sterling record to 4-4 with a 26-21 win over the Eagles.

Tampa Bay @ Seattle (-17)

Ahh, the final game on Greg Schiano’s season-long farewell tour. It’s the polar opposite of the Mariano Rivera farewell tour. Listen, I’ve been on a team where everyone hates the guy in charge (mine was a sales team, but still). It’s a toxic atmosphere. Guys stop doing their work and instead spend most of their time trash-talking the boss. They stop paying attention to details because subconsciously they want to sabotage the entire operation. Sometimes, like in almost every season of Survivor, a team wants someone gone bad enough that they consciously throw a game/challenge/whatever to further justify that person’s ousting. The Bucs will not compete in this game. And don’t forget that the Seahawks are coming off their version of a loss…a close road win that feels like a loss but still ends up in the win column. Seattle rolls to a 38-9 win.

Baltimore (-3) @ Cleveland

I’m not taking the bait on this one. I get it, you want me to take the Browns. Lots of people are going to be taking the Browns. After all, the Ravens have already lost road games to Buffalo and Pittsburgh, both by three points. And Cleveland played the Ravens very tough at Baltimore in week 2. And Jason Campbell didn’t look “that bad” against the Chiefs last week. And both teams are under .500 so why does it make sense that the road team would be favored? But my counter is this: It’s the NFL. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you don’t. Oh, and Baltimore’s had two weeks to get ready for a divisional matchup that they’re very motivated to win. These next two weeks are pretty much the season for Baltimore (they host Cincinnati in week 10). I’m picking the Ravens to cover with a 23-15 win.

Pittsburgh @ New England (-7)

I got incredibly lucky picking the Patriots last week. If New England doesn’t block that field goal late in the game, it’s a push. And if the Dolphins don’t screw up another field goal early in the 2nd half, where the ball hit the upright, the Dolphins easily cover. So I should say thank you to the football gods and not take my chances on another Patriots seven-point cover until they prove to be worthy of it. New England’s injury report is still alarmingly littered with important players. Gronk got added this week with a hamstring injury. Amendola, Bolden, Edelman and Marcus Cannon were already on there for the offense. And Aqib Talib’s status remains a mystery. Even if New England plays its best game of the year, this is ripe for a backdoor cover by the Steelers. I see the Patriots winning, but only by four. 27-23 is the call.

Indianapolis (-2.5) @ Houston

Ummmmmm….only 2.5? Is that real? And why isn’t it available on my gambling site so I can bet all of last week’s winnings + the Red Sox money + the cash advance I’m going to add to my balance later today? You want to tell me Reggie Wayne’s absence is going to hurt the Colts? Fine, but what about the fact that both Arian Foster and Ben Tate might miss this game? This Houston team is nothing without its running game. And Gary Kubiak’s worried enough about his running back tandem that he signed three free agent RBs this week just in case. This is not a trap game for the Colts as they literally have no difficult competition on the horizon (next 4 games: St. Louis, Tennessee, Arizona, Tennessee). And Indy’s already proved they can win on the road when they handled San Francisco earlier this year. Please let this game show up on Bovada with the current spread that I’m seeing on other sites. I could forego all restaurant and sales jobs if I can just get money down on this line now. I’m clearly taking Indianapolis by a score of 31-20.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-11)

I spent a solid 20 minutes looking for some logical reason to pick the Bears in this game. I’ve already picked enough favorites this week, including one double-digit favorite in Seattle. I want to go underdog here, but there’s just no statistical evidence that Chicago will put up a fight. Even with Jay Cutler the Packers have pretty much owned Chicago in Green Bay over the past five years. And you may have heard that they won’t have Cutler this time around. My only concern is the backdoor cover, but just like Aaron Rodgers was motivated last week to put up an extra score or two because of the Greg Jennings trash talk and playing a divisional rival, so too will he be motivated against their biggest rival in the Bears. Let’s ignore the backdoor potential and say Green Bay covers with a 36-20 win.

 

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 9 I’m taking:

  • 8 Favorites & 5 Underdogs
  • Of those 5 Underdogs, 3 are Home Dogs & 2 are Road Dogs

Now if you’ll excuse me, day three of the great restaurant experiment is calling.

Enjoy week 9.

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Week 8 NFL Recap: A Rush To Judgment Leads To Bruised Hands & Junk Food

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions

No matter how many times we have it drilled into us that in sports “it’s not over til it’s over,” we just can’t help rushing to judgment. Things can change so quickly, and we’ve all probably seen hundreds of examples of this across every sport.

But we just can’t help ourselves. Instead of patience, we feel the need to make a definitive statement about how things will end up, even when those things are still being played out right before our eyes.

I like to think of myself as a relatively even-keeled sports fan. But that doesn’t stop me from succumbing to the temptation to overreact. This past weekend was a perfect example.

After my Red Sox were on the losing end of that still-mind-boggling World Series game on Saturday night, I flipped out (kind of like Dez Bryant flipped out on Sunday). More depressing in my mind than the way that game ended was the fact that Boston was now down 2-1 in the series and a mysteriously-injured-or-fatgiued Clay Buchholz was the only thing standing in the way of the Cardinals getting a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. I reacted like any normal 30-year-old would: I crushed enough drinks at the bar to mostly wipe out my memory, and then I woke up Sunday morning with a confusing bruise on my left hand and a kitchen suddenly stocked with beef jerky, Goldfish, peanut M&M’s, a Heath Bar and Pringles. It seems like I had an anger-filled pity party for myself. I hope it was fun.

Fast forward to the first half of the Patriots-Dolphins game on Sunday and here are some of the notes I was taking for the recap blog:

  • “Marquice Cole might be the worst defender in the history of football…awful, awful coverage on the Dolphins’ first touchdown”
  • “It honestly looks like Gronk is the only eligible receiver on the field for the Patriots on every play. Why is Brady refusing to throw to Amendola, Edelman and Dobson???”
  • “Brady’s first completion comes with 1:35 left in the 1st quarter…terrible, terrible, terrible”
  • “The Pats’ best offensive weapon is a borderline pass interference call that went for 21 yards. Let’s do that 23 more times.”
  • “Patriots down 14-0. This might be over with the way Brady’s playing”
  • “From bad to embarrassing, the Pats get the ball to start the 2nd half and their three offensive plays are: Dobson drop on a perfect 10 yard throw, Brady trips on Ridley’s feet and gets hit while throwing a wobbler, Brady gets sacked…awful”
  • I don’t think I have the energy to deal with this Pats game and then another Red Sox loss later tonight..this is shaping up to be a terrible sports weekend for Boston fans”

Well…you don’t have to be a Boston fan to know that starting with the 2nd half of that Patriots game, this turned out to be a great sports weekend for New England. The Pats not only won, but they covered (important for jerks like me who always say they’re not going to bet on their own team but then do anyways). The Red Sox not only got a solid outing from Buchholz, but they won the game and knotted the series at 2-2.

Maybe the Patriots reacted to the Red Sox loss on Saturday night the same way I did and that’s why they were a bit lethargic to start the game on Sunday. The point is, no matter how much it kills us to demonstrate patience when things seem to be going bad, it’s necessary if you don’t want to have a meltdown every other day. I’ll try to remind myself of that if the Sox implode in game 5 on Monday night.

 

Let’s dig through the notebook and see what else went on this weekend outside of that Patriots game:

  • Calvin Johnson is good at football.
  • Dez Bryant is pretty good at football too, but he’s a fucking psycho. As Calvin continues to gravitate towards the Jerry Rice stratosphere, Dez continues to go down the Terrell Owens path. I hope the Dez-Dallas relationship ends as poorly as possible.
  • Speaking of Dallas and Detroit, I’m going out on a very small limb here and saying that was the best game of the year. Better than Peyton @ Indianapolis two weeks ago. Better than Patriots over the Saints in the final seconds. You couldn’t ask for more in this game. A 300-yard receiver, some circus catches from Owens Bryant, the Cowboys shooting themselves in the foot after leading by 10 with only six minutes left, and the perfect QB-WR combo to lead an unlikely comeback in the final minute. I even gained a new respect for Matt Stafford with that ballsy leap into the end zone on Detroit’s final score. If this had been the Thursday night game instead, it would have ended with Detroit winning 12-7.
  • I have a new favorite play of the year. Yes, better than all of those Brandon Weeden throws where he underhands it to a group of defenders. But this play also came from a Cleveland quarterback. With the Browns trailing by six and time about to run out, Jason Campbell ran to the line of scrimmage near midfield, got his team lined up, and then spiked the ball to “clock it” right as the game clock ticked to 0:00. I’m not sure, but I think a hail mary might have been the correct call.
  • It’s tough to get a feel for a lot of the games when you’re just watching the Red Zone Channel all day. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the Buffalo-New Orleans game was just play after play of the two QBs getting absolutely demolished every time they dropped back. Did anyone else watching the RZC notice that? Every highlight from that game was either Drew Brees or Thad Lewis getting drilled. I’m stunned neither of them got seriously hurt.
  • I told you before week 7 to start shorting the Chiefs because they were a soft undefeated team that is getting too much respect from Vegas. And guess what? They haven’t covered in their last two games, both of them at home against bad Houston and Cleveland teams. Yes, they still won both times and they’re now 8-0, but they won’t fool me. I will continue to bet against them, and I might even pick them to lose at Buffalo next week. If you look at their schedule, it’s conceivable that they’ll lose their next four or five games. I know, I know, blasphemy. Everyone’s so high on this defense and mistake-free offense, but they haven’t played anyone yet. The fall is coming. (end of Chiefs rant)
  • If you’ve been paying attention to my football columns, you know I’ve been wrong on my Redskins predictions every week. And this week I picked Denver to cover only so I’d be wrong again and my friends from Washington would end the silent treatment they’ve been giving me. So in one sense you probably think I broke my curse by picking correct in one of their games. And maybe I’m not a jinx anymore…but in another sense, I should probably tell you that when Washington took a 21-7 lead, I wrote in my notes, “This week’s ‘football makes no sense’ example: The Skins are going to beat Denver in Denver.” To my friends in D.C., I’m very sorry for this.
  • The real “football makes no sense” example from week 8 is this: The Raiders were the consensus to be the worst team in football this year. That was when we thought a potentially competent Matt Flynn would be their starting QB. Instead, supplemental draft pick Terrelle Pryor wins the starting job and suddenly they’re 3-4, have a legitimate shot to be 6-5 after week 12, and hearing Andrew Siciliano tease us that an update on the Raiders game is coming on the RZC makes us wonder what awesome thing Pryor did this time. It makes no sense that the Raiders are this fun.
  • My favorite Siciliano update on the Raiders game yesterday was not the Pryor 93-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, but rather when he told us that multiple Raiders players and coaches were flipping the refs off from the sideline after a bad penalty went against them. Once Tom Brady hits the IR with a broken throwing hand, I might adopt Oakland as my team for the rest of the year.
  • The Red Zone Channel could have renamed itself “Turnover Central” or “Interceptions Only Channel” for the four late games on Sunday. You think I’m exaggerating? With half a quarter left in each game, I jokingly guessed that I had seen about 14 turnovers between those four games. Turns out I was off by 8 turnovers…there were 22 turnovers in those games. 19 interceptions and 3 fumbles. That’s an average of 5.5 turnovers per game.
  • As a comparison, there were 19 total turnovers in the other 8 games that have been played so far in week 8.
  • Personally I found all the turnovers to be fantastic TV viewing.
  • Here’s some interesting trends from the 2013 New York Jets: They’re 4-4. They’ve neither won two games in a row nor lost two games in a row. In their 4 wins, they’ve outscored the opponent by an average of 3.25 points. In their 4 losses, they’ve been outscored by an average of 20.25 points (Even if you take out the 40-point loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, they’re still getting outscored by nearly 13 points in their other losses).
  • From a betting standpoint, it seems that you should first decide if the Jets can win outright or not. If not, then don’t get cute and expect them to cover as a 3-10 point underdog.
  • I got a comment last week from one of my faithful Pittsburgh readers. He was upset that I didn’t spend any time recapping the Steelers’ big win over the Ravens. Fine. Here you go, Pittsburgh reader: That win over Baltimore looked like it could be big, but now it’s completely meaningless. Beating Oakland to get to 3-4 would have made things interesting, but now the 2-5 Steelers are finished.
  • I’m officially adding Pittsburgh to my list of teams that have no shot at the playoffs. 8-8 is their best case scenario.
  • And if I could change that list from last week’s recap, I’d be taking the Giants off of it. Unbelievable as it may be, the Giants are only two games out of first place in that horrific NFC East. For now, they remain alive.
  • I held out as long as possible, but I just have to brag a little. It wasn’t only a good sports weekend for me because of my Boston teams. I absolutely crushed my picks in week 8. I’m 9-3 going into the Monday night game (where I have Seattle to cover). I won both of my Pick ‘Em leagues for the week. Got another win in the only fantasy league I care about at this point. Everything turned to gold. The depressing part is that it took until week 8 for me to finally not lose money on my picks.

 

By the way, did you realize the city of St. Louis could get a double dose of sports depression tonight? Kellen Clemens vs Seattle in football and Red Sox-Cardinals in game 5 of the World Series. Fingers crossed that St. Louisians are jumping off the arch en masse later tonight.

 

Week 9 picks coming on Thursday.

Week 8 NFL Picks (And Ranking Each Team’s “Degree of Screwed” At QB)

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After last week’s injuries to Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles and Josh Freeman (a true murderers’ row of quarterbacks), there’s been a ton of emphasis on the state of QBs in the NFL. And rightfully so. A good quarterback can hide a lot of deficiencies for a team, and you pretty much need someone at least at Joe Flacco’s level of competence to win a Super Bowl.

So for this week’s intro to my picks, let’s stick with the quarterback topic. I split all 32 teams into groups based on one piece of data: What degree of screwed is this team when it comes to the quarterback position over the next 3-5 years. Of course things can change quickly in the “please target players’ knees, not their heads” NFL. But assuming reasonable health for all parties involved, this is what the list looks like:

We’re Not Even Remotely Screwed

Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers)

New Orleans (Drew Brees)

Atlanta (Matt Ryan)

Seattle (Russell Wilson)

Carolina (Cam Newton)

San Francisco (Colin Kaepernick)

Washington (Robert Griffin III)

Indianapolis (Andrew Luck)

I dare someone to argue that one of these teams should be concerned about their QB over the next five years. As far as age goes, Drew Brees is the oldest and I think he’ll be just fine for several seasons to come. RGIII feels like the biggest injury risk, but he’s already showing this season that we shouldn’t really be too concerned. What’s scary is that seven of the eight teams in this group are in the NFC. The AFC should be very very nervous about that.

We’re Not Even Remotely Screwed For Now, But In A Couple Years…

Denver (Peyton Manning)

Peyton’s having a better season than anyone in that first group, but the reason he gets his own section is because of his age and his surgery history. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he plays at a high level for three more years after this season, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if Bernard Pollard ends his career with a borderline legal hit in week 14. Denver probably doesn’t spend a high draft pick on a quarterback in 2014, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea.

We’re Normally In The “Not Even Remotely Screwed” Group But There’s Suddenly Some Concern

NY Giants (Eli Manning)

New England (Tom Brady)

Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger)

The concern? Eli’s trying to set the single-season interceptions record, Brady’s completion percentage is making New England fans long for the glory days of preseason when Tim Tebow was connecting on about 50% of his pass attempts, and Roethlisberger might be the oldest 31-year-old in the history of mankind. There’s plenty of time for these guys to turn things around. I highly doubt we’ll see any of them lose their jobs over the next two seasons, but I don’t think you can pencil any of them in as their team’s starting QB for the next three years without giving it some major thought first.

We’re Not Screwed, But We’d Prefer To Have A Guy From That First List

Dallas (Tony Romo)

Detroit (Matthew Stafford)

Miami (Ryan Tannehill)

Kansas City (Alex Smith)

Baltimore (Joe Flacco)

In this group you’ve got a couple fantasy all-stars (Romo, Stafford), a young guy who his team feels really good about (Tannehill), the definition of a game manager (Smith) and a Super Bowl winner who’s probably worth closer to 120 bucks than 120 MILLION bucks (Flacco). The common thread is that their teams are at least satisfied with their body of work so far, but more importantly, those teams know there probably aren’t any better QB options out there. So these are the teams that are “stuck” with 2nd tier QBs.

Thought We Were Screwed, But Now We’re Not…How ‘Bout That

San Diego (Philip Rivers)

Tennessee (Jake Locker)

We all wrote Rivers off after last year. At the same time, none of us have ever given Locker much of a chance. Both are proving us wrong in 2013. Locker still has room to be demoted to the “we’re screwed” group, and Rivers may not have 3-5 years left, but this feels like the right spot for now.

We’re Confused By The Question, Can’t Our Defense Just Keep Scoring Touchdowns?

Chicago (Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Jordan Palmer)

There’s no doubt who the starter is when he’s healthy, but what about beyond this season? Cutler is a free agent after 2013, and many people think this year was supposed to be his tryout for the new coaching staff. What if he doesn’t come back this season or doesn’t look the same when he does come back? He was on pace to have one of his best seasons and the Chicago offense looked better than ever. But this is his 2nd major injury in two years. And he’ll be 31 years old next season. Is his time in Chicago up? My money’s on him getting resigned mostly because when the Bears look out at the QB landscape, how can they see themselves upgrading over Cutler in the near term? But because of the injury and contract situation, things are suddenly in doubt.

It’s Way Too Soon To Know If We’re Screwed Or Not

Philadelphia (Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley)

Buffalo (EJ Manuel)

NY Jets (Geno Smith)

Of course the Bills and Jets would land in this group…they’ve got rookie starters who have both showed some promise, but by no means has either Manuel or Smith replicated the amazing rookie QB class from 2012. Comparing the two of them to the guys they replaced (Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo, Mark Sanchez in New York) should have fans feeling optimistic. They’re not sniffing the Pro Bowl yet, but things are looking up. And while you could describe Philly’s situation as a mess, we don’t know enough yet about Foles and Barkley to say the Eagles are totally fucked. Vick is not a long term answer, Foles probably isn’t either, but who knows about the rookie?

We’re Probably Screwed But We’re Not Willing To Admit It

Cincinnati (Andy Dalton, Josh Johnson)

Oakland (Terrelle Pryor, Matthew McGloin)

With their current rosters, both teams are stuck with their starting QBs no matter what. There’s no viable option on Cincinnati or Oakland to take over if the starter should slip up or get injured. But these are two teams who could look for a QB in the 2014 draft (which is rumored to be a QB-rich draft by the way). The Raiders are the more obvious team when it comes to looking for their next QB. Pryor has been good this season, but I doubt the team’s ready to give him a franchise contract just yet. If you need an example of the Bengals’ monk-like patience, look no further than Marvin Lewis. He’s in his 11th year as head coach even though they’ve only made the playoffs four times, losing in the first round each of those years. So they may have that same level of patience when it comes to Dalton. But I wouldn’t. You’ve got an all-world receiver in A.J. Green, a solid running back duo (including a rookie in Giovani Bernard who could be a star), and a top-5 defense. If Dalton continues to be Dalton, your ceiling will always be Dalton. At some point they might have to admit that they’re screwed with him.

We’re Fucked

St. Louis (Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens…Brett Favre?)

Tampa Bay (Mike Glennon, TBD #1 overall draft pick in 2014?)

Arizona (Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, TBD draft pick)

Minnesota (Josh Free…no, wait, Christian Pon..no, that’s not right, Matt Cass…nope, that can’t be right either)

Houston (Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates)

Jacksonville (Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert, TBD draft pick)

Cleveland (Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer on 1 good knee)

Anyone surprised that these seven teams are in this particular group? Just look over those names and options next to each team. They really are all fucked in so many ways. The Rams seemed like they were in the best shape just one week ago, but Bradford’s injury messes all of that up. I can’t get over the fact that they actually inquired about Brett Favre’s availability. That doesn’t seem like real life. Maybe the Texans will come out of this group looking the best if Keenum can be decent? I dunno. This group is just depressing and they should each be doing everything in their power to position themselves for the best possible QB in the 2014 draft. But I’m sure at least one of these teams will fuck it up and take a wide receiver in the 1st round instead.

 

Let’s move on to the week 8 picks:

Carolina (-7) @ Tampa Bay

Cleveland @ Kansas City (-9)

I’m grouping these two games together for several reasons. The Panthers and Chiefs are very, very similar teams. I know the Chiefs are 7-0 and have been talked about as one of the best teams in the NFL for the past few weeks. And at 3-3, no one’s talking about Carolina in that same context. But I’ve got news for you. They’re almost identical. Both teams have excellent defenses (the Chiefs are 1st in the NFL in points allowed per game, the Panthers are 2nd) to go along with their iffy offenses. Football Outsiders has Kansas City as the 4th best team in the league. Carolina comes in at #6. And I want so badly to pick each of them this week. But can those sketchy offenses score enough to win by more than a touchdown? That’s the key question here.

I told someone on Monday that if the Chiefs were favored by less than 13 against Cleveland, I’d put my life savings on them. But I also decided two weeks ago that the Chiefs were not nearly as good as their record, and until Vegas gives them spreads that reflect their talent instead of that record, I was going to pick against them. And as a bonus the more competent Jason Campbell is starting for the Browns this week. You know what? I’m taking the Browns to win outright with a 24-17 shocker (which will lead to the entire world wondering why it took Cleveland so long to replace Brandon Weeden).

Meanwhile I’m a little uneasy about Carolina on the road, but I did say in my week 7 recap column that the final straw in Greg Schiano’s head coaching career would be an embarrassing home loss on national TV to a division rival. So let’s stick with that. Carolina wins easily, 23-6.

San Francisco (-17) @ Jacksonville (but really @London)

Since losing back-to-back games to Seattle and Indianapolis, all the 49ers have done is win four straight games by an average margin of 20 points. And none of those games were against the consensus worst team in football, who they just so happen to be facing this weekend. But there’s no predicting how smoothly a team will operate after dealing with the travel to London. And 17 points is just so much. I think I’ve gotten my pick wrong on every Jacksonville game this year. My instinct says to take the points so let’s roll the dice and go the opposite way. I’ll take a 49er win, 31-10.

Dallas @ Detroit (-3)

Per the agreement that all four NFC East teams apparently made before the start of the season, none of them are allowed to be two games above .500 at any time. So the Cowboys are losing. And what’s it been, like three weeks since Tony Romo had a game-losing drive? This is probably a coin flip of a game, but I’ll take the Lions to win 27-21.

NY Giants @ Philadelphia (-6)

After picking three favorites in the first four games, I’m almost obligated to take an underdog. That’s fine. I’ll take the bait. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if these two teams have very similar records by the end of the year. Give me the Giants to upset the Eagles, 26-21, causing a very small tremor across the NFL as a few misguided media types hypothesize that the Giants are about to go on a run and make a playoff push.

Buffalo @ New Orleans (-11.5)

Sean Payton against Buffalo with two weeks’ preparation. Rob Ryan’s defense against Thad Lewis. Drew Brees at home against anyone. Normally those three sentences are enough to talk me into taking such a heavy favorite, but hearing that Jimmy Graham might not play? That changes everything. The Bills are tough to get a read on, but if nothing more, I think they’ll be able to give us the backdoor cover in garbage time. In Thad Lewis I trust. The Saints win but don’t cover, 31-23.

Miami @ New England (-7)

Every time we think the Patriots are going to zig, they zag. No consistency from week to week. This would be frustrating enough if they were a random team I was trying to pin down for betting purposes, but it’s even worse when they’re YOUR team. The consensus this week is that the Pats are in trouble following that ugly loss to the Jets in week 7. But I’m going the opposite way. It sounds like Danny Amendola is practicing this week. What if the Pats have Amendola, Edelman, Gronk and the Ridley/Blount/Bolden trio at RB on Sunday? We could see their best offensive output of the season. And if Aqib Talib comes back to shut down Mike Wallace…the Dolphins aren’t that scary on offense. There’s probably a chance Tom Brady comes out and plays another atrocious game on Sunday, but I’m going against the grain on this one. Patriots win and cover, 34-23.

NY Jets @ Cincinnati (-7)

Part of me thinks the Jets spent the entire week circle jerking in their locker room because of their Super Bowl win over the Patriots last weekend. Usually a team that spends its practice time giving each other reacharounds and having spontaneous orgasms over a regular season win isn’t very prepared to play the following week. But I’m going to base this pick on the fact that New York’s pass rush might actually be legit, and if there’s a QB for a contending team that looks worse than Brady does under pressure, it’s the Ginger Prince Andy Dalton. And the Bengals lost their best cornerback for the year in Leon Hall last week so their defense takes a major hit. I’ve got the Jets covering, but the Bengals winning 23-18.

Pittsburgh (-3) @ Oakland

Vegas set this line knowing plenty of idiots would see that the Steelers have won two in a row and simultaneously associate the Raiders with being one of the worst teams in football. But the Raiders are frisky, at home, coming off a bye and have a QB who can make things happen. That’s enough for me to take the points. I like the Raiders to win an ugly game, 15-12.

Washington @ Denver (-14)

I should hit up my friends who are Washington fans for some cash in exchange for picking against the Redskins this week. Because believe it or not, every single prediction I’ve made about Washington this year—the preseason projections, the weekly picks, you name it—the exact opposite has happened. I feel that if I’m a true friend, I’ll keep picking against them until the Redskins find themselves in the Super Bowl. So, fine, I’ll use that as my reasoning. I’m taking the Broncos to bounce back from their Sunday night loss in a big way. They torch the Redskins 48-27.

Atlanta @ Arizona (-2.5)

This is a game tailor-made for the Cardinals. They got some extra rest after their Thursday night loss to Seattle, their defense is healthy and legitimately good, and their main weakness on offense (blocking/protecting the QB) is an area the Falcons probably won’t be able to expose. Atlanta has no pass rush, evidenced by the fact that Brady and the Patriots’ offensive line had their one fantastic showing of the year in Atlanta a few weeks back. If you need any more convincing on this game, just remember that Atlanta had to sweat out a win at home against the Bucs last week. The Cardinals have a good shot to go on a three-game win streak starting with this one. They get a week 9 bye then they’re home against Houston and @ Jacksonville. Arizona could somehow be 6-4 going into week 12. I say they at least start that stretch off on the right foot with a 27-17 win over Atlanta.

Green Bay (-10) @ Minnesota

I found a line on this game on Monday afternoon and the Packers were only favored by 6.5. Obviously the current line is a pretty big jump. A couple things have happened since that opening line: The Vikings looked like the worst football team to ever play football on Monday night against the Giants, not exactly a juggernaut in their own right; The Vikings announced that Josh Freeman was concussed so Christian Ponder would be starting at QB this weekend; Adrian Peterson continued to not practice this week because of a hamstring injury. Needless to say they’re heading towards a Jacksonville or Tampa Bay level of pathetic at this point.

But Green Bay has been downright bad on the road this year. They’ve lost to San Francisco and Cincinnati while barely beating Baltimore. And all three of those games happened when they were mostly healthy (they’re no longer mostly healthy).

Peterson is the swing vote for me. If he was 100% healthy, I’d be taking the points because he’s had some big games at home against the Packers. But if he’s hobbled, and that might be the reason the Vikings decided to throw the ball an absurd 53 times with Freeman on Monday night, the Packers are going to win big. Remember that there’s some bad blood here…the Vikings employed Brett Favre for a while and Greg Jennings has been doing some trash-talking ever since he left Green Bay for Minnesota in the offseason. I can see an extra score or two by Green Bay if they are controlling the game in the 4th quarter. Let’s go with a Packers win, 33-14.

Seattle (-11) @ St. Louis

Poor Kellen Clemens. His first start in almost two years and it’s against Seattle. We’re talking about a guy who has thrown exactly 100 passes in the last four years. And if you think the Rams’ running game might take some of the pressure off Clemens, well I just checked and it turns out they have the 2nd worst running game in all of football. Seattle on the road doesn’t bother me when their opponent probably won’t put up a single point. Give me the Seahawks winning a lousy game, 23-0.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 8 I’m taking:

  • 8 Favorites & 5 Underdogs
  • Of those Underdogs, 1 is a Home Dog and 4 are Road Dogs

Enjoy week 8.

Foolproof Methods For Sneaking Alcohol Into Stadiums (I Almost Guarantee It)

stadium security line 2

The busy sports season is upon us. True, baseball’s nearly over, but we’re only midway through the NFL and college football seasons, the hockey season is a few weeks old, and basketball—both college and NBA—is about to start. Even less popular sports like soccer, field hockey and wrestling are popping up on the fall calendar.

Chances are if you’re a sports fan you might like to attend one of these athletic events at some point. And if you’re a poor college student or even just a financially conscious adult, maybe you don’t look forward to forking over 20% of your net worth just to enjoy a few libations at the game.

Well I’ve made a career out of sneaking alcohol into sporting events for the past 14 years. I do it to save money, avoid long lines and to very gently stick it to the man. A quick web search shows there are now many products out there to help people like us get alcohol past security. One search result shows products like fake binoculars, cameras and seat cushions, all with secret containers to store alcohol. But I’m more of a traditionalist when it comes to this stuff. No need to purchase special products in my opinion.

Here are the 9 best ways to sneak alcohol into a stadium, arena, gymnasium, forum, center, or any other random name we give to sports venues.

Let’s start with the obvious and simple methods and progress to the more complicated ones:

1. Hide a bottle of liquor at the bottom of your girlfriend’s gigantic purse

Listen, if there’s one thing I’ve learned by having girlfriends throughout my adolescent and adult life, it’s that when Mary Poppins pulled a lamp out of her handbag, it was not as jaw-dropping of a moment as it seemed when I was a little kid. Women can fit an ungodly amount of shit in their purses. And while stadium personnel typically give a cursory look into those bags, they never dig very deep. Put a fifth or a flask at the bottom of the purse and cover it with the typical female stuff. Or better yet, add an extraordinary number of tampons to the purse and make sure she goes through a security line with a male security guard. She could probably have a rifle sticking up out of the tampon pile and the guy would still wave her right through.

2. Conceal a bottle or flask under the sweatshirt you’re holding in your hand

Sometimes security actually does a reasonable job of patting you down, but they almost never think twice about the harmless sweatshirt you’re bringing in. Hold the liquor or beer of your choice in your hand, drape your sweatshirt over that hand and breeze through security. It seems too obvious and simple, but this might be the strategy I employ most often.

3. Stick a flask in the waistband of your pants

Sure, security could touch you near your no-no spot, but then you won’t have to worry about paying for beer at that stadium ever again because the subsequent lawsuit will make you the owner of that stadium. Stick a flask between your pants and your underwear, right behind the zipper. They don’t touch this area. A word of caution: Don’t place the flask there when you’ve still got a one-mile walk from the parking lot to the stadium. It will start to slip down and possibly fall out the bottom of your pant leg at the exact moment you’re sneaking through security. But also don’t delay in placing the flask so long that security very clearly sees what you’re doing.

4. Beg your girlfriend to hide the flask in her bra

A-cups probably won’t cut it for this particular method, but then again, when do they cut it? The only other reason a woman can’t pull off the hidden-flask-in-the-bra trick is if she’s wearing a very low cut top. But if that’s the case, she can probably just distract the security personnel while you wheel a keg into the stadium.

5. Nips in strategic places

No, I’m not talking about your girlfriend’s nips. I’m talking about those ant-sized bottles of liquor. Nips are great because they’re so small. You can spread them out. Put a bunch of them horizontally along your waistband as if it were a nip belt. Put a few in your extra wide shoes. Put a couple in your back pockets. I don’t remember any security guards ever cupping my butt cheeks. But please don’t put nips between your butt cheeks underneath all your clothes and then clench your butt together to hold them. This is just alcohol at a sporting event we’re talking about. You’re not trying to sneak contraband to your Uncle in jail. By the way, if you are poor, it’s always best to hold onto empty nip bottles and then refill them from a larger bottle of alcohol. Much more economical.

6. Sneak alcohol in under your hat

Is this a real method? I’ve never tried it before, but I know they never make you take your hat off when they’re frisking you at the entrance. If you come from a culture where you had to balance jugs of water or other kitchen items on your head, this should be no problem. Otherwise, I don’t know, maybe tape something to your head so it doesn’t fall out? Maybe tape nips to the inside of the hat? I just feel like we all wear hats into stadiums and never utilize them enough unless we’re at a hockey game and there’s a hat trick.

7. Smuggle in an entire six pack of beer by wearing soccer socks under your jeans

I stumbled upon this one a few years ago, and it’s now my favorite move when I’m choosing beer over liquor for that day’s festivities. If you wear those long soccer socks underneath pants and have them pulled all the way up, you can seriously fit three beers in each sock. Position the beers behind your calves and as long as you’re not wearing skinny jeans, nobody will be able to tell you’ve got some stuff in there. This is another method where you want to wait as long as possible to put the beers in the right position. If you walk a long ways with six beers in your socks, the socks start to slide down and all of the sudden it looks like you’ve got the biggest cankles known to man.

8. Tape a Camelbak-like bladder to your inner thigh

The previous seven methods work great for beer and liquor, but what about wine? Sometimes we just want a crisp Sauvignon Blanc with our football watching. I haven’t actually done this, but I assume you can fill a bladder that’s meant to hold water and attach it to your inner thigh (the only area guaranteed not to be molested by the security person). Bonus: If it has the long hose attached, you can unzip your pants, pull the hose through the hole and suck away!

9. Bury a keg in the ground before the event takes place

All of the above methods apply to outdoor music festivals too. But this is the only one that’s exclusive to such an event. This method is the brainchild of me and a few friends when I was living in San Francisco. Every year before Outside Lands (a three-day music festival in Golden Gate Park) we joked about going to the area of the park where the music would be happening and burying a keg in the ground. It would need to be several days ahead of time because they start setting up for the event early in the week. Then when you enter the festival, you simply dig up the keg and start pouring beers into solo cups. Of course, I say we “joked” about doing this because it’s absolutely ridiculous on all fronts. And wouldn’t it be the unluckiest thing if you pulled off burying it and all the other logistics just to find out they built the stage right on top of your special spot? If anyone ever tries this and gets away with it, I will bow down to you for the rest of my life.

Any other foolproof methods that I missed? I know this blog reaches the perfect demographic for stadium-going cheapskates. There must be some ingenious ideas floating around out there. I’m all ears…and nips.

About Time: For Women, A Movie Preview…For Men, An Important Warning

warning sign

chick flick 1

about time

If you visit this blog often, you’re used to reading my expertly crafted movie reviews. But today I’m delivering my first ever movie preview. For the brain dead in my audience, this means I haven’t actually seen the movie yet.

I should probably clarify: For the women reading this, it’s a preview. For the men, it’s a public service announcement, a warning, a necessary heads-up.

Rachel McAdams is at it again…

The guy who wrote Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually is at it again…

If you haven’t heard of this new movie About Time, get acquainted quickly because it’s about to smack you right in your unsuspecting face. I’m not joking. This movie comes out on November 1st, and if your girlfriend/wife/emotionally-needy partner hasn’t insisted that you take her to see it yet, that’s only because she doesn’t know it exists.

I’ve been with my girlfriend twice when she’s seen the trailer for this movie, once at the theater and once in our living room, and both times she spontaneously melted. I’m talking tears, heavy breathing, audible ooohs and aaahs, and putting her hand over heart like that would stop it from breaking. And both times I could see her thoughts as if they were encapsulated in little bubbles floating over her head: “I wanna see this movie soooo bad, but more importantly, my boyfriend isn’t nearly in love with me enough to travel back in time if it was the only way we could be together.”

It makes no sense, but I know that’s what she’s thinking. While we sat on the couch together watching this preview (she in the state I already mentioned above, me cringing and trying to somehow slink out of the room unnoticed), I could hear her telepathically saying to me, “This guy is so in love with this woman that he’s risking his life for her, and you won’t even go to a couple’s cooking class with me.”

I could try to describe the plot of the movie to you, or you could learn about it in one of two other ways. You could watch the two-minute trailer…

 

Or you could read the very confusing and possibly inaccurate take on Wikipedia: About Time.

The fucking trailer…that’s what gets these women to go all-in on this being the greatest love story ever told. I won’t even disagree with them. Those 152 seconds of preview look magical. Hell, even I want to be with that guy. He’s this cute, innocent kid who discovers time travel, which is all he ever needed to unleash his full powers as a warm, caring, strong, passionate man. as;kleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeb. Whoops. Just passed out on my keyboard from boredom.

But I’m betting the trailer is only showing the good qualities of this guy. I bet when women go see the full movie they’ll be shocked at all the time he spends watching football, setting his fantasy lineups, chugging Bud Lights and picking his nose.

So, men, there are only two ways you can go with this atrocity that’s being released in 12 days: Either suck it up and buy tickets to a showing on opening night so you look like the most caring boyfriend in the world (well, second most caring after that sniveling little Englishman in the movie), or find a reason to delay seeing it and hope your girlfriend’s friends, who are all obviously seeing it on opening weekend, tell her how terrible it was. Then maybe she won’t even want to see it.

Or the third option is suggest she goes to see it with a group of girlfriends. The danger there is that she spends the entire night talking to them about how “I always go see his stupid superhero movies and this was supposed to be my night to pick a movie. Maybe he’s not even the right guy for me. He never does anything I wanna do.”

And you don’t want that happening…or do you?

I’m just the messenger here. This chick flick train is barreling down the tracks. It’s on a collision course with your life. And there’s really nothing you can do to stop it.

Good luck.

Week 7 NFL Recap: The Good, The Bad and The Spilled Wine

calvin johnson catch

What a polarizing weekend of football.

In the “holy shit, what an amazing Sunday” department: Seven of the 13 games yesterday came down to a final minute score or failed game-winning drive. If you’re a betting man, you can add three more games to that list of excitement as the covers for three big favorites were in doubt until the very end (Atlanta, Carolina and Green Bay). So really we only had three games that didn’t register on the overstimulation meter (Dallas over Philadelphia, San Diego over Jacksonville and San Francisco over Tennessee). And the whole thing was capped off by one of the best games of the year when Indianapolis held on to beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos. A great, great weekend of football.

Or was it?

In the “holy shit, what a terrible Sunday for the NFL” department: Way too many players suffered season-ending/long term injuries. Sam Bradford is done for the year in St. Louis (and possibly done forever for that particular team). Jay Cutler could be done for a while in Chicago (like Bradford, he’s a free agent after the season, terrible timing). Nick Foles is the only one of these three QBs who suffered a possible concussion, but he might be the only one not out for the season. Either way Philly is screwed if Matt Barkley spends any time as their starter. Doug Martin and Arian Foster are causing fantasy football owners everywhere to hold their breath as we wait for word on the severity of their injuries (UPDATE: I just turned on the NFL Network and saw that Marin has a torn labrum and is done for the year). Poor Brian Cushing is out for the season for the second consecutive year with a knee injury. The Colts probably felt like their huge win over Denver was bittersweet as news spread late last night/early this morning that Reggie Wayne might have a torn ACL (UPDATE: I’m also seeing now that the torn ACL is confirmed. Welcome to infirmary Monday). And worst of all…Jermichael Finley is in an intensive care unit with a neck injury as I write this. He took a vicious hit to the head in the Packers’ win over Cleveland. He also suffered a concussion in week 3. You’ve got to figure he’s out for the year.

And the lone overtime game of the weekend was marred by a controversial penalty that put the Jets in position to knock off the Patriots (This is not me saying the penalty was incorrect, just that it looks bad for the NFL to have a game end in such a questionable way…more on this below).

Football giveth and football taketh away…

It seems every year that most of the 32 NFL teams get leveled by injuries at one point of the season or another. If you got to choose for your team, you’d obviously pick for them to suffer key injuries in the preseason or early in the regular season rather than mid-to-late season.

Some examples of teams that started the year with key players missing (or lost them early in the season) and are just now getting them back healthy: Seattle (Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons, Percy Harvin), Buffalo (the entire secondary it seems, and Stevie Johnson), Denver (Champ Bailey, Von Miller), Baltimore (Jacoby Jones, Ray Rice).

Some examples of teams that have only recently been decimated by injuries: Green Bay (Randall Cobb, James Jones, Finley, Clay Matthews), Chicago (even if Cutler is the only one, their season is ruined), Atlanta (Julio Jones is the new one, Roddy White, Steven Jackson and Sean Weatherspoon are the lingering injuries from earlier in the year), New England (Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen), Houston (Matt Schaub, Cushing, possibly Foster and Ben Tate).

Most of those teams I just listed were legitimate playoff and even Super Bowl contenders. Unfortunately, like every year, injuries will play a major part in determining which team will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy on February 2nd, 2014.

 

I’ve been patiently giving teams the benefit of the doubt for seven weeks, but it’s time to eliminate a handful of this year’s disappointments from playoff contention. If you remember back to weeks 9 and 10 from last season, I incorrectly wrote that Washington and Cincinnati were two teams with no shot at the playoffs. They both rallied in major ways to make me look bad (as if we needed more examples of my terrible NFL predictions). It wouldn’t surprise me if one or more of the following teams does the same thing this year. But let’s take a stab at it anyway:

AFC

Jacksonville

Why? At 0-7 it’s pretty self-explanatory, but let’s go with…because they haven’t scored a friggen touchdown at home yet this season. Seriously, they have three field goals and a safety to their credit through three home games.

Houston

Why? Because at 2-5, they can only lose two more games to have a chance at the playoffs. They still have two games against Indianapolis and one each against Denver and New England. With injuries at quarterback as well as to both running backs and key linebacker Cushing, it’s doubtful that they’ll be able to win any of those four games.

Buffalo

Why? Their next three games are @New Orleans, home vs Kansas City and @Pittsburgh. They also have to go to New England in week 17. With EJ Manuel out for a little while longer, there’s no reason to think they’ll win any of those games. That means 8-8 is their best case scenario.

Cleveland

Why? Because by running Brandon Weeden out there week after week, they are basically admitting they’re not interested in competing this year. That’s not to say they’d be a Super Bowl contender without Weeden, but they’re good enough to maybe squeak out 9 or 10 wins in that division if anyone else with a pulse was playing QB.

Team I’m not eliminating yet that might surprise you: Oakland

Why? Yes, they’re 2-4. Yes, they were projected to be the worst team in football. But they’re not really playing that bad. And their QB situation is in much better shape than a lot of other teams. Oakland’s upcoming schedule after their bye looks like this: home Pittsburgh, home Philly, @Giants, @Houston, home Tennessee. What if they go 4-1 in those games? Anyone can beat the Giants in New Jersey right now, and Houston is falling apart quickly. It’s a long shot, but I’ll wait a couple more weeks before I write them off.

NFC

Tampa Bay

Why? Because their coach is probably getting fired after week 9. Because Mike Glennon is their QB. Because even if they magically become competent after their 0-6 start, they still have dates with Carolina (twice), Seattle, San Francisco and New Orleans.

Atlanta

Why? Julio and Roddy. They just can’t compete with the good NFC teams due to key injuries. There are at least four more losses on their schedule, which puts them at 8-8 in a best case scenario.

NY Giants

Why? After tonight they’ll either be 1-6 or 0-7. There’s just no coming back from that hole.

Minnesota

Why? I’m counting on the Vikings being 1-5 after they lose to the Giants tonight, but even if they win that game, they’ve still got games against Green Bay (twice), @Dallas, @Seattle, @Baltimore and @Cincinnati. Without consulting the numbers, I’d be willing to guess they have the hardest schedule in the NFL from now through the end of the year.

Chicago

Why? This team was already worse than its 4-3 record showed before Cutler apparently suffered a serious groin injury on Sunday. The defense is terrible. If they’re going forward with the Josh McCown/Jordan Palmer combo at QB, they’re beyond done.

St. Louis

Why? They weren’t likely to make the playoffs with a healthy Bradford. Now that his season is over? They might be one of the worst teams in football going forward.

Team I’m not eliminating yet that might surprise you: Arizona

Why? They’re the Cleveland of the NFC. Good talent on defense and special teams but a QB/O-line combo that’s holding them back. But the schedule might break right for them. They’re actually OK at home and they still get to host Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, St. Louis and San Francisco (in week 17 when the 49ers could be resting). Let’s say they go 3-2 in those games. Their remaining road games are Jacksonville, Philly, Tennessee and Seattle. All but the Seahawks could be in shambles by the time Arizona gets to them. What if they go 3-1 in those games? By my math, that’s a 9-7 record for the Cardinals. I know, I know, I should have just put them on the eliminated list and written “Carson Palmer.” But having a wild imagination is so much more fun.

This means the AFC has 12 teams fighting for six playoff spots, and the NFC has only 10 teams fighting for the same amount. Aren’t you glad we went through that useless exercise?

 

Going into the 2013 season you could have argued the following coaches were on the hot seat:

Rex Ryan

Ron Rivera

Jim Schwartz

Jason Garrett

Mike Munchak

Greg Schiano

Here’s what that hot seat list looks like after 7 weeks:

Gary Kubiak – Probably more of a warm seat here. He did just lead this team to 12 wins last season and back-to-back playoff appearances. But it looked like the Texans were heading for a rough season regardless of health. Now that Matt Schaub is missing time, Cushing’s out for the year, and their running backs are banged up, the heat is off Kubiak because he’s not playing with a full deck.

Gus Bradley – Another warm seat more so than a hot seat. Typically a first year coach who was hired into an obvious rebuilding situation wouldn’t sniff the hot seat. But if the Jaguars go 0-16 and never score a touchdown in a home game? The organization might want to distance itself from 2013 as much as possible.

Tom Coughlin – A room temperature seat. Two Super Bowl Championships and possibly the most injured roster in the league gives him the leeway to lead this team to an utter disaster in 2013 without ownership relieving him of his duties.

Leslie Frazier – Lukewarm. I have no idea what ownership thinks of Frazier’s coaching skills. I have no idea what I think of those skills because he’s been hamstrung with Christian Ponder for the past couple years. Since I don’t hear any rumors in the media, I’m going to assume he’ll be given another chance in 2014.

Greg Schiano – BURNING HOT SEAT! THIRD DEGREE BURNS ON HIS ASS! I mentioned above that he might get fired after week 9. Why that specific spot on the schedule? Because I think the last straw comes when they lose at home to Carolina on Thursday. But you don’t want an interim coach’s first game at the helm to be at Seattle, which is where the Bucs play in week 9. So after Tampa falls to 0-8 with an embarrassing loss in Seattle, Schiano gets the pink slip. Part of me is excited to be right about this, part of me is sad that his foolishness will be out of our lives at least temporarily.

So if you’re keeping score at home, Schiano is the only coach to make the preseason hot seat list and the current hot seat list. What’s most exciting to me is that Josh Freeman was jettisoned from the Bucs because Schiano wanted to get his own guy, Mike Glennon, in as the starter. When a new full-time head coach takes over next year and ultimately drafts a QB in May, will Glennon suffer the same fate as Freeman?

Let’s quickly empty out the week 7 notebook:

  • During Thursday night’s broadcast of Seattle’s win at Arizona, the NFL Network guys mentioned that the Cardinals’ athletic trainer is retiring after this week, ending a lengthy career as the team’s trainer. Is that a really weird time to retire from your job? Or is it normal for trainers of sports teams to retire midseason? Did he see the direction this season is going for Arizona and decide he wants out before the shit hits the fan? I’d like someone to tell me if this is normal or not.
  • It seems like every Sunday morning a near-disaster almost causes me to miss the start of the early games. Last year my puppy suddenly came down with a severe flea infestation just one hour before week 1’s kickoff. Twice this year my internet went down about 30 minutes before kickoff (setting fantasy lineups and placing bets gets difficult without internet). Well yesterday the disaster was self-inflicted. My dog was laying on my bed. I decided to be funny and throw a blanket over her. As the blanket was in the air, I noticed a full glass of wine sitting on my nightstand. The blanket obviously knocked the glass over…except it was one of those stemless glasses, so rather than just fall onto the ground, the glass started spinning around on the nightstand, splattering red wine all over the bedroom. I’m talking on the walls, in the closet, all over my girlfriend’s clothes, on every piece of furniture in the room, and even on the dog. This resulted in a 30-minute cleanup effort that almost forced me to have to choose between hunting down a breakfast burrito and catching the opening of the Patriots game. I need to start waking up earlier to account for these interruptions.
  • I love watching good football, but a close second for me is seeing completely inept football. You can imagine I loved the opening 10 minutes of the early games on Sunday since we got opening drives across the league that resulted in two Pick-Sixes (Ryan Tannehill and Sam Bradford) and a Fumble-Six (Mike Glennon).
  • Pick-Sixes would rule the day as Geno Smith, Tom Brady and Jay Cutler would all join in on the fun.
  • This week’s example of football making no sense on a week-by-week basis: It took nearly 42 minutes of game time on Sunday for the first points to be scored in the Dallas-Philadelphia game. Going into week 7, Dallas had the 8th-ranked offense and 21st-ranked defense. Philadelphia had the 2nd-ranked offense and 30th-ranked defense. This should have been a shootout, except football makes no sense.
  • I’m going to take the high road on the ending of that Patriots-Jets game. It sounds to me like the rule actually exists and the referee called it as the rule book states. But I saw several reporters mention that the NFL recently circulated video to the refs showing that they were repeatedly missing this call. The refs were on high alert, and the Patriots were just unlucky to be the first team to commit the infraction under the heightened scrutiny. And really, what are we arguing about? If I played a game of 1-on-1 basketball against a four-year-old right now, and I was called for a foul at the end of the game that A). was a bullshit foul, and B). resulted in that four-year-old pulling off the win, I would look ridiculous blaming the entire thing on that one foul. Why is the toddler within one basket of me when I should be absolutely dominating him? That’s a perfect comparison to that game.
  • The Patriots clearly win my Vitriol Award of the Week. Especially the 2nd and 3rd quarters when they had chance after chance to stretch the lead to 18 or 21 points.
  • It was with 1:30 left in the 3rd quarter, when the Jets took a six-point lead, that I uttered these words for the first time in my life: “I wanna quit watching football forever.”
  • Still looking for a silver lining to that game, Pats fans? Well for long stretches of last night’s game against Indy, the Broncos’ offense looked as bad as the Patriots’. Yes, even the record-setting Broncos, with a mostly healthy offense, can look terrible.
  • Jim Irsay’s comments, the tribute to Peyton Manning while he was warming up, having the roof open (which they never do)…you gotta give Indy credit. They weren’t shy at all about going to great lengths to throw Manning off his game.
  • Speaking of the Colts…I was screwing around on my betting website on Saturday night and noticed their odds to win the Super Bowl were still 20/1. I immediately put a few bucks down on them to win it all. Call it a hunch, call it financial irresponsibility…all I know is that as of this morning, their odds are down to 14/1. If Andrew Luck stays healthy, this is an 11-5 team at worst. And very possibly the #2 seed in the AFC.
  • This week’s “semi-amazing cover”: I had Houston as a 7-point underdog. They’re down by 1 with the ball on their own 5-yard line with under two minutes to play. Case Keenum gets strip sacked by a Kansas City defender who grabs the ball and rolls to the 1-yard line. He’s barely touched by a Houston player so he’s down at the 1. My first thought is, “Fuck, from the 1-yard line they’ll probably still punch it in because what else are you gonna do from that spot on the field?” And then I realize scoring a touchdown gives the Texans the ball back and it would still be a one score game. Three kneel downs by Alex Smith later and I’m a slightly richer man. Thank you, gambling gods.
  • Oh, but my record for the week sits at 6-8, another disappointing set of picks. Bite me, gambling gods.

Week 8 picks coming on Thursday.

Movie Review: Captain Phillips (Come For Tom Hanks, Stay For The Pirates)

captain phillps 1

At the beginning of Captain Phillips we see Tom Hanks (playing the role of Captain Richard Phillips) preparing for a job assignment that will take him across oceans to the other side of the world. We know that his job is to deliver packages, and we see that he’s leaving his loved ones as his wife drives him to the airport. We also have a pretty strong suspicion that this won’t be an ordinary trip for him.

And as soon as we process all of that information we think, “Wait a sec, I’ve seen this exact movie before. It’s called Castaway. Why are they re-showing Castaway under the guise of a new movie? And how quickly do I have to sprint to the ticket window to get a refund?”

But not to worry, fellow moviegoer, because this is nothing like Castaway. In this movie Tom Hanks isn’t accompanied across the ocean by a benevolent, inanimate volleyball, but rather four Somalian pirates hellbent on cashing in on a big payday.

Captain Phillips is an action/thriller based on true events that occurred off the Somalian coast in April 2009. If you remember that time period, it seemed like we were constantly hearing news about American ships getting attacked by Somalian pirates. This movie focuses on the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship captained by Phillips that was bringing to Africa, among other items, water and food supplies to the 3rd world countries.

As alert to the pirating in that part of the world as Phillips and his crew were, their security and escape tactics fail at the worst possible time when four armed Somalians chase down their ship and ultimately board it. At that point it’s a virtual stalemate between Phillips and his captors. The Somalians control things in one sense because they have guns pointed at Phillips and his crew. But they need help and cooperation from that very crew because they don’t know anything about the super-sized ship they just boarded.

The cat and mouse game escalates from the ship to a lifeboat, and Phillips finds himself in the middle of it all as he becomes the asset the pirates are looking to trade in exchange for millions of dollars.

Hanks’ performance was solid, and I’m sure it’ll generate plenty of Oscar buzz, but I walked out of the theater even more impressed by the actors who played the four pirates. And when I learned that none of them had ever really acted before, I was floored. My hunch is that when you see the movie, you’ll agree with me that the actor who plays the leader of this group steals the show and might find himself with some Supporting Actor nominations during awards season.

What the movie does really well is establish the desperate motivation for these pirates’ actions early on. Even though what they’re doing is wrong, you understand exactly how it could come to this.

I also appreciate that the people making this movie fought off every urge to turn the main character into an action hero or superhero. It would have been so easy to fall back on the tried and true Hollywood template of “main character singlehandedly saves the day by vanquishing the bad guys with borderline superhero powers.” They showed restraint and kept Phillips grounded in reality the whole time.

You should see this movie if: You love nonstop tension/suspense enough that you have no problem literally being on the edge of your seat and white knuckling it for nearly two hours. You enjoy Tom Hanks as much as I do, and you’ll basically see any movie starring him. You want to see some unexpectedly great acting performances from some first time actors. You enjoy “based on a true story” movies.

You should not see this movie if: Holding your breath and having your heart constantly pounding are not physical reactions you enjoy experiencing from movies. You hate Tom Hanks. You had a family member actually involved in a pirating situation and don’t want to relive those awful stories or memories. Thrillers are not your cup of tea. You only care for movies that have a big love story and/or lots of humor. Your fear of claustrophobic spaces is so intense that even seeing something like that in a movie will cause you to hyperventilate. You are a jerk who doesn’t like good movies.

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

So if you’re deciding on a movie to see in the theater this weekend, I’d still give the slightest edge to Gravity over Captain Phillips. But that’s purely because Gravity is a movie you must see on a big screen, preferably in 3-D. That being said, Captain Phillips has the better story.

Week 7 NFL Picks Against The Spread

old-man-crystal-ball

It’s pretty amazing that after this week the 2013 regular season will be 41% complete. Even more amazing is that I still feel like I’m getting warmed up with my picks. You’d think by now I’d have a good handle on this NFL season, but I don’t.

Need evidence? After finishing the 2012 season with a 58% win rate across all games against the spread (and barely ever dipping below .500 in a single week of picks), I’m floundering with a 37-51-4 record so far this year (42%). If you had bet $110 on every one of my picks so far this year, you’d be down $1,910 total. I should probably feel bad about that. But it’s a marathon. If you’re on the verge of losing your home or your loved ones because of my picks, come on out to LA and I’ll buy you a burger and a milkshake. That’s the best I can do. But this will turn around. It always does (I’m guessing. I don’t really know since it’s only my second year of tracking picks).

I need to turn a corner quickly or else it’s going to be me losing all my assets (which include a hastily put together grill from Home Depot and six months worth of dog food). So I spent some time yesterday going deep into all 92 of my picks from the first six weeks. Here’s what I know:

  • When the spread is 0-3 points, I’m a respectable 18-19-3 this year (yes, 49% correct is respectable when comparing it to that awful overall number).
  • When the spread is 3.5 points or higher, I’m an abysmal 19-32-1 (37%).
  • Breaking that down even further, when the line is between 3.5 and 7, I’m 12-18-1 (40%), and when the line jumps to 7.5 or higher, I’m 7-14 (33).

Pretty straight forward, right? The bigger the line, the worse I do. And in terms of me getting back on track this week, sadly there are only 4 lines that fall into my apparent wheelhouse. So here’s what I’m going to do. For the games with a big spread (by my definition at least), I’ll be going against my initial instincts no matter how obvious the pick seems. If all evidence points to the favorite covering, I’m going to switch it up and pick the underdog. And vice versa. I hate doing this. I really just wanted to stick to my process and assume things would eventually work out. But we’re too deep into the season to stay the course and expect a turnaround.

Staying the course at this point would be like a football team that was expected to contend for a playoff spot starting the season off looking really bad…the defense can’t stop anyone, the offense looks out of sorts, especially the QB as he throws eight interceptions in his first three games. And after week 3’s embarrassing 38-0 loss to a seemingly inferior team, the management gives everyone one more chance to turn things around. They stay the course only to see the team lose the next three games in equally embarrassing fashion, and that QB puts up another seven interceptions over that time. But then, after falling to 0-6, absolutely nothing happens. No shakeup. No coach getting fired. This QB who’s on a record-setting pace for interceptions in a season doesn’t get benched, doesn’t get called out publicly. Nothing. They stay the course again. Does that sound like good management and a recipe for turning things around?

Exactly. And I don’t want to look back in three more weeks and say I wish I would have changed things up earlier. That’s why the change for me comes now.

In case you didn’t already figure it out, that team I just described is the 2013 New York Giants.

So if you’re thinking of backing any of my picks, just know that my season is most closely resembling that of the New York Giants. Good times.

Let’s get to the week 7 picks:

Seattle (-7) @ Arizona

After all that talk about going against my instincts for every large spread, I’m refusing to do so for this game. I just feel so strongly that this will be a close game. We all know the Seahawks aren’t nearly as good on the road as they are at home, regardless of who they’re playing. And this particular opponent just happens to have a legit defense. If I told you that Arizona will most likely be able to neutralize Seattle’s running game and their top receiver, would you still be willing to take them to cover the seven points? I guess if you think the Seahawks defense will have some big plays against the error prone Cardinals offense you might be inclined to still take the favorite here. With my luck, Seattle will return three Carson Palmer interceptions for touchdowns. But I’m sticking to my guns here. Seattle wins without covering, 22-17.

Sorry for that confusion, I promise to change things up for most of the other games that fall into my “death zone.”

New England (-3.5) @ NY Jets

My initial thought is to take the Jets with the points, mostly because of the mounting injuries on the Patriots defense. Vince Wilfork’s season-ending injury was alarming enough, but now Jerod Mayo is out for the year and Aqib Talib may be out a little while (here’s yet another example of why I hate making picks on a Thursday…we still don’t know Talib’s status for this weekend). The Jets have shown themselves to be at least semi-competent on offense. This game is in New Jersey. And sloppy Thursday game or not, the Jets did hold New England to 13 points in their week 2 matchup at Gillette Stadium. Everything points to another close game so that’s why I’m going against those facts and taking the Patriots to cover in blowout fashion, 28-10.

Side Note: Maybe Rob Gronkowski could have done us all a favor and announced a while back that he’d be on the Derrick Rose rehabilitation plan. I feel like that would have saved the fans and media lots of time and energy debating why he hasn’t returned yet. After this week, the Pats have back-to-back home games against Miami and Pittsburgh before their bye week. Imagine this team being 8-1 and then getting Gronk, Shane Vereen and a hopefully healthy Danny Amendola for the stretch run?

San Diego (-9) @ Jacksonville

Easy pick here. Old Ross would have taken the points thinking that Jacksonville at home against the worst defense in football with Chad Henne at the helm would at least keep this to a respectable loss, especially with the cross country travel for San Diego on a short week. So without any further research whatsoever, let’s switch it up and take the Chargers to cover with a 33-13 win.

Side Note: Philip Rivers is a prime example of why fantasy football will someday cause me to jump off a bridge. How much time did we spend in August studying up on fantasy rankings? Trying desperately to determine the correct ranking of the Rodgers, Manning, Brady and Brees foursome atop the QB projections? And then we spent high draft picks or a crazy amount of auction money on those guys. And Philip F-ing Rivers goes undrafted in nearly every league only to be the 4th best QB through six weeks (on a points per game basis). And I doubt we’ll see a drop-off because he still faces Jacksonville, Washington, the Giants, Oakland and Denver (twice)…all terrible defenses.

Cincinnati @ Detroit (-3)

Sneaky good game here. Both teams are 4-2. Both have legitimate aspirations to win their division. And based on the next handful of weeks, I could see the winning team rolling to something like an 8-3 record before their respective schedules become more difficult in week 13. Big game. What I didn’t realize until a few minutes ago is that Cincinnati hasn’t looked good at all on the road this season…they’ve lost at Chicago and at Cleveland and nearly blew it against Thad Lewis in Buffalo last week. Even if Calvin Johnson didn’t look great in week 6, at least he played. He should only get healthier. I’m picking Detroit to cover with a 26-20 win.

Buffalo @ Miami (-7.5)

The Bills could get blown out in this game, right? They’ll have to start Lewis at QB once again. They’ve been bad on the road (seven-point loss at the Jets, 13-point loss at Cleveland). Miami’s coming off a bye and still looks like a solid team. I think you get the drill at this point. Since my instincts for these lines suck, I’m going with the Bills to cover. Miami still wins 29-24.

Side Note: Last week Thad Lewis faced a top five defense in Cincinnati and he threw for over 200 yards with two touchdowns and a 100.5 passer rating (while pushing the Bengals to the brink in overtime). Per the Matt Flynn contract rules that were established two years ago, doesn’t Lewis automatically get a six-year, $75 million guaranteed contract from some irresponsible team in the offseason?

Chicago @ Washington (PICK)

I’m taking Chicago to win 34-24. This looks like a terrible matchup for Washington on paper. The 2013 Bears have a legit offense, particularly with their many weapons in the passing game. That Redskins just so happen to be terrible at defending the pass. I hate to say it, but I think it’s time to write off the 2013 Redskins. They just don’t look right.

Meanwhile Washington fans are getting a glimpse through five games of what life with RGIII could be like in 5-7 years when running isn’t an option for him anymore. In his 2012 rookie season, Griffin averaged only 26.2 passing attempts per game, throwing for about 213 yards in those games. He ran for 54 yards per game. The low passing attempts and the rushing yards (which made him a dual threat to every defense) translated into a solid 2.7 touchdowns-to-turnovers ratio, but more importantly, 11 wins.

Through this first part of the 2013 season, Griffin’s rushing yards are down to 30 per game, and his average passing attempts are way up to 41.8 (289 passing yards per game). The result is a much worse touchdowns-to-turnovers ratio (0.67) while getting the Redskins off to a 1-4 start.

There are other possible reasons for Washington’s rough start, but I don’t think those numbers are a coincidence. With the threat of Griffin running essentially nonexistent, defenses are able to focus on stopping him as a passer. The good news for Redskins fans? He ran nine times for 77 yards in his last game, he’s only 23 years old, and his knee will only get healthier as time passes. It may be too late to salvage the 2013 season, but I’m betting on big things from him in 2014 (barring the typical Washington sports luck throwing him another major injury or a bizarre firearms felony).

Dallas @ Philadelphia (-3)

This line has been all over the place. I’ve seen one sportsbook open it as a PICK and another open it with Dallas as the three-point favorite. Which means they’re just as confused as I am. We’re talking about two evenly matched teams. Lots of offense, little defense. Philly will be without Michael Vick again. Dallas lost DeMarco Murray last week. Oddly enough the Eagles haven’t won a home game this year. But the Cowboys don’t have a road victory yet either. Both teams have beat Washington and the Giants, and both have lost to San Diego, Kansas City and Denver. In times like these I usually lean on whoever has the better coaching and QB matchup. Well, Dallas gets the nod in the QB department, but Philadelphia might actually win the coaching battle even with a rookie head coach. As much as I want to pick Dallas, I’m talking myself into Philly. With their top-ranked running game, ball control offense and the less-error-prone-than-Michael-Vick Nick Foles running the show, I think they don’t let Tony Romo do enough Tony Romo things. The pick is Philadelphia to cover and win, 29-24.

St. Louis @ Carolina (-6)

The initial instincts point to the Rams being a frisky team that covers the majority of the time when they’re underdogs against an equally questionable team. They’ve outscored the opposition 72-33 in their last two games, including a road win in Houston last week. At 2-3, why would the Panthers be favored by six over anyone? The line on this should be Panthers by three. I don’t know why it’s six and I don’t care. I’m taking the Panthers to cover because it’s the opposite of what I should do. I guess I’m hoping for a ton of running against St. Louis’ horrible run defense? Carolina wins, 20-12.

Side Note: The real reason I’m picking Carolina is because they’re my only hope for the three preseason Super Bowl bets I made. You must be wondering how that’s possible. The Panthers?? Your best bet to win the Super Bowl??? Well, I loved the NFC South going into the year so I had my intern go to Vegas in August and place three bets: Atlanta 9/1 odds, Carolina 40/1, Tampa Bay 60/1. So that sucks. Looking at the Panthers’ schedule…if everything breaks exactly right for them…they might claw their way to 9-7. A 10-6 record would take New Orleans resting its starters against Carolina in week 16 or the Patriots somehow losing to them on Monday Night Football in week 11…I’m fucked.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-7)

The right choice is clearly to take Tampa and the points. Why? Let me count the ways: Atlanta is 1-4. In what crazy alternate reality are we living that a 1-4 team is laying a touchdown? Atlanta lost Julio Jones (it’s best receiver) for the year, and Roddy White (its 2nd best receiver) probably isn’t playing this week. Steven Jackson still might not be back. They’ve been terrible on defense. The old fallback of “Atlanta almost never loses at home” is no longer true since they lost back-to-back home games against the Patriots and Jets this year. Even if Tampa Bay is really really bad, it’s still a divisional game and even the worst teams get up for those. What am I missing?

Oh yeah, I’m missing the fact that I suck at making picks this year. I’m going with Atlanta to cover and pinning my hopes on Mike Glennon coming unglued in a loud dome. The only way the Falcons cover realistically is if by some act of god they go up by three touchdowns early. No way that Tampa offense comes back from that big of a hole. The final score is Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 16.

San Francisco (-4.5) @ Tennessee

This is such an easy pick: San Francisco covers and wins, 24-3.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, the Titans have been way too close to pulling off upsets against good teams the past two weeks (Kansas City and Seattle). The wheels haven’t totally fallen off this Tennessee team yet, but they will. And when we talk about wheels coming off a Fitzpatrick-led team, we’re talking all four wheels flying off the car while it’s barreling down the freeway at 80 miles per hour AND the spare tire somehow flying out of the car through the sunroof. That’s what Mr. Fitzpatrick brings to the table. Meanwhile the 49ers have quietly gotten things back on track after that two week disaster in September when they got outscored by Seattle and Indy 56-10. Since then, they’re 3-0 with their worst game in that stretch coming last week when they only beat Arizona by 12. We all temporarily forgot about San Francisco, but when they bring their 7-2 record into New Orleans in week 10, we’ll be like, “Oh, right, San Francisco. Fuck, they’re good.”

Houston @ Kansas City (-7)

Kansas City’s #1 ranked pass defense against T.J. “Don’t call me Matt Schaub just because I also like to throw pick-sixes” Yates. In Kansas City. The Chiefs are undefeated. The Texans are 2-4 and on a four-game losing streak. In their past two road games Houston has been outscored by a combined 52 points. Feel free to bet heavily on the Chiefs. There are plenty of reasons to justify it. But not me. I love the idea of taking the Texans for no obvious reason. It makes absolutely no sense, but I’m predicting a wild upset here. Houston shocks us all (well, not me since I’m predicting it) and hands KC their first loss, 24-21.

Cleveland @ Green Bay (-10)

Although Green Bay’s defense sucks and its best offensive weapon, Randall Cobb, is out for a while, I’d still normally be taking the Packers to cover because Brandon Weeden vs Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field seems like a sick joke intended to increase the suicide rate in Cleveland by 10,000%. But once again, you know the drill. I’m forcing myself to grab Cleveland and the points here. I’ll have to bank on the Cobb injury totally short circuiting the Packers offense and for Josh Gordon to be the best player on the field not named Aaron Rodgers. Cleveland scores a victory…sorry, a moral victory, as they cover the spread, but Green Bay wins 26-22.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-1)

If you’re as into football as I am, you’ve probably experienced this exact scenario: You make all your picks for Pick ‘Em league purposes, Suicide Pools, your weekly blog, etc on Thursday or Friday. You’re feeling good about most of those picks. Saturday rolls around and while you’re watching college football you make some bets on those upcoming NFL games, backing those same picks from earlier in the week. You read a bunch of “expert” predictions on different sports websites, and you see some of those experts talking about their picks on different TV shows. You start to get an uneasy feeling because there’s this one game where you thought your pick was going to be at least slightly rogue, only every single person seems to be picking the same team as you. Sunday morning rolls around and you call some of your buddies hoping someone, anyone, will make the case for the opponent of that team. But nobody does. And then you realize that sneaky pick you made is destined to lose because the entire world backed it. (This is the close relative of the sleeper team in the preseason that becomes not a sleeper at all because the entire world decides to pick them as a sleeper and then that team totally implodes once the season begins…for instance, this year’s Tampa Bay team).

This doesn’t happen every week, but when it does, I get so pissed off that I didn’t see it coming.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m warning you right now that Pittsburgh is that team this week. And I totally get it. The Ravens stink. They can’t score. They can’t run. They can’t pass. Their defense isn’t winning games. On the other side the Steelers could be right back in the thick of things in the AFC North if they win. Believe it or not, Pittsburgh’s offense has been better than Baltimore’s this year. And of course the game is in Pittsburgh.

Everyone is going to be taking the Steelers. For that reason alone, I’m picking Baltimore to cover and win, 23-17.

Denver (-7) @ Indianapolis

All the numbers and everything else we’ve seen from these teams so far tell me we should be taking Indy and counting on a close game. After all, the Colts offense isn’t so bad itself and their defense has actually played better than Denver’s this year. That just means I’m going with the reversal here and picking Peyton Manning and the Broncos to lay siege to the city of Indianapolis…they’re going to rape & pillage, burn everything to the ground, and walk away with a convincing 44-27 victory.

Side Note: As far as Jim Irsay’s antics from earlier this week go, I absolutely love what he’s doing. It’s the perfect crime. If the Broncos come to town and demolish the Colts, the Irsay-Manning stories will go away and we’ll all move on with our lives. But if the Colts somehow pull off the upset, people will ask Irsay if the ceremony to honor Manning and the subtle jabs he took at #18 in the media were his way of trying to get inside Manning’s head and throw him off. And even though Irsay will deny any attempts at throwing Manning off, he’ll do it with a wink and a smile, and we will all think he’s an evil genius. There’s no downside for him in creating all this commotion before the game. It’s almost too perfect of a plan.

Minnesota @ NY Giants (-3.5)

What a beaut of a Monday Night Football game! I’m sure ESPN’s ratings will be off the charts for this one. Two teams with a combined record of 1-10!!! Eli Manning vs Josh Freeman! Can we just skip all the foreplay on Sunday and fast forward to Monday please?

But seriously, I’m picking the Giants to cover and it’s not even a question. In my Pick ‘Em league where we rank our picks by confidence points, I might even select this as my most confident pick of the week. Why? Because while the Giants have been bad, unlucky and unhealthy, the Vikings have been bad, horrible and putrid. And I’m even willing to admit that Josh Freeman is a significant upgrade from Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Doesn’t matter. The Giants will win, 33-23. 

Side Note: If your girlfriend/wife/mistress is used to you watching every Monday Night game no matter what, you could choose to be a hero this week and tell her you’d rather do something she wants to do than watch another measly football game. It’s the perfect game to miss. And hey, when you’re getting that Thank You BJ from her later that night, be sure to think of me. Or don’t.

Definitely don’t.

For those keeping score at home, in week 7 I’m taking:

  • 9 Favorites & 5 Underdogs (Chicago-Washington doesn’t have a favorite or underdog)
  • Of those 5 Underdogs, 1 of them is a Home Dog and 4 of them are Road Dogs.

Way too many favorites in there. Oh well. If this new method doesn’t work, next week I might be handing the reigns over to my girlfriend. Enjoy week 7.

Week 6 NFL Recap: Women Hijack My Man Cave

women watching footbal

I could write my usual NFL recap column as if I was a full participant in the football viewing on Sunday, but I think you, dear reader, would see right through the lies. The ugly truth is that I haven’t been this distracted on a football Sunday since December 20, 2003, when I had to attend a family gathering at a bar and therefore couldn’t devote my full attention to the TV screens. That date is memorable because it’s when Joe Namath tried to kiss Suzy Kolber on live TV during a Patriots-Jets game. And I was robbed of hearing it in the moment.

Whenever I go for a weekend visit to San Francisco, I always end up in my brother’s man cave on Sunday to watch the games on his three TV screen setup. Typically there are four or five guys holed up in the cave for 10 hours, and the only topic other than sports that’s discussed is our annual Vegas trip.

So I thought I’d return the favor for my brother this past weekend because he was coming down to LA for a visit. I got the multiple TV part right as I setup my living room to represent a man cave as much as possible. But that’s where the similarities ended. For most of the day we “had the pleasure” of being surrounded by a puppy, a baby and four women.

Here’s an incomplete list of what transpired:

  • We got to participate in (but mostly ignored) conversations such as “Are Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn a good couple? How could she trust someone who was so publicly involved in all that cheating?” AND “Is Pippa gonna have a rough life because she’s constantly being compared to Princess Kate?”
  • On the hour every hour the women suggested that the two men should move one TV to the bedroom and sit on the bed together watching football. In my home, like most, the large TV is in the living room and the small one is in the bedroom. They didn’t understand why watching games on a 24-inch screen was inferior to watching them on a 42-inch screen.
  • Of course the women weren’t going to spend all day indoors watching us watch football, but they had to wait for the baby to wake up from his nap before they could take him and the dog on a hike. You probably aren’t surprised to hear that the two men purposely made loud noises and lots of commotion nonstop for about 30 minutes trying to bring that nap to an abrupt end.
  • We had to entertain a 10-minute conversation where some of the women asked why the extra point attempt after a touchdown even exists since it’s so damn easy. We tried to answer as best as we could, but they continued to push for us to contact the NFL competition committee to get the whole process changed. Then one of them asked us how far away, in feet, the attempt is…we told her, then she spent a few minutes converting that into yards. It was as frustrating in person as it sounds on paper. Oh, and then they collectively decided it is a far kick after all so they should probably keep it in place.
  • When we handed each of them an US Weekly to stop the conversational madness, all it meant was that my brother and I had to be in charge of making sure the 100-pound dog didn’t eat the baby. This took up more of our time than you’re probably imagining.
  • Listen, I’m all for the pink stuff raising awareness for breast cancer, but I don’t need to hear the words “mass” or “lumps” while watching a group of women pointing at their breasts.
  • There was a lengthy discussion about whether or not Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion are the same person, and if so, why would you change your name. And is Snoop Dogg his stage name or his real name? One of the men could have ended that conversation in 30 seconds, but, you know, football.
  • Since none of the discussions I previously mentioned were quite girly enough, they decided to bust out the bridesmaids dresses talk right around the time the Patriots game was hanging in the balance. Half my attention was devoted to taking notes on all the things I hated about the Patriots, and the other half was inadvertently learning about sweetheart necklines, bustiere bras (pronounced boost-ee-ay) and apparently a color I’ve never heard of called “dead pink.”

I think you get the point. Even with two TVs, it felt like I watched no sports all day. As a Patriots fan it was an especially shitty day to not have my full attention on those games.

By the end of Sunday my brother had sworn to never again come to my place for a sporting event, and all the women were mad at me for hogging the apartment and the TVs for 10 hours.

Even if the environment around me had been ideal for football on Sunday, I have a feeling it would have been particularly difficult to put in the time necessary for a full breakdown of all the games, mostly because this was dominating my thoughts Sunday night and the better part of Monday:

It’s not all bad news for my readers though. You get a break from the weekly homework assignment of trying to make it through my 4,000 word recap column before passing out from boredom. So in a sense, while these women were doing me no favors on Sunday, they were doing you a huge favor. I’ll send them your thanks the next time they invade my Sunday Sanctuary.

Week 7 picks coming up on Thursday.

Week 6 NFL Picks Against The Spread

old-man-crystal-ball

I know you’re all used to a 3,500-word NFL picks column from me every Thursday, but a funny thing happened right before I started my first draft of this column on Wednesday… I discovered that Showtime has a website called “Showtime Anytime” that operates basically like HBOGO, meaning I suddenly had access to the entire backlog of Homeland episodes. And here I was waiting for the physical DVDs to arrive from Netflix like a sucker. So instead of spending most of my Wednesday night working on the football picks, I’ve been watching season 2 of Homeland. And I’m not sorry about that either. It’s a much better use of my time than writing thousands of words that will ultimately doom me to a 7-8 record against the spread this week.

And that’s another thing. This whole picking against the spread charade isn’t nearly as fun when I’m not consistently winning. I didn’t really experience that last season, and I gotta say it’s a pretty crappy feeling. Just like rooting for your team is more fun when they’re doing well, picking all the games is much more fun when you’re on a roll.

Now before you get excited about the prospect of me significantly cutting down the size of this column for week 6, I’ve got bad news for you. Instead of the usual 3,500 words, I’m giving you….2,700 words!!

You can thank Claire Danes for saving 800 words worth of your time.

Before we jump into the picks, now seems like as good of a time as any to review my preseason over/under win totals bets. The following are bets I actually made during the summer when my sports betting website posted the over/under win totals for each NFL team:

Tampa Bay over/under 7.5 total wins

I picked OVER. And why not? They had all the talent in the world. If Josh Freeman could just be an average QB…fuck. Looks like I need them to go 8-4 the rest of the way.

Washington over/under 8.5 total wins

Of course I have the OVER. How could the Redskins not pick up where they left off when RGIII was healthy last year? Surely in a weak NFC East the ‘Skins would get to 9 wins and take the division, right? Well, they’ve gotta go 8-4 from here on out just like the Bucs. Based on their schedule and the lack of a mutiny in the locker room, I’d say they have a much better chance than Tampa.

New Orleans over/under 9 total wins

Finally, I wisely took the UNDER…oh, shit…of course I pick a team that starts off undefeated to go under their win total. I never thought the defense could turn around so quickly, and like everyone else, I thought the NFC South would actually be competitive. Unless Drew Brees drops dead tomorrow, I don’t see the Saints going 3-8 over their final 11 games, which is what I’d need them to do to win this bet.

Cleveland over/under 6 total wins

I have the OVER. And I can’t believe Cleveland might be the only preseason bet that I win. They’re 3-2 now, but unfortunately they’re stuck with Brandon Weeden the rest of the year. Just need ‘em to go 4-7 at this point. That’s doable, right?

Oakland over/under 5.5 total wins

Considering it’s the Raiders I obviously took the UNDER. They were the consensus “worst team in football” before the season started. But Terrelle Pryor might singlehandedly get them to 6 or 7 wins. They’re at 2-3 now. Four more wins screws me. Unlike the first three bets on this list, at least I still have a chance.

Boston Red Sox to win the World Series 30/1 odds

It’s not football, but it might just cancel out all those losses above if the Sox can pull this off. And now that I’ve made this bet that I placed back in April public, all my Boston friends can give me a ton of shit for jinxing the team if the Sox lose in the ALCS. Considering the current line has the Sox as 2/1 favorites to win the World Series, I’d say this is my best open bet.

And now for the week 6 picks:

NY Giants @ Chicago (-8)

The oddsmakers are really making life miserable for us this week with six lines of eight points or larger. As it turns out, teams favored by at least eight points this year are 5-6 against the spread, providing no help whatsoever in trying to figure these lines out.

I’m sure I’ll talk myself into a couple of these heavy favorites, but the Bears aren’t one of them. Both teams are long on offense and short on defense. I’d like to bet the over of 48 instead of picking either team if that’s allowed. For some crazy reason I think this is the week when the Giants don’t turn the ball over. The Bears D is pedestrian when it’s not getting turnovers. Let’s start this week off with a dose of insanity. New York pulls off the upset with a 28-24 win.

An extra word of caution to those thinking of betting on Chicago: Remember how the Giants start every season 6-2 before fading in the second half, leading to the annual “have the Giants quit on Tom Coughlin?” media stories? Well what if he’s reversing it this year? Start 0-4 and resurrect this team from the rubble to make a playoff push, leading to the media still trying to figure out a way to write that the team quit on Coughlin. Wouldn’t it be just fantastically absurd for the Giants to come out and win this game? Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Oakland @ Kansas City (-9)

It’s time to start shorting your Kansas City stock. I’m not saying they’re bad or that they’ll suddenly go 0-11 the rest of the way, but I do think they’ll fall back to the pack a little bit. Even the biggest Chiefs supporters thought before the season that 10 or 11 wins was their best case. And that’s probably still true. I think a division game against a friskier-than-we-thought Oakland team is the perfect time for the Chiefs to sweat out a win. Let’s give Kansas City the win but not the cover, 27-23.

Philadelphia (-2) @ Tampa Bay

The college coach that everyone loves vs the college coach that everyone hates. One team that we knew would lose its starting QB by week 6 because of injury vs one team that we knew would lose its starting QB by week 6 because of ineffectiveness. A team with a top-5 offense/bottom-5 defense vs a team with a top-5 defense/bottom-5 offense. Tampa Bay’s coming off a bye, but the Eagles are coming off a win over the Giants (the equivalent of a bye).

This pick simply boils down to whether or not you think the Bucs will get their first win of the season this week. Is Mike Glennon ready for his first career win? Yes, yes he is. And I think he’ll get it without having to do much. The defense and running game handle this one for the Bucs as they win 26-20.

Green Bay (-3) @ Baltimore

Strange line, right? The 3-2 defending Super Bowl champs are at home taking on a team that has looked decent but not great so far this year, and that road team is favored by a field goal??? After the Ravens struggled in their first two games (loss @ Denver, ugly win against Cleveland), people were ready to write them off so quickly that they weren’t even favored at home against Houston the following week. I wrote at the time that some teams just deserve the benefit of the doubt at home. Baltimore is one of them. If this was Denver or New Orleans coming to town, I’d bet against the Ravens, but it’s not like the Packers have really come out of the gate guns blazing. I’ll take Baltimore to win in overtime 33-30.

Detroit (-2.5) @ Cleveland

I fucking hate when extenuating circumstances force our hand on a pick. Calvin Johnson is a game-time decision for Sunday. Obviously if you’re actually betting on this game, you’re waiting until Sunday morning to hear the news. But if you have to submit picks for a highly-read blog or for your Pick ‘Em league on Thursday, you must go with Cleveland, right? How can you take Detroit if there’s even a 5% chance Johnson doesn’t play? You saw what that offense looked like in Green Bay last week. The problem is I could still see the Lions winning this game even without Johnson. Brandon Weeden is terrible and the Lions’ defensive line could control this game regardless of what its offense does. But I’m going with the Browns, 23-20 (with Calvin Johnson being a huge caveat).

Carolina @ Minnesota (-3)

Minnesota coming off the bye week does nothing for my confidence in them. The combination of Matt Cassel (I think he’s starting) and a terrible run defense will make Carolina look great in this game. The Panthers are better than they’ve looked. Eventually that has to translate into W’s. I say Carolina wins relatively easily, 29-17.

St. Louis @ Houston (-9)

You might have heard that Matt Schaub has had a rough month. Four games, four pick-sixes. Three straight losses, only one of which wasn’t a total blowout. Rumors of fans showing up at his house this past week to “have a chat” with him.

So is Matt Schaub the type of quarterback who will go out there on Sunday and ignore a home crowd that might be ready to boo him early and often? Will he be able to play loose like his starting job isn’t on the line? Does he have that mental makeup to not let any of this recent history bother him? And just to add a degree of difficulty, let’s go ahead and see him do it without his second best pass-catching option (Owen Daniels).

Yeah, I’m sure this will go great for Houston. I’m saying St. Louis covers, the Texans pull out a 24-20 win, and the fans still boo because their team should be able to beat the Rams by a lot more than four points.

Pittsburgh @ NY Jets (-3)

Some sportsbooks post the lines for the following week’s games before the current week is even over. Did you know that the Steelers were actually a 3-point favorite when some books set this line on Sunday night/Monday morning? Could you imagine getting to bet on this game with that line? It would be highway robbery. Obviously they corrected it. And even with that 6-point swing, I still like the Jets. The concern is that the Steelers have had two weeks to prepare for this game while the Jets are coming off a short week. But still…that Pittsburgh D isn’t scaring anyone, and the Jets D will do its job at home. I’m not sure what I’m missing here. Jets win 23-17.

Cincinnati (-7) @ Buffalo 

Even after that huge win over New England last week I still don’t think I respect the Bengals enough to lay seven points on the road with them. And I’m fully aware that Thad Lewis has the quarterbacking reigns for Buffalo in this game. But the Bills have a sneaky good defense that’s just finally starting to get some key players back. And Andy Dalton on the road… Let’s go with Cincinnati winning but not covering, 28-23.

Tennessee @ Seattle (-14)

“Ryan Fitzpatrick in Seattle.” Just repeat that sentence five times if you get the urge to bet on Tennessee. Seattle wins by plenty, 37-17. (That’s the depth of analysis you get when more Homeland is waiting to be watched).

Jacksonville @ Denver (-27)

Last week I wrote that smart gamblers would be taking the Jaguars in back-to-back weeks because the spreads on their games were getting too large. And sure enough, Jacksonville looked like they might cover the 11-point spread at St. Louis in week 5 right up until seven minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Damn that would have made me look smart. With the news that Chad Henne is starting for Jacksonville this week, you’d think I would be all in on the Jags, but any Henne goodness is cancelled out by the fact that their offensive line is decimated. In case this flew under your radar, the Jags traded their starting left tackle to Baltimore nine days ago because they wanted to get their 2nd overall pick Luke Joeckel into that position to gain experience. Well he broke his ankle last week so now they’re down to their 3rd string guy at the offensive line’s most important position.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying I have no faith in Jacksonville. This line is outrageous but so is the talent gap between these two teams. The Broncos squeak out the win, 45-14.

Arizona @ San Francisco (-11)

What sets me apart from the casual football fan is my almost-super natural ability to know a random team like the Cardinals so well. I pinpointed the exact week they’d go on a major losing streak last year, and I’ve been scary good picking their games so far in 2013. If you believed that bullshit I just wrote, then you’ll gladly get on board with a San Francisco cover in this game. I’m half expecting Arizona to put up exactly 0 points in this game. I honestly think if the 9ers can get to 20 points, they’ll cover this spread. So my pick is San Francisco over Arizona, 23-6.

New Orleans @ New England (-2.5)

Remember the Patriots’ 2009 regular season game in New Orleans? The one where the Saints manhandled New England? On one side you had a juggernaut (and the eventual Super Bowl winner) in that Saints team, and on the other side you had a Patriots team whose record looked good, but it was obvious to people who really paid attention that this wasn’t a championship caliber team. I’m worried that we’re looking at the same thing in this weekend’s matchup, with the only difference being where the game is played. The Saints are locked in and everything about them looks good. The Patriots might get Gronk back, but does that automatically translate into the offense suddenly running smoothly? Doubtful. As a Pats fan, I’m not giving up on the season. I just don’t think they’re healthy enough or playing at the level they need to right now to beat a team as good as New Orleans. I’m just not sure how you watch the last couple Patriots games and knowingly pick them to keep up in this game. I’m going with a Saints win, 31-23, and I hope I’m dead wrong.

Washington @ Dallas (-6)

I love the Redskins in this game. They just had a bye, they’re playing their most hated rival and they know the division is still well within reach. Meanwhile the Cowboys just had a demoralizing, draining, WTF just happened kind of loss. My friends who are Redskins fans are going to hate me for doing this, but I’m picking Washington to win outright, 28-27.

Indianapolis (-1.5) @ San Diego

What if the Colts are the AFC’s second best team? What if “don’t bet against Andrew Luck in a nationally-televised game” starts becoming a thing? And what if I told you this is a terrible matchup of strengths and weaknesses for the Chargers? The achilles heel of this Indy team is its run defense. But San Diego can’t run the ball. On the flip side, San Diego has the worst pass defense in the NFL (and one of the worst run defenses!).

Andrew Luck in year two is significantly better than Andrew Luck in year one (and he was damn good in year one). Indy’s offense dominates in a 40-27 win. 

 

For those keeping score at home, in week 6 I’m taking:

  • 5 Favorites & 10 Underdogs
  • Of those 10 Underdogs, 4 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs.

Apparently I love underdogs this week. Enjoy week 6.

The Definitive High School Slow Dance Playlist

napolean dynamite slow dance

Last week the guy who runs another blog that I write for emailed his whole staff asking each of us to submit a 10-song playlist of our choosing that will go head-to-head in a vote on the website. Whoever’s playlist gets more votes is the winner (not sure if we’re playing for a tangible award or just pride). The voting hasn’t opened yet or else you can bet your ass I’d be linking to it so all my readers could vote for my songs.

But I thought I’d give you a sneak peek anyway. The only rule was that we should try to make the playlist have a theme of sorts. I’m sure the smart people chose themes like 80s hairband songs, 90s alternative, top 10 songs of 2013, best 10 songs to have sex to, etc, etc.

I chose “The 10 best slow songs from your middle school & high school dances (assuming you’re in your late 20s or early 30s right now)”.

How’s that for a very specific theme-oriented playlist?

While I think this is pretty much the definitive list, I suppose I’m open to reader feedback and suggestions on slow songs I might have missed. If there’s a song not listed that brings back a special memory of your awkward dancing from your teens, please go ahead and leave a comment.

As far as this list goes, I’ve tried to organize it in the order I’d play these songs if I was DJing a dance. You might think the order doesn’t matter, but that would be a huge mistake. You can’t open the slow dancing with something like “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. That just wouldn’t make sense, and it would scare all the boys off before the girls get a chance to drag them out onto the dance floor.

Here’s the list (with links to each song on YouTube in case your memory has started slipping already):

1). “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal

If I’m DJing this dance, I’m starting the slow dancing off with a light, almost jokey song like this that the kids can sing to each other while doing their best Batman impressions.

2). “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams

And I’m following it up with some magic by Bryan Adams.

3). “I Swear” by All-4-One

After two warm up songs, I’d drop the mother fucking hammer on those unsuspecting 8th graders. Just hit ‘em hard with the most deadly material in my arsenal, courtesy of slow dance specialists All-4-One (nothing guaranteed at least a little make out session later that night more than belting out every lyric to this song while slow dancing with a girl).

4). “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion

Such a polarizing song in high school. The girls went absolutely nuts over it, and the guys hated it. Not indifferent to it like most slow songs, specifically hated it. Probably because as a gender we weren’t allowed to like Titanic, Leo, or anything associated with that movie. This was usually when the guys would go to the bathroom or take a break while the girls slow danced with each other.

5). “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith

But the guys were NOT allowed to miss the Armageddon song. For some reason the corny love story of Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler resonated with the high school girls much more than Leo and Kate Winslett’s.

6). “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo

After a couple songs for the ladies, this one’s for the guys. Because every guy at every dance in the history of dances has pretended they were either K-Ci or JoJo in their music video for this song. There’s not a lot of dancing involved, mostly just looking up at the ceiling and spinning slowly with your arms out.

7). “You’re Still The One” by Shania Twain

Girls were obsessed with Shania Twain back in my high school days. And I’m only kind of embarrassed to tell you that I was so P-whipped back then that I had a Shania tape in my car at all times and told my girlfriend I enjoyed listening to it nonstop when she was with me.

8). “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

How did we even dance to this song? It’s too slow to slow dance to (possibly my favorite sentence I’ve ever written). You just kinda stood there in the middle of the dance floor and waited to scream out “AND IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-EEE-IIIIIIII WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU”.

9). “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLaughlan 

You’ll remember this one as the penultimate song played at senior prom. The DJ would announce “OK, Seniors, this is officially your last dance in high school, make it count.” And inevitably all the single people would convince the entire class to dance in a large circle, totally hijacking the last dance from the couples.

10). “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men

And as the tears flowed from Ms. McLaughlan’s heartfelt ballad, Boyz II Men officially brought the night to a close.

Here are some honorable mentions that came to mind during the construction of this playlist:

So what did I miss?

Movie Review: Gravity (A Must-See in 3-D)

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So what’s the deal with that movie where Sandra Bullock is floating around in space? You know, the movie whose previews have given us nothing beyond “Sandra Bullock is lost in space.” The one that George Clooney’s rumored to be in even though you never see him in the previews or on any of the movie posters.

For my benefit and yours, I went to check it out this week in my favorite time slot: Tuesday afternoon, where I’m joined at the theater only by retired people and criminals trying to duck out of the public spotlight for a couple hours.

The movie is a sci-fi/thriller called Gravity. It stars Sandra Bullock as a bio-medical engineer making her maiden voyage into space to fix part of the Hubble Telescope. If a movie about things gone wrong in space automatically makes you think of Armageddon, then Bullock would be playing the Ben Affleck role. And that means George Clooney is channeling his inner Bruce Willis, playing the old grizzled veteran making his last expedition and helping the scared protege get through a rough first experience.

Gravity is actually nothing like Armageddon, so please don’t be scared off by that comparison. One blockbuster that I’ve heard people comparing it to is Castaway. That makes a little sense because both films start off with an unsuspecting person getting stranded in an unknown, almost unsurvivable place. But the similarities end there. While Castaway overwhelms us with the human side of the story—Tom Hanks’ primal struggle for survival on an uninhabited island with no companion and no real hope of returning to his loved ones—Gravity overwhelms us with the brilliance and tension of being lost in space.

To put it another way, we don’t care as much about the characters and what’s in store for them if they get home safely in Gravity as we do in Castaway.

Instead we focus on the in-the-moment plot. Is the satellite debris going to hit their shuttle? Does the escape pod have fuel? What happens when her oxygen runs out?

And the best use of 3-D I’ve ever seen…we focus a lot on that too. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best 3-D movie I’ve seen from a visual standpoint. Yes, better than Avatar. It’s just the perfect movie for that technology. If you have the option to see this movie in 3-D and you choose not to, I hope you regret it for the rest of your life.

You should see this movie if: You loved Apollo 13. You enjoy suspension-filled thrillers. You are OK with a little “odd couple buddy adventure” mixed into your serious movie. You’re obsessed with all things Sandra Bullock. You seek out movies that are visually captivating. You appreciate a movie whose broad subject matter can be whittled down and focused on just the important 90 minutes. You want to see 3-D used on the exact right movie.

You should not see this movie if: Getting a full cavity search sounds more pleasant than sitting through a sci-fi space adventure. You couldn’t care less about 3-D and the visual aspect of a movie. You have it out for Sandra Bullock and think she probably drove Jesse James to cheat on her. You know you’ll obsess the whole time over which plot points are realistic and which aren’t (for example: Is it realistic that an astronaut would be able to use a shuttle’s backup landing thrusters to propel her nearly 100 miles to a very specific landing spot on the Chinese Space Station? I don’t know and I don’t care).

On the Ross Watchability Scale (RWS), I give it an 8 out of 10. Without the 3-D component, it might merely be a 6 out of 10.

Speaking of 3-D, it turns out they accidentally showed us the first 20 minutes of Gravity in 2-D, but no one had spoken up or complained by the time a theater employee announced that they were restarting the movie in 3-D. How does no one in a group of 30 people complain about this screwup? You’d think people had to notice it. There’s a pretty big difference between the two viewing experiences. What’s my excuse? Well I hate admitting this, but when I was growing up I could never do those “Magic Eye” optical illusion things. I’d stare at them in the mall for hours and would eventually start crying when I couldn’t see the 3-D image like all the other kids (it was always a stupid fucking dolphin in the middle of the poster). So even though those first 20 minutes of the movie looked off to me, who was I to speak up? The guy who can’t even see a hidden image that most 3rd graders can figure out was going to complain about not being able to see the 3-D movie? And risk being told that it is, in fact, in 3-D already? No thank you.

Week 5 NFL Recap: The End Of Many Eras

eli manning face

Week 5 in the NFL may go down as the week that marked the end of several eras.

Consider the following:

  • If Gary Kubiak benches Matt Schaub sometime in the next couple weeks, people will point to his past two performances as the beginning of the end. There was the game-changing pick-six in Houston’s loss to Seattle in week 4, immediately followed by Texans fans lighting Schaub’s jersey on fire. And then he follows that up with a three-interception (including another pick-six) performance against San Francisco last night. That’s now nine interceptions on the year for Schaub, including an unthinkable four straight games with a pick-six. T.J. Yates may get a shot to start after the Texans’ week 8 bye if Schaub struggles in his next two starts.
  • Yesterday was the official end of a short-lived era in which we all thought the 2013 Oakland Raiders would be the worst team in football. The combination of Jacksonville losing perhaps their one winnable game by 14 points and the Raiders getting their record to 2-3 in a very good showing against San Diego means Oakland most certainly will not be picking 1st in the 2014 draft. They might not even be picking in the top 5 if Terrelle Pryor continues to look like one of the 18 best QBs in the NFL.
  • The Christian-Ponder-as-a-starter era came to an abrupt end even though the Vikings didn’t play this weekend. With the news that Minnesota has signed Josh Freeman to a one-year deal, Ponder will be relegated to backup status as soon as he’s healthy enough. There’s no way they brought in Freeman and are paying him $3 million this year just to have him sit on the bench.
  • This also spells the end of Matt Cassel’s brief starting career in Minnesota, where he  beat Pittsburgh in London in his one start. As soon as Freeman’s ready, he’s the starter.
  • With Seattle’s first loss of the season in Indianapolis yesterday, it marked the end of the “Seahawks as the NFC favorite” era. That title now belongs to the undefeated New Orleans Saints, as it should. With New Orleans and Seattle looking like the class of the NFC and both teams relying heavily on their distinct home field advantages, suddenly their looming week 13 matchup in Seattle is HUGE. When it’s all said and done, plenty of other games for each team could factor into where they end up in the playoff standings, but no game between two powerhouse teams seems more important than that one.
  • Denver’s win in Dallas marked the end of two eras. First there was the end of an era that started way back in 2006…the era in which we try to use logic and reason to figure out why Tony Romo is so unlucky (or unclutch if you want to call it that). After yesterday’s 500-yard, five-touchdown performance where he was nearly perfect gets overshadowed by another game-ending interception, I think it’s safe to say science and numbers will never be able to explain why he is the way he is. I caught two minutes of a random documentary on TV the other day where a guy being interviewed said he was struck by lightning as a kid and then happened to be in the World Trade Center both when it was bombed in the 1990s and when it was attacked again on 9/11. Some unluckiness in life just can’t be explained. And I feel like Romo is just like the guy in the documentary. He can do everything right from a football perspective for 59 minutes, but when there’s an opportunity for tragedy to happen, he’ll be there.
  • The other end in that game was the end of Denver’s perceived invincibility. It might take perfection from the other team, but they can be beat. One way to do it is to score 50 points, which Dallas came oh-so-close to doing. And maybe another team will come up with a more defense-oriented approach to beating the Broncos. Remember the 2011 Packers and their undefeated season? They had scored 30 or more points in nine of their first 13 games on their way to a 13-0 record, but in week 15, the Chiefs beat them 19-14. So maybe Denver has that type of game coming. Regardless of how it’s done, someone will beat them this year.
  • Going way back to Thursday for a minute, I think it’s safe to say we saw the end of the “Cleveland as a surprise playoff team” era…which is weird because they won that game by 13 and share the division lead with a 3-2 record. But c’mon, with Brian Hoyer out for the season and Brandon Weeden forced back into the starting QB roll, it’s just a matter of time before the wheels come off. Maybe if Baltimore and Cincinnati had lost yesterday to give the Browns a one-game cushion, but no…Cleveland’s next five games are: Detroit, at Green Bay, at Kansas City, Baltimore, at Cincinnati. I love this team like it’s my own, but they’re fucked.
  • And finally, it’s probably the end of the era where Giants fans would say stupid things like “You can’t spell elite without E-L-I.” Manning captures the rare three-interception, three-intentional grounding combo with his performance on Sunday. This football blogger’s hoping a few weeks from now Giants fans are coming up with clever ways to say “you can’t spell elite without Curtis Painter.”

Let’s go ahead and empty out the notebook from the weekend in football:

  • Poor baseball. On Thursday night, this was the order of sports-watching priority for me: 1). Browns vs Bills, 2). The Boston Bruins season opener, 3). The LA Kings season opener, 4). Baseball playoff game. Unless it’s a Red Sox game, baseball playoffs are prioritized just above an MLS game but below almost any other sporting event I can find on TV.
  • I’d be willing to bet that by the time the 2015 season comes around, Thursday night football will either be gone entirely or will be structured in a way that only teams coming off their bye week will play in those games. It wasn’t the freak knee injuries to both QBs during the Thursday game that got me thinking that, it was THESE COMMENTS from Ed Reed and Arian Foster that did it. As more and more players complain about what the four-day turnaround potentially might do to their health, I just think the NFL won’t have a choice if they want to keep pretending they care about player safety.
  • If the Browns do somehow make the playoffs, it’ll be the second year in a row where a team has “publicly given up on the season” only to begrudgingly make the playoffs. Remember that last year Mike Shanahan said the Redskins were playing just so they could evaluate players for the 2013 season, and then they rattled off seven straight wins to get to the postseason. This year the trade of Trent Richardson and insertion of Brian Hoyer into the starting lineup seemed to signal the end of the competitive portion of the Browns season.
  • So Green Bay was playing at home, coming off a bye, against a divisional opponent they historically own, and that opponent’s best player was out with an injury…and the Packers managed only two trips into the red zone the entire day? They had to make five field goals as they couldn’t get the ball anywhere near the end zone? What’s up with this team? More specifically, what’s up with Aaron Rodgers, greatest QB in the game? His offense is healthy, has all his weapons he was expecting going into the year, not facing a lockdown defense by any stretch…I can’t figure the Packers or their quarterback out.
  • When Jacksonville took a 7-0 lead on St. Louis yesterday, I got ready to text all the people in my Suicide Pool who took the Rams and act as if I was a huge Jaguars fan. But I couldn’t type as quickly as Blaine Gabbert could throw a 30-yard pass into an area of the field where there was exactly ZERO Jaguars receivers and four Rams defenders. That interception late in the 2nd quarter made me realize there was no way the Rams were losing as long as Gabbert was in. And even though Gabbert eventually came out with an injury, Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley couldn’t get to the press conference podium quick enough after the game to let everyone know that when he’s healthy, he’s the starter. Hey, Gus, most coaches who are trying to tank the season use a little more tact and discretion when it comes to their self-sabotaging methods.
  • A few years ago me and a group of friends decided instead of organizing a game of football among all of us, we’d organize a mini skills competition. We setup a 40-yard dash and used our iPhones to time each person running. We practiced punting the ball. And we even practiced trying to down a punt on the 1-yard line (always fun to see 30-year-old men diving to save the ball from going into a fictitious end zone). I have a new component to the obscure football skills challenge: trying to catch a pass as a 200-pound man jumps on you piggyback style. In the Patriots-Bengals game yesterday, A.J. Green made a catch over the middle while Aqib Talib hopped on for a piggyback. Talib’s feet were off the ground entirely so Green was dragging around Talib’s entire weight. Green didn’t even break stride or seem to notice another full-sized human on him as he completed the catch. I want to see my friends try this.
  • Even though we all know fantasy football is a crapshoot, that doesn’t make it any less painful when our team sucks for reasons beyond our control. I thought I drafted a good team in a league I’m in with a lot of my college friends, but my RBs happened to be Ray Rice and Steven Jackson. I also had Ahmad Bradshaw as a backup RB. When they all got injured and my record fell to 0-3, I decided to shake things up and play for some keepers next year while still making somewhat of an effort this year. I made two trades before week 4 that netted me Michael Vick, Lamar Miller, Le’Veon Bell and David Wilson. It looked like I might get my first win this week right up until both Vick and Wilson left the Giants-Eagles game with injuries. Some years you can pull all the right strings and still end up on the wrong side of an 0-13 regular season record. At least that’s what I’ll be telling myself for the next eight weeks.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the state of the New England offense: Losing 13-3 with 6:30 left in the 4th quarter and the offense in a goal-to-go situation, Tom Brady’s best option for scoring a touchdown was throwing the ball to offensive lineman (turned tight end for one play) Nate Solder? Yikes.
  • I’m pretty sure the 2013 Carolina Panthers are the bizarro 2012 Indianapolis Colts. Stat nerds hated the Colts last year because the numbers said they should have been much worse than what their record was. They made the playoffs in spite of those people warning us that they weren’t very good. This year’s Panthers team is beloved by stat heads so far, and those people will continue to tout the Panthers as a team we should be betting on because “they’re better than their record says.” But they just keep finding ways to lose. They have that losing touch. Watch them go 5-11 but have the 13th best team according to Football Outsider’s DVOA. It’s gonna happen so make sure you don’t bet on them just because a really smart person says you should.
  • How amazing is it that the Oakland Raiders are currently in better shape when it comes to their starting quarterback (both in the present and for the near future) than all these teams: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Arizona, St. Louis (maybe), Minnesota and Tennessee (at least until Locker comes back). That seemed inconceivable just five weeks ago.
  • On Sunday night I read that Tennessee reached out to JaMarcus Russell earlier in the week. Do you think Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance on Sunday (51% completion rate, 1 TD, 2 INT, 57.7 passer rating) makes Tennessee ownership more likely or less likely to try Russell’s cell phone one more time?
  • Parity, parity, parity. We hear it every year. But maybe it really has arrived finally. After Monday night’s game between Atlanta and the Jets, we’ll have 24 teams whose record is 2-3 or better. At this stage in the season, 2-3 is nowhere near out of it. When it comes to the teams that truly have no hope for the playoffs this year, you can only be certain about two: Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. Believe it or not, the Giants and Steelers are each only two games out of first place in their division. This is shaping up to be very interesting and confusing at the same time.
  • As for my week 5 picks, I’m 7-6 going into the Monday night game. In a fair world I’d consider myself 7-5 against the spread with the Detroit-Green Bay game not counting since I picked the Lions on Thursday when no one was talking about Calvin Johnson missing the game. Regardless, an Atlanta cover tonight will give me a second solid week in a row. Things are starting to feel back on track.

Week 6 picks coming on Thursday. Stay tuned.

NFL Week 5 Picks Against The Spread

old-man-crystal-ball

Well that was quick. Just a week after many of us wondered what would take the place of Breaking Bad in our post-football Sunday night TV schedule, we have an answer. No, not Homeland or Eastbound & Down (though I will eventually catch up on both shows). And no, the answer is definitely not “turn the TV off and spend quality time with the family.”

The answer, it turns out, is more football. What a power move by Roger Goodell. He saw an opening in our collective schedules and attention spans, and he filled it.

Sure, it looks like the best he could come up with this week is San Diego at Oakland, which probably won’t be an aesthetically pleasing experience, but now we can legitimately watch 14 hours of non-stop football this Sunday. Man, that feels good to type. (In case this news flew under the radar for you, this game got moved from 4:25pm EST to 11:35pm EST because of a “scheduling conflict” with the Oakland A’s.)

And you know Goodell’s not done, either. Next week I fully expect a statement from the NFL saying they’re moving the Patriots/Saints game to a 10:30pm EST kickoff out of respect for the unfortunate New England fans who have tickets to both the Pats game and game 2 of the ALCS at Fenway on Sunday. And on and on it’ll go because Roger knows we will watch football whenever he decides to show it.

Did you know that exactly one football team shares its stadium with a baseball team? You’re telling me someone couldn’t have thought ahead to October and the one stadium that might cause a scheduling conflict? They couldn’t have planned for this? That’s ridiculous. And how long does it really take to get the field ready for football? Because they already would have had a minimum of 15 hours after the A’s game ended to get everything in order if they kept the football game at its original time.

But why am I complaining? Someone’s ineptitude is leading to more football. Fine by me.

Speaking of Bay Area football, did you know that Jim Harbaugh openly talked about jizz in a news conference last week? I’ll spare you the potential embarrassment of your wife, girlfriend or mom finding “Jim Harbaugh jizz” in your google search history and provide you the link HERE. I’ve got nothing more on that. I just thought it was a must-mention because how often does a person mention jizz in a non-jizzy context?

One more random Bay Area football tidbit you ask? Fine, here it is. Remember when we thought Matt Flynn’s life couldn’t get any worse after losing out on starting jobs that were catered to him in back-to-back years? Well he’s now officially the Raiders’ third string QB, behind Terrelle Pryor, and…..drum roll please, Matthew McGloin! Who? Matthew McGloin, an undrafted rookie out of Penn State who’s obviously never taken an NFL snap. In one sense Flynn’s life isn’t so bad because he’s getting paid a guaranteed $6.5 million over the next two years. But in another sense, the guy’s NFL career is effectively over, right? I guess being Aaron Rodgers’ understudy for four years doesn’t guarantee you a successful career like being Tom Brady’s understudy does.

Jesus Christ, why is there so much random news out of the two northern California teams this week. Last one for real. San Francisco defensive back Donte Whitner is apparently dropping the “W” in his last name so it reads “Hitner” because he’s so sick and tired of being fined for dangerous hits. Have you ever heard of two things less correlated with one another than him changing his name and the discipline he receives from the league? Personally I would have gone full heal and changed it to “Hitler”. Or maybe something completely dorky like swapping the “T” and the “N” so it would be Whinter, and then he could say he’s the guy who puts the game on ice or something. I don’t know, just spitballing here. Anyway, the guy sounds like a major douche.

If Sunday’s football schedule looks strangely amazing, that’s because it is. You can make the case that four of the worst teams in football are on byes (Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington…combined record = 2-14) while two other semi-uninteresting teams are playing on Thursday (Buffalo at Cleveland) and one more hideous team plays on Monday night (the Jets). Taking out seven of the least interesting teams from Sunday’s slate seems like goodness for us. I’m willing to say there are 8.5 very interesting games on Sunday.

Let’s get on to the money-making for the weekend. If you were waiting for me to have a good week before starting to back my bets, welcome to the start of your gambling season. I went 9-5-1 last week, bringing my season total to….24-35-4. Baby steps.

Buffalo @ Cleveland (-4)

If this wasn’t a Thursday night game, I’d be so confident in the Browns it would border on overconfidence. The Bills aren’t good, and we won’t know until game time whether or not their top handful of defensive backs will play (not to mention C.J. Spiller is a game-time decision). And of course it’s important not to get too high on the Browns just yet because, after all, they’re the Browns. And these Thursday games have a way of being ugly, low-scoring affairs. But I’m still taking Cleveland to cover, winning 23-14. I’m pinning my hopes on those DBs for the Bills not playing, in which case Josh Gordon and Cameron Jordan will have a field day.

Side Note: If this was a Sunday game, I’d be taking Cleveland as my suicide pick. I like this team that much.

Kansas City (-3) at Tennessee

Here’s how much confidence I have in Ryan Fitzpatrick: When I was guessing the lines of each game earlier in the week, I predicted the Chiefs would be 10-point favorites, even though they’re on the road and facing a 3-1 Titans team. I’ll admit 10 is probably aggressive and I’m much more comfortable picking the Chiefs by a field goal. Their pass rush seems legit, and I’ve seen how Fitzpatrick operates under pressure from his time with the Bills. It’s not going to be pretty. If you want to make the case for the Titans, I guess you pin your hopes to the Chiefs not yet proving much on the road? They beat Jacksonville by 26 on the road in week 1, which doesn’t count as a real game, and then they beat the Eagles in Philly by 10 in week 3, but that was with the assistance of 73 Eagles turnovers. So we still don’t know about Kansas City on the road against a competitive team. But I’m not falling for it. Give me the Chiefs to win, 20-13.

Baltimore @ Miami (-3)

Miami’s loss to the Saints on Monday night was a blowout, but it wasn’t in the same vein as the way Jacksonville got destroyed by Seattle a couple weeks ago, or the way Jacksonville got pummeled by Indy last week (or the way Jacksonville will probably lose by triple digits in Denver 10 days from now). It was competitive for the Dolphins for a while, and better execution on one or two plays probably would have kept it close. But the Saints had too many dynamic offensive options (Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham specifically), and a pretty vicious pass rush on Ryan Tannehill. That’s how you’re beating Miami this year. So do the Ravens have those components? Yes and no. Defensively they still get after the QB pretty consistently and their run defense is top 10. But where the Saints are dynamic and dangerous on offense, the Ravens are…whatever the opposite of those words are. Inflexible and safe? This is a tough call, but I’m thinking Baltimore’s one of those teams just like the Giants, when you think you’ve got ‘em figured out, you don’t. Going against my gut here and picking Baltimore to cover and win, 31-27.

Jacksonville @ St. Louis (-11.5)

Here come the back-to-back weeks where you’ll be picking the Jaguars to cover despite how terrible they are. But while the Jags are openly bad, the Rams are in-the-closet bad. They just lost their last two games by a combined 48 points, including a Thursday nighter where every team keeps it close. A big part of me wants to take Jacksonville to win outright, and if Chad Henne was starting, I would. But I don’t have the balls to think Blaine Gabbert can pull out a win on the road. Of course Jacksonville covers, but the Rams win, 30-24.

Side Note: Two weeks ago I planned ahead for the Suicide Pool and I marked down St. Louis as my pick for this week. But now, no fucking way. Don’t blow it on what could be Jacksonville’s only win of the year.

New England @ Cincinnati (-2)

The beauty of what was happening with the Patriots this season is that I actually stopped caring two weeks ago when Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola would return. I know they’d be a huge help on offense, of course, but the defense was playing so well that it really didn’t matter what was happening with the receivers. That all changed when Vince Wilfork went down with the season-ending injury. Now we should be concerned about the D over the long term. Eventually the offense might have to pick up the slack. Is Cincy the team that bursts this fun, unexpected 4-0 bubble?

I can tell you betting on the Pats for the rest of the year is going to go one of two ways. Either they really are that good of a team and we’re all going to profit off these spreads that have them as underdogs or slight favorites when facing decent teams, or they’re not that good and we’re going to struggle all year long trying to figure them out. For this week, I’m going with the more ideal (from a Pats fan standpoint) scenario and picking the Patriots to win, 27-23.

Seattle (-3) @ Indianapolis

The Seahawks’ offense has scored 28 total points in their two road wins this year. It’s no secret that they’re a very different team away from Seattle. But the Colts nearly lost to Oakland at home, then actually lost to Miami at home before winning big in back-to-back road games. Since one of those blowout wins was Jacksonville, I have no idea what to make of this team still. I can tell you that Indy’s run defense blows. So even if Russell Wilson and the pass game struggles, Marshawn Lynch might have a huge day. If this line was a half point higher, I’d definitely be taking the Colts. But it’s not so I’m not. Seattle covers and wins, 26-20.

Detroit @ Green Bay (-7)

I hate picking games early in the year when it involves a team that already had a bye. I feel like we know nothing about the Packers. They’re 1-2. They’ve played a good team, a decent team and a bad team. A fluky loss against that decent team, Cincinnati, is the difference between 2-1 and 1-2. But their pass defense seems to legitimately suck still. And very quietly, Detroit has turned into a possible contender. Their defense is finally playing well, their offense has more options than ever before under Matt Stafford, and the combination of Jim Schwartz and Ndamukong Suh surprisingly hasn’t cost the Lions any games yet. I fully expect Green Bay to win this game because it’s at home, they’ve had two weeks to prepare and they’re something like 15-1 against Detroit over the past eight years. But my very specific prediction for this game is that the Lions will hold a lead late in the 4th quarter, won’t be able to run out the clock, and the Packers will march down the field and win the game, 37-34…meaning Detroit covers.

New Orleans (-1) @ Chicago

I actually thought the Bears would be a slight favorite only because the Saints haven’t been tested on the road yet this year. Their one win away from the Superdome was against Tampa. Chicago, meanwhile, is 2-0 at home. What we’ve got in this game is a Saints offense that excels at passing and sucks at running going against a Bears defense that’s great against the run and bad against the pass. On the flip side, the Bears’ offensive running game is great and the Saints run defense is horrific. Hmm…

I’ve been resistant to jump on the Saints bandwagon, but if there’s one more seat available, I’ll gladly take it. I can’t get over the fact that Chicago squeaked out home wins against the Bengals and Vikings and now an offense that’s firing on all cylinders (can there be a “firing on more than all cylinders”?) is coming to town. I think Bears fans appropriately lower their expectations on this team after Sunday because the Saints win 31-24.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-3)

How in the hell is New York favored in this game, right? Well, because outside of beating up on the comatose Redskins in week 1, the Eagles have been nearly as bad as the Giants…or at least it appears that way. But to the Eagles’ credit, they have faced two of the better teams in the AFC (Kansas City and Denver) as well as a frisky AFC team (San Diego). As much as I’d like Eli Manning’s time as an effective QB to be over, I don’t think that’s the case. I’m always going to be slightly scared of the Giants’ ability to randomly put up a 450-yard passing game and 30+ points. But Chip Kelly will play to his team’s greatest strength in this game, running the ball over and over again. Or, I should say, he better play that way. Run all over the Giants and keep Manning’s time on the field to a minimum. Sounds like a foolproof game plan to me. Philadelphia wins a close one, 29-26.

Carolina (-2) @ Arizona

The 1-2 Panthers favored on the road? That’s weird. Listen, I’m won’t pretend to know a ton about these two teams, but if you’re into the advanced stats that Football Outsiders provides, Carolina is sneaky good this year. And they’re coming off a bye. While the Cardinals are 2-2, remember that last week’s win was against the Mike Glennon-era Buccaneers. The only thing the Cardinals have excelled at so far in 2013 is defending the run. So can the Panthers win if they have to throw a lot? I’ll let you decide for yourself how meaningful this stat is: The Panthers are 4-14 over the past three years when Cam Newton has thrown the ball more than 30 times in a game. And when you consider that Patrick Peterson might be able to neutralize Steve Smith, what else does Carolina have? I know how bad Arizona is. I really do. But Carolina on the road against a superb run D? Not happening. Arizona wins 19-15.

Denver (-9) @ Dallas

No, Dallas, you do not get to be the first team that stops Denver from covering this season. I don’t care that your aerial attack is competent and the Broncos’ weakness is in its pass defense. If you don’t execute flawlessly the entire game, you’re cooked.

Seriously, when’s the last time you watched a Cowboys game and thought “flawless execution”? Let’s say it’s a semi-close game into the 3rd quarter and then a Cowboys’ drive stalls out. Denver takes over and suddenly they’re up 10 or 14 points. Now the pressure’s on Tony Romo and the offense to score on every single drive the rest of the game. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Eventually the Broncos’ scoring pace will slow down—just like New England’s did in November of 2007—but not in this game. Denver rolls to 5-0 behind a 38-24 road win.

Houston @ San Francisco (-7)

This line is too high. I actually think these two teams are very similar. Both have strong offensive lines, above average defenses and one issue on offense that’s keeping them from being a true Super Bowl contender. For the 49ers it’s the lack of healthy wide receivers, which leads to defenses focusing on Anquan Boldin and not having to worry about much else. For the Texans, it’s Matt Schaub. Not a specific part of his game. Just him in general. So while I think San Francisco wins this game, it won’t be by a touchdown. Give me Houston to cover but the 49ers to win, 24-20.

Side Note: Remember when I cried like a little baby earlier this week about having to make picks on Thursday before we have all the info on key injuries? Patrick Willis’ status is of prime importance going into this game. If he plays at 90% of his normal level, the 9ers will be fine. If he’s out, I could absolutely see the Texans pulling off the upset. He’s that important to San Francisco’s defense.

San Diego (-4) @ Oakland

Hey, it’s the trial run of the late late game. What will the ratings for this game be on the East Coast? 0.00? -3.5? I don’t know how ratings work but I know the lower it is, the worse it is. And I can’t imagine a single person in the eastern time zone staying up for this one.

It feels like the line’s one point too high, right? I know the Chargers are playing pretty well and are only two plays away from being 4-0 instead of 2-2. But I see a divisional road game against a sneaky OK quarterback in Terrelle Pryor, not to mention the weird time this game starts. I think this will look a lot like your typical Thursday night game. San Diego wins, but doesn’t cover, 20-17.

NY Jets @ Atlanta (-10)

The Falcons have not been a good team so far this year. Normally I’d jump all over a team getting 10 points against them, but I think I’ve got the Jets pegged this year. They’ll look good against any team that has a below average offense (their two wins are against Tampa Bay and Buffalo). The Jets’ defense is solid, but they can’t keep up with an offense that can score in the high 20s or above. The Falcons’ offense isn’t exactly soaring these days, but it’s good enough at home to win by at least a touchdown. When you factor in a rookie QB for the Jets playing on the road in a loud dome, with his two best WRs out (Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill), I just don’t see good things happening for New York. I might be kicking myself for thinking Atlanta’s competent enough to win by double digits, but I’m counting on the Jets to do lots of Jetsy things in this one. Atlanta wins 33-20.

Side Note: And here is my suicide pick for the week. Atlanta. As much as I wanted to hold onto them for their week 7 home game against Tampa Bay, I just don’t see a better option this week. The name of the game is survival and this pick seems to be the best bet this week.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 5 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 8 Underdogs
  • Of those 8 Underdogs, 2 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs

Enjoy week 5.

Fall TV Preview: Ending Our Preview Series With Some Family Time

mike omalley

The final day of our Fall TV Preview has us looking at three brand new shows, all of which fall under the pure sitcom umbrella. They are all about families. Parents moving in with their adult children, two separate families forced together suddenly, a single Dad trying to raise his daughter Danny Tanner style.

They all have at least some potential, but they could all be cliche, tired, laugh-tracky failures. Tough to tell which way they’ll go based on the trailers so the only way to really know is to watch an episode or two.

Let’s take a look at these shows premiering on Thursday, October 3rd:

The Millers

When & Where: 8:30pm on CBS

What: A family sitcom where a recently-divorced woman moves in with her recently-divorced son. He’s trying to reignite his bachelorhood and the fun stuff that comes with it, but of course the Mom is always there ruining his good times.

Who: Will Arnett, Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale are the main characters. The show was created by Greg Garcia, who previously created My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope.

Ross’s Take: This is apparently the “in” thing in TV sitcoms these days. We previously previewed Mom and Dads, two separate shows where parents of the main characters are re-entering the picture whether their child wants them to or not. This looks the same. Putting Mom and her adult son in this strange situation where they have to learn to live together. I don’t think it’ll be terrible, but I do fear that GOB Bluth will never find a long term TV show again. I give it a 2.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: I think the premise is a little unrealistic, but I’ll pretty much watch anything with Will Arnett in it. I’m giving it a 5 out of 5. (I’d like to clarify that I think the premise is funny even though it’s unrealistic.)

Welcome To The Family

When & Where: 8:30pm on NBC

What: A sitcom about two very different families that are forced to bond when the slacker daughter in one family gets knocked up by a Stanford-bound son in the other family. Apparently the families come from different cultures and backgrounds so there will be lots of disagreements and misunderstandings.

Who: Mike O’Malley of Guts fame.

Ross’s Take: The story doesn’t interest me at all, but I could see people liking this show because they might enjoy some of the characters. That’s why so many shows that you & I think are lame end up sticking around and doing well. We look at the plot as well as the characters, but a lot of people out there will watch anything, no matter how cliche or unbelievable the storyline, just because they enjoy the characters. I don’t see myself watching more than one episode. Let’s give it a 1.5 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: For the record, I don’t think it has staying power because the storyline’s so weak. But I love Mike O’Malley and I think he’ll get a few laughs. That’s it. It’s getting an almost 3 out of 5 from me.

Sean Saves The World

When & Where: 9:00pm on NBC

What: A story about a divorced gay Dad with a successful career whose teenage daughter moves in with him full time. He’s forced to find time for his work life and his new family life. And of course he knows nothing about raising a teenage girl.

Who: Sean Hayes, of Will & Grace fame. Thomas Lennon, of Reno 9-1-1 fame.

Ross’s Take: Not for me. I bet people who liked Will & Grace will love it because that guy seems like a good actor. But doesn’t tickle my fancy. I’ll watch one episode and for now give it a 2 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: Since we don’t know why the Mom’s not in the picture at all, I’m struggling to give this a true rating until I know the full backstory. It seems a little “Full Housey” with the single Dad and heartfelt stories and lessons at the end of episodes. But I like the mean boss twist. I’m giving it a 2.5 out of 5.

 

There you have it. Twenty-four new and returning show previews in the books. Hopefully you all found a show or two to enjoy this year. If not, you’re probably some weirdo who hates TV. Good luck with that.