NFL Week 5 Picks Against The Spread

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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.

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Fall TV Preview: TV Feels So Insignificant In The post-Breaking Bad World

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It seems ridiculous this morning to be previewing new TV shows after saying goodbye to one of the best shows of all time just about 12 hours ago (Breaking Bad obviously). It’s like if a widower set up a Match.com profile while standing in the receiving line at his late wife’s wake. Too soon.

But of course the shows must go on. After a brain-frying 12 hours of TV on Sunday, it’s a good thing we only need to review one show for tonight. It’s a brand new show that I’m guessing some people are going to love and some are going to hate. No in between.

Here it is.

We Are Men

When & Where: 8:30pm on CBS

What: A comedy about a guy who gets left at the altar and the fallout from that disastrous moment. For some reason he has to move into a short-term apartment rental complex where many other recently-single men live. And obviously they bond. Most likely they make a lot of raunchy man jokes. And almost definitely they try to act like college frat boys.

Who: Kal Penn (of Harold & Kumar fame), Jerry O’Connell (of stealing John Stamos’ wife fame) and Tony Shaloub (of Monk fame) are all featured actors on the show.

Ross’s Take: This whole thing makes me sad because the opening 30 seconds of the trailer looks exactly like the opening of the most recently great-TV-show-to-be-cancelled, Happy Endings. But aside from that, I get the sense this show will have some hilarious moments and some awfully cliche and uninspiring moments. I could totally imagine a scenario where watching this show makes you feel like you’re watching a group of old sleazy men desperately trying to hit on good looking women at a bar. My guess is that the unfunny stuff will dominate the funny stuff, which means I’m only giving this show a 2 out of 5.

Julie’s Take: The setup in the beginning looks largely unoriginal, but it looks OK and I like a lot of the actors. I give it a 3 out of 5.

 

After the past two weeks, we have a very light schedule of premiering shows this week, and then no blogworthy TV premieres until the new year when shows like Game of Thrones return. Hope you’re enjoying some of the new Fall shows.

NFL Week 3 Recap: The AFC Dominates

Mike McCarthy

You know the people who are constantly campaigning for Americans to spend less time watching TV? They’re the researchers who are putting out study after study saying even a few hours of TV-viewing each day is killing us. Or they’re the parents of your friends growing up who didn’t even have a TV in the house…or if they did have a TV, they most certainly did NOT have cable. And that’s because TV is bad for you. Sitting on the couch for hours at a time will lead to certain death.

Can you imagine how those people would react to a day like yesterday? If you’re like me, you plopped yourself down in front of the TV at 9:55am Pacific Time, watched football for six-and-a-half hours (the Red Zone Channel on the main TV and an additional game on the laptop), and only got up to use the bathroom or grab a fresh beer. You took a 45-minute break from 4:30-5:15, and then sat down for the three hours of night time football. But then, when the dust had settled on another fantastic day in the NFL, you toggled over to the DVR queue and fired up Breaking Bad.

By my count that’s just shy of 11 hours of television watching. According to those TV studies, I should have died around hour nine.

And I’m guessing I wasn’t alone. In some ways it’ll be a good thing when Breaking Bad ends next week because we’ll get to claim a little bit of our Sundays back, but it was a pretty amazing run while it lasted. The opening four weeks of the 2013 football season is the only time in my life when the football itself might not have been the most exciting event happening on those Sundays.

For those New England and Atlanta fans that haven’t realized it yet, the Breaking Bad finale airs while the Patriots and Falcons play in the Sunday Night Football game this weekend. I’m choosing to watch the game live and then follow it up with the finale, but I doubt my heart will be into the game very much.

Speaking of that interconference matchup between the 3-0 Patriots and 1-2 Falcons, now seems like as good of a time as any to discuss the relationship between the AFC and NFC.

Going into the season you couldn’t have paid an analyst enough money to say that the AFC is superior to the NFC. It was common knowledge that the best of the NFC (Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay) was well ahead of the best of the AFC (Denver, New England, Baltimore). AND it was also clear that the NFC was deeper, with intriguing-yet-not-elite teams like Chicago, Washington, the Giants, Detroit and others making up a strong middle class. What did the AFC have? Teams that looked decent but no doubt would be on the outside of the playoff picture if they played in the NFC. I’m talking about Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami…

I know it’s only been three weeks, but I found the following stats very interesting:

  • Last year’s NFC playoff teams are now a combined 6-12 on the year (with the top three seeds—Atlanta, San Francisco and Green Bay—each struggling at 1-2).
  • Last year’s AFC playoff teams are a combined 14-4 (assuming Denver handles Oakland on Monday night).
  • And before you fall back on the old faithful line of “Yeah but that’s because the NFC is beating each other up while the best of the AFC gets to feast on the Jaguars and Raiders,” I’ve got news for you: The AFC is now 11-3 against the NFC this year.
  • Signature wins this week include Cincinnati over Green Bay, Indianapolis demolishing San Francisco, Kansas City handling Philadelphia on Thursday, Miami over Atlanta, and of course Cleveland stunning Minnesota. Some teams thought to be very middle of the road in the AFC have taken it to what we thought would be the class of the NFC.
  • I wish my analysis was advanced enough to tell you why this is happening.
  • In a quarterback-driven league, you might think the conference with the QB advantage would be the dominant one, but as it turns out, 7 of the 10 highest ranked quarterbacks by Passer Rating are in the NFC.
  • NFC teams also comprise 7 of the top 10 spots in offensive yards per game.
  • Maybe the deciding factor is defense, as 8 of the top 10 spots in defensive yards allowed are occupied by AFC teams.

I really have no clue why the AFC suddenly looks better, and it could just be a three-week anomaly. We’ll know a lot more after week 4 as there are eight interconference games, many of them including the conferences’ best teams. Consider the NFC officially on notice.

As will be the case six more times out of the 14 remaining regular season weekends, when the Patriots are on at 10am on Sundays like they were this week, it severely cuts down on the amount of attention I can give the other eight games taking place at that time. The Patriots take priority on the real TV while the Red Zone Channel gets second billing on the laptop. Expect less of a game-by-game recap when this scheduling challenge happens.

That doesn’t mean I ignored the football universe outside of New England entirely. Here are the things I was able to notice during the week in football:

  • There’s nothing better than bookending the weekend with Pennsylvania-based teams screwing up my weekly picks. And doing it in dramatic fashion. Three days after the Eagles kicked off another losing week for me with that ghastly five turnover game, the Steelers really put the nail in my picks coffin last night with…a ghastly five turnover game! Thank you so much, Keystone State, for being the miserable bread to an otherwise decent sandwich of football picks in week 3.
  • An Oakland cover tonight will put me at 7-8-1 for the week, exactly the same as last week but still not what we’re looking for.
  • More heartbreaking for my picks than the Philly and Pittsburgh turnover fests were the way two other games ended. First it was Aldrick Robinson for the Redskins catching a game-saving 57-yard touchdown pass with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter only to have it overturned upon replay. Then it was San Diego having their win in hand at Tennessee only to see the Titans score with 15 seconds left on an OUTRAGEOUS push-off by the wide receiver. Two wins against the spread evaporating in seconds…
  • Quick tangent since I was just talking about the Thursday night game. That Andy Reid gatorade bath followed by some of the Chiefs players sitting in the stands with their fans after the game was the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen from a 3-0 team. Doesn’t matter that it was Reid’s emotional return to Philly. Doesn’t matter if it was a spontaneous move by the players. It’s simply uncalled for to treat the third regular season game like it’s the Super Bowl. More outrageous than what the Dodgers did in the pool at Arizona on Thursday, and I thought that was pretty crappy too.
  • This week’s installment of “I’m so superstitious I can find omens in the weirdest places”: I noticed early on in the Patriots game that the referee was the one me and my friends have nicknamed “Steve Martin” (Jeff Triplette is the ref’s real name. One time I thought he looked like Steve Martin and it stuck). Father of the Bride was playing Sunday morning when I turned the TV on. Obviously the Pats were going to win.
  • Hey I heard James Starks was the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy football leading up to week 3. So I just wanted to ask the people who either paid out the ass in an auction/waiver league or used up a good waiver priority spot in a standard league how Starks worked out for you yesterday? Looks like he had about five fantasy points compared to Jonathan Franklin’s 16. I’m not trying to rub it in, but you should know going forward in a situation like Green Bay’s, when the lead RB goes down, they’re probably filling that void in production by a combination of people. And when the guy you’re picking up is described by all the analysts as “just a guy” and “I guess he’s the man for now,” you might want to lower your expectations.
  • Does that mean Jonathan Franklin is going to be the new hot waiver pickup this week? I’d say Franklin, Bilal Powell, Donnie Avery and Kenbrell Thompkins will get the most looks on the waiver wire heading into week 4 (and maybe Brian Hoyer?)
  • Speaking of Green Bay-Cincinnati, it seemed like every time the Red Zone Channel switched to that game they were showing a turnover. Eight turnovers to be exact.
  • And though I’ve been calling Mike McCarthy a bad coach for years, it seems like maybe Aaron Rodgers finally figured that out on Sunday.
  • How about that inspired football from the Browns? All week long I toyed with the idea of making Minnesota my suicide pick because there aren’t many times this year where you’ll feel good about using them. But what better time to get them out of the way than when they’re hosting the lowly Browns? I was so close to picking them, but ultimately I went with Seattle. I can’t say the same thing about two poor souls in my pool who went with Minnesota only to watch the Brian Hoyer show ruin their day.
  • I’m calling it the Hoyer show because it really was. He attempted 54 passes, threw for over 300 yards and put up three touchdowns, compared to the Browns’ 17 rushing attempts. And he even had a better passer rating than Christian Ponder.
  • I don’t know where the Vikings go from here as it seems like they’re in for a long, frustrating season. I do have one recommendation for head coach Leslie Frazier though. Assuming you want a chance to keep your job during what could be a three or four win season, you might want to follow what is now one of the most known rules in football. On a play that was ruled a turnover in the Vikings-Browns game, Frazier threw the challenge flag because he disagreed with the call. We all know that turnovers are automatically reviewed, and we also know that if you throw a red flag on an automatically-reviewed play, you get penalized 15 yards. You know why we all know this? Because last year Jim Schwartz made it famous on Thanksgiving when he tried to challenge a Houston touchdown only to learn that he can’t challenge an automatically reviewed play, but since he did try to challenge it, the play would no longer be reviewed and he’d be assessed a penalty. And as if that wasn’t enough, just a couple weeks after Schwartz made this entire procedure famous, Mike F-ing McCarthy tried to do the same thing, except one of his players was smart enough to know the rule and quickly picked up the challenge flag before the referees could figure out what was going on. AND THEN, in the offseason, the rules committee decided it wasn’t fair to not review an automatically-reviewed play just because a coach didn’t follow the rules. So they changed it. Now the play will still get reviewed, but the team loses a timeout (or gets a penalty for delay of game if they don’t have a timeout).
  • I went into crazy detail in the previous paragraph because I CAN’T UNDERSTAND HOW A HEAD COACH WOULD FUCK THIS UP AT THIS POINT. It’s infuriating to competent people like me!
  • Even though the play didn’t end up counting, I loved seeing David Wilson do a backflip from a standstill in the end zone after his touchdown on Sunday. Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought being able to do a backflip would be the coolest thing. If I could do it, I’d be backflipping nonstop, all day long. Just backflipping in my living room while I watch TV. Backflipping on the sidewalk while my dog takes a shit. Backflipping in line at Target just because I’m bored.
  • Oh, and the Giants are firmly entrenched in my “do not bet on them no matter the circumstances” doghouse (like a true gambling pro, I made a big bet on the Giants when the lines first came out on Tuesday, then forgot I made that bet, so I made another huge bet on them Sunday morning. Always recommended to double down on an 0-2 road team).
  • And on the opposite end of the spectrum, Tennessee may now be a team that we should be betting on no matter the circumstances. They’re 2-1 with the loss coming in overtime on the road against the best team in their division. They have a rough patch coming up where they face Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco in consecutive weeks, but they have a real shot to win nine games. They might sneaky go 16-0 agains the spread this year.
  • My girlfriend informed me during the games on Sunday that there are two things in my life that I’m only average at: putting keys into locks the right way on the first try, and picking out appropriately-sized tupperware when saving leftovers.
  • Speaking of mixing women with football-watching, I’ve always thought that having my girlfriend home while I watch the games in our living room is really maxing out the number of females I can tolerate in the apartment while I watch football. On Sunday a female friend was over and I was nervous. Especially after she not-so-politely suggested I watch my games on the small TV in the bedroom so they could watch Sex & The City in the living room. But then out of nowhere, they both started cooking meals for me and making me mimosas. Usually I have one woman cooking for me on Sundays but this weekend I had two. If it wasn’t for their long conversation about when it’s appropriate to unfriend someone on Facebook drowning out the Patriots game, it would have been perfect.
  • And when I heard the two women agree to take a “wine and painting class” together in a few weeks, it made my day because it got me off the hook. My girlfriend has mentioned taking a class like that (or a couples cooking class) roughly 1,372 times since we moved in together. Thank god for the second woman.
  • Did you know only two divisions in football have a combined winning record? That would be the AFC East (9-3) and the AFC West (8-4 after Monday night), the two divisions that were unanimously voted as the worst in football this year. Just like the AFC vs NFC stuff at the beginning of this article, I have no idea what it means. It just felt necessary to point out.
  • You want a proof point on the NFL’s randomness? Look no further than Indy. The Colts barely survived a week 1 home game against an Oakland team being led by Terrelle Pryor. Then they lost their second home game to Miami, a team no one considered to be very good. And on Sunday the Colts went on the road and absolutely manhandled the consensus-to-win-the-Super-Bowl 49ers. The NFL makes no sense so why do we spend so much of our lives trying to make sense of it?
  • Some backup QBs who made cameos on Sunday: Curtis Painter, subbing in for Eli Manning because the Giants were down so big, and Tavaris Jackson, subbing in for Russell Wilson because the Seahawks were up so big. Looking forward to seeing Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder in that same type of role next year.
  • Just a word of warning to fellow football fans out there: Be careful when you type “RBs” in a football-related text message. Your phone may autocorrect it to “Arabs” like my phone did twice on Sunday. I’m sending people messages that say, “You’re lucky, you own the two best Arabs.” Perfect.
  • Eventually I might have to soften on some claims I made in the preseason/early regular season. That list would probably include the following: Ryan Tannehill is a bad QB, the Saints D is not going to make a drastic turnaround this year, Andy Reid and Alex Smith won’t make the Chiefs a playoff contender, the 49ers could go 16-0 if they win in Seattle. Like I said, at some point I might have to admit I was wrong about this stuff. But not after week 3.
  • Were the Matt Cassel chants in Minnesota yesterday a low point for the franchise? What names could the fans chant that would make you feel worse as an organization? “TEBOW”? “SANCHEZ”? “JAMARCUS”?
  • I think Geno Smith is a better QB right now than E.J. Manuel, and it’s not even close.
  • The end of that Jets-Bills game was kind of weird. With the clock running down toward 0:00 and the Bills obviously only getting 1 more play off while trailing by 7, E.J. Manuel…snaps the ball and takes a knee? Really? You didn’t want to try a hail mary or a pass and then lateral situation when you literally had nothing to lose? Strange.
  • As for my Vitriol Award of the Week, it definitely goes to Philadelphia. Only hours before that Thursday night kickoff I posted my picks and claimed I’d never been as confident as I was in Philly over Kansas City. Then the Eagles proceeded to turn the ball over on seemingly every possession. But the worst was how they stayed in the game the entire time due to the combination of their defense and KC’s offensive ineptitude. Rather than a blowout that I could turn off at halftime, they strung us along until the bitter end. Just a terrible start to the week.

While wasting time on Sunday night and looking through the upcoming schedule, I picked out four teams that should be nervous about what’s on the horizon:

  • The Bills’ next nine games are: Baltimore, @Cleveland, Cincinnati, @Miami, @New Orleans, Kansas City, @Pittsburgh, NY Jets, Atlanta. And then they end the season with Miami and @New England. That’s 10 losable games out of those 11.
  • The Saints have two rough patches: weeks 4-6 are Miami, @Chicago, @New England. And then weeks 10-13 are Dallas, San Francisco, @Atlanta, @Seattle.
  • And the Chargers have a stretch where they play five of six games against potential AFC playoff teams. Weeks 10-15 they play two vs Denver and one each against Kansas City, Cincinnati and Miami.
  • The Patriots’ next five opponents have a combined record of 11-4 and three of those are on the road. The real season starts on Sunday.

That’s it for my stream of consciousness recap. Hope everyone’s week 3 was more profitable than mine. Week 4 picks are coming up on Thursday. Enjoy the Monday Night Blowout.

Week 3 Picks Against the Spread

cleveland browns suck

As if the fantasy football world wasn’t already chaotic enough this week with the fallout from the absurd number of week 2 injuries, the Cleveland Browns had to go and do weird shit, turning the waiver wire period into a roller coaster of panic and depression for plenty of fantasy owners. Trent Richardson’s value plummets this week (and then skyrockets starting next week), Ahmad Bradshaw’s value takes a permanent nosedive, the entire Cleveland receiving corps’ stock also takes a hit considering defenses no longer have to worry about a running threat or a semi-legitimate starting quarterback. It’s all so confusing.

Speaking of fantasy, it’s great to see Cleveland’s management treating the real NFL season as if it’s a fantasy keeper league where their team is 0-8 and they’re looking to stockpile valuable assets for next year.

By now you’ve seen the tweets from all the NFL reporters stating that only one other top 3 draft pick in the league’s history has ever been playing for his second team as early on in his career as Trent Richardson. So even though it falls short of the insanity that would ensue if someone like Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers was traded during the season, it’s a pretty big deal.

It created quite the stir in my world immediately after news broke. Here’s the timeline of my many reactions to this confusing transaction that went down on Wednesday afternoon:

  • 3:17pm PST: I look at my Twitter timeline for roughly the 356th time today and see Adam Schefter’s tweet stating that the Browns have traded Trent Richardson to the Colts.
  • 3:18-3:22pm: I stare blankly at the wall trying to process this information. My brain can’t comprehend such an unprecedented move.
  • 3:23pm: I go back to Twitter because it’s obviously a fake Adam Schefter account that tweeted the fake Richardson news, right?
  • 3:24pm: I start to see other reputable football reporters and websites re-tweet the original Schefter tweet. This is real.
  • 3:25-3:29pm: I stare at the wall again, befuddled because this really never happens in football, and it doesn’t even make sense if these things did happen in football (I could understand the Jaguars trading a guy like MoJo, that would make sense, but not this).
  • 3:30pm: I scream and repeatedly slam my computer on my desk because I just realized that with Steven Jackson and Ray Rice banged up, Ahmad Bradshaw was going to be a much needed starter for my fantasy team for the next couple weeks.
  • 3:32pm: I realize that the screw job the Browns just pulled trickles down to all of their offensive players because the combination of “RB TBD” and Brian Hoyer at QB means this team might get held to 50 total yards of offense every week for the rest of the year. Jordan Cameron was a guy I was very high on in the preseason so of course I drafted him in many fantasy leagues.
  • 3:34pm: On the bright side, I’m now considering being the only person in my Suicide Pool to not pick Seattle. If I pick Minnesota over Cleveland, and somehow Jacksonville pulls off the miracle in Seattle, I’ll win $500. OK, maybe I’m over-thinking things now.
  • 3:35pm: Calming down now and re-thinking my initial instinct of “Cleveland is the dumbest franchise in sports all over again.” After all, I just wrote a blog nine months ago about how insignificant highly-drafted running backs are in the grand scheme of a franchise winning the Super Bowl (Basically what I’m saying is that there’s no correlation between a team having a highly-drafted RB who performs like a stud and that team going to the playoffs. I went back and looked at the past five drafts. The data backs up my claim).
  • 3:37pm: I finally relax a little. And I’m thankful that three of my four fantasy leagues use daily waiver wires for pickups because I’ve been paralyzed for the past 15 minutes and couldn’t possibly have reacted quick enough to the news that Willis McGahee is now the chic RB pickup based on this crazy NFL trade.
  • 3:38pm: Oh, now I understand why the Browns are starting their 3rd string QB and not Jason Campbell. They’re trying to out-Jacksonville Jacksonville and ensure they get the top pick in next year’s draft. Well played, Mike Lombardi. Well played.
  • 3:40pm: I realize that this crazy trade combined with me writing a detailed timeline of my reaction will distract my readers quite nicely from my 9-21-2 season record against the spread. Thank you, Cleveland.

On top of all that batshit craziness coming out of Ohio, it is now Thursday morning and the site I use for point spreads still doesn’t have a line on four of the 16 games this weekend. That’s when you know it isn’t a normal week. My head is spinning.

Let’s just get to the week 3 picks:

Kansas City @ Philadelphia (-3.5)

Man, how do the Chiefs and Eagles top that beautiful Patriots-Jets game from last Thursday night? Oh, right, they just have to complete more than 27% of their pass attempts and put up three total touchdowns. Got it.

Regarding this line, I know exactly what you’re thinking…the Chiefs cover because it’s at least a half-point too high, it’s a Thursday night game where teams tend to play sloppy and close. I get it. But here’s the deal: Kansas City may be 2-0, but they haven’t proven anything yet. They beat up on Jacksonville in week 1, and then they took advantage of a Dallas team in week 2 that repeatedly sabotaged themselves. The Chiefs didn’t win that game so much as Dallas lost it. Penalties, weird coaching decisions, an untimely fumble…The Cowboys did it all. Philadelphia covers. I’ve never been more confident. Something like 27-17.

San Diego @ Tennessee (-3)

I have no read on these teams. Both have looked good for seven of eight quarters so far this year. And if each of them could have played a decent eighth quarter, they’d both be 2-0. You know, it would be such a Philip Rivers move to get the Chargers to 2-1 and have everyone talking about them being the surprise team in the AFC. For his entire career, Rivers has been doing the exact opposite of what we expected. We figured a young QB in the anti-spotlight of San Diego would coast under the radar, but Rivers came out guns blazing with his constant bitching at teammates, referees and opposing QBs. At one point we annointed him the next Super Bowl winning QB, but he decided an AFC Championship appearance was good enough. We thought he was soft, then found out he played in that ’08 conference title game with a torn ACL. Last year we still considered him one of the top 12 QBs and he bottomed out. This year we wrote him off, and…he just became the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy this past week. Since we still expect nothing out of this Chargers team, I think they go into Tennessee and win handily, 23-13.

Cleveland @ Minnesota (-6.5)

You don’t announce you’re tanking the season by starting your third-best quarterback only days after trading away your franchise running back and expect your players to show up motivated. How can a single Browns player feel like giving 100% effort this week? They just went from a frisky middle-of-the-road team to an organization who’s already waving the white flag. Or does it go the opposite way, and the players bond over the “those mother fuckers in the front office don’t think we’re part of the future, let’s show them what a big mistake they made” mantra? No, it doesn’t go that way. The Vikings win 24-6.

Tampa Bay @ New England (-7)

If the Bucs don’t have meltdowns at the end of each of their first two games, they’re 2-0 instead of 0-2. And the Patriots didn’t exactly confuse the two rookie QBs they’ve faced so far. In fact, you could say that the Bills and Jets gave away those games to New England. If the Patriots get one less break, they’re 1-1 instead of 2-0. If the undefeated Bucs are facing the 1-1 Patriots, this line is 4 instead of 7. And the Pats still have no Amendola and probably no Gronk. And I’m still nervous about the revelation I had last week that the Patriots typically lose an early-season game to an inferior team. What am I missing here? The Pats are going to win a lot of games by less than a touchdown until they’re full strength (if that ever happens). New England wins 26-24, meaning Tampa covers.

Houston (-2.5) @ Baltimore

Some teams have earned the benefit of the doubt at home no matter how sketchy they’ve looked in recent weeks. Sure, Houston could go into Baltimore and beat up on a beat-up team, but I don’t think they will. Baltimore’s defense will be the best that the Texans have seen so far. I still don’t trust Matt Schaub on the road. The Ravens have a significant coaching advantage if it’s close late in the game. My one concern is the Ed Reed factor. It would just be so perfect if he ices this game for Houston with a pick-six late in the 4th quarter against his old team. But I’m still taking Baltimore to cover and squeak out a one-point victory, 24-23.

St. Louis @ Dallas (-4)

If I could punt on one game each week, this would probably be it for week 3. I’m taking Dallas in this game probably for the same reason so many people take them to win the NFC East every year…because I feel like they’re better than they probably are. I also think St. Louis is one of those “count on them at home, don’t touch them on the road” teams. But four points is just enough for Jason Garrett to screw me over. The scenario I envision is this: late 4th quarter, Cowboys up four and driving. It’s 4th & 2 from the St. Louis 30 yard line. Garrett decides to kick a field goal to go up by 7. St Louis marches down the field and ties it up. The Cowboys win by thee in overtime. I hate this already, but I’ve got Dallas winning 31-26.

Arizona @ New Orleans (-7)

OK, New Orleans, I’m jumping on the bandwagon for one week. I’ll temporarily buy the bullshit you’re selling that Sean Payton’s return combined with Rob Ryan’s influence on the defense has turned this team into an NFC contender. Just know that I’m suspicious and I’ve taken a seat in the emergency exit row of this bandwagon. The Saints win a shootout, 35-27.

Detroit @ Washington (-2)

Call me crazy, but I love the Redskins in this game. Not that anyone wants to hear excuses, but the ‘Skins were dealt a pretty bad hand to start the season. Week 1 was RGIII’s timid return combined with their defense being the guinea pig for Chip Kelly’s offense. Week 2 had them on the road at Green Bay…no one, with possibly the exception of San Francisco, has had it harder to start the year. Detroit may end up being solid this year, but on the road against a team that can run and throw, I dunno. I like Washington to finally get on the board. Obviously if you think the Redskins win, you’re taking them to cover. I say Washington wins 30-27.

Green Bay (-3) at Cincinnati

I’m terrified of betting against Aaron Rodgers and his 127.2 passer rating, but I don’t trust Green Bay on the road. And let’s not forget that Colin Kaepernick and RGIII threw for a ton of yards on this Packers defense. That defense is not fixed from last year in my opinion. The Bengals suddenly have lots of offensive weapons and an aggressive defense. I’m taking Cincinnati to cover and win outright, 27-24.

NY Giants @ Carolina (Pick)

Guess what, Giants? You’re not roping me into this again. It was during week 3 last year when the Giants traveled to Carolina to play on short rest in the Thursday night game. EVERYONE thought the Panthers were a lock, mostly because the Giants had lost several key players to injury (Hakeem Nicks comes to mind) during an exhausting comeback win against Tampa the previous Sunday. This is still fresh in my mind. I’m going with a Breaking Bad quote here, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT.

“…he’s the devil…Whatever you think is supposed to happen, I’m telling you, the exact, reverse opposite of that is going to happen.” -Jesse Pinkman talking about Walter White

That’s my exact feeling on the Giants. They are the devil (or at the very least they have a deal with the devil), and the opposite of expectations will happen.

The Giants win going away, 37-23. And the Ron Rivera hot seat gets turned up to “scolding”.

Atlanta @ Miami (-3)

At the start of the season, nobody would have expected to see the Dolphins favored against a team like Atlanta. But Miami’s 2-0 start combined with key injuries for Atlanta on both sides of the ball means the Dolphins are actually favored against last year’s NFC runner-up. I’m on record as saying Ryan Tannehill is a bad QB, but the Falcons injuries…that’s the proverbial coin flip right there. Tannehill vs a banged up team…A banged up team vs Tannehill…Finkle and Einhorn…Einhorn and Finkle. Whoops, sorry about that. You know what? The Falcons aren’t going to be able to protect a lead late in games until Steven Jackson’s back. But in this game, I think they’re down by six with two minutes left and Matt Ryan drives them down the field for the game-winning touchdown. He’s a really good quarterback, by the way. Atlanta wins and covers, 24-23.

Indianapolis @ San Francisco (-10)

Let’s assume Trent Richardson isn’t going to have a huge impact on this game. I think that’s fair. You’d want to take the 49ers here for two reasons: 1). They’ve gotta be extremely pissed off after the egg they laid in Seattle, and 2). The Colts just lost at home to Miami. You could even add in a #3…the Colts barely survived a home game in week 1 against Oakland. This has all the makings of a blowout, except the 49ers are more injured than you might think and Andrew Luck in garbage time could easily orchestrate the backdoor cover. That’s what I’m banking on when I say 49ers win, 30-23.

Jacksonville @ Seattle (-19)

I haven’t stopped thinking about this line since I first saw it on Monday. It’s almost unheard of for two teams to be this far apart (at least in the modern NFL). And all week long the thought has been the same from anyone I talked to: “Yeah, Seattle’s gonna kill ‘em, but that line is just too high to bet on.”

I thought I agreed with that until this morning. You see, the only way you can back Jacksonville is if you think Seattle takes its foot off the pedal after they go up by 28 or so. Then the Jaguars get a couple garbage time scores, and boom, you’ve got yourself a Jacksonville cover.

But you only need to look back to last year to know the Seahawks won’t play it like that. In a week 14 home game against Arizona, the ‘Hawks were up 38-0 in the 3rd quarter and 51-0 late in the 4th quarter, and both times they still aggressively went for and converted touchdown drives. Their final touchdown in a 58-0 blowout came with 2:32 left in the game. So yeah, they have no problem running up the score. And does anyone reading this think the Jaguars are as good as last year’s Cardinals team?

During the 2012 season, Seattle also won games by 29, 33 and 21 points. Covering this 19 point spread would not be unprecedented for them. So for those reasons, I’ve gotta take Seattle to cover with a final score of 52-13.

I desperately wanted to get cute with my Suicide Pool pick this week, but after much thought, Seattle is clearly the pick.

Buffalo @ NY Jets (-3)

Hmm, two rookie QBs, two AFC East afterthoughts…two, ah fuck it. I’m taking the Bills, 20-14.

Chicago (-3) @ Pittsburgh

As a rule, I don’t have many gambling rules. But I’ve got one that applies to this game: “Beware of the undefeated team that’s playing a road game against a seemingly inferior team early in the season.”

Sure, the Bears don’t look dominant by the traditional definition, but they are 2-0 and they’re facing what could be a terrible Pittsburgh squad. No doubt you can find plenty of reasons to take Chicago here, but I’m going with Pittsburgh to win outright, 23-20. The Bears are 2-0, but both games have been at home and they haven’t looked spectacular in either. The Steelers are 0-2, but they showed some signs of life in week 2 and I think Roethlisberger knows he has to take over on offense. A primetime game at Heinz Field is still plenty motivating for the Steelers regardless of how the rest of the year works out. I may be backing an eventual 0-16 team here, but it just feels right.

Oakland @ Denver (-15.5)

This is the game that’s going to play out exactly how you all think the Seattle-Jacksonville game’s going to go. I know, it’s Peyton on national TV, in a division game, against a really bad team, blah blah blah.

I just can’t pick two teams to cover this large of a point spread in the same week. I’m going with Denver to win, 34-20.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 3 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 9 Underdogs (the Giants/Panthers doesn’t count as neither a favorite nor an underdog)
  • Of those 9 Underdogs, 3 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs

Season record: 9-21-2 (frowny face)

Enjoy week 3 (unless you’re a Browns or Jaguars fan).

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

ted mosby vs walter white 1

SPOILER ALERT!

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

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

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screw Camp, Summer’s All About Getting Drunk & Ending Up In Jail (Reviewing 5 Summer TV Shows)

summer tv graphic

For a TV addict like myself, there has been one date circled on the calendar since the all the good shows ended in late May: August 11th. If that date means nothing to you, you’re probably not a Breaking Bad fan. To that I say, “Shame on you and what the hell are you waiting for?”

Walter White’s eight-episode swan song to finish off one of the best TV series of all time is the only legitimate entertainment on the small screen we could truly count on going into the summer months. Summer is usually the only time when I get sucked into shows that are really bad but seem acceptable because of the lack of legitimately entertaining TV.

Right now my DVR is littered with reality (American Ninja Warrior, MasterChef, What Would You Do?) and the least realistic show I’ve ever seen (Newsroom). If any of these programs were on in the fall, they wouldn’t make the cut for me.

The best thing I could probably do to get over this TV-related depression is to stay far away from the actual television. Spend my summer downtime reading books, going on scenic hikes, taking vacations or reconnecting with friends who I never see because you don’t see your friends in LA if they don’t live within a one-mile radius of your apartment.

But apparently I love TV too much and/or I have more free time than I know what to do with. So for the past four weeks I’ve been searching for new shows that would prove the summertime doesn’t have to be a TV-free zone.

Here’s my take on five shows that premiered over the past month (ranked worst to first).

[Side Note: Before you read my reviews, it’s probably a good idea to know what kind of tastes I have in television shows. I’m much more of a comedy/sitcom person than I am a drama person. For a one-hour drama to stick with me, it has to show early on that it might someday reach the level of shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, Weeds or Lost. I’m not screwing around with hour-long TV shows. Either you’ve got potential to be an all-timer, or I’m not staying tuned. With sitcoms I’m more forgiving because the time and emotional investment is so much less than the dramas. I’m a self-admitted sitcom snob, which means I love shows like Arrested Development, Parks & Recreation and Veep, and I hate shows with a laugh track (the one exception is Big Bang Theory, a show that I was late to come around on, but now I’ll fight you over if you lump it in with “all those other bad CBS sitcoms”).]

#5. Camp

TV schedule: Wednesdays on NBC at 10 p.m.

Where you can catch up: NBC.com

There’s a decent chance I was never the intended audience for this show. After all, it’s based around a group of teenage campers and counselors at a lakeside summer camp. But it airs at 10 p.m. so you’d think it was made for adults. And I’m willing to give a chance to any show that has hints of the movie Wet Hot American Summer in it. But after a strong opening scene in the pilot where an unsuspecting camper gets a fish hook to the nose, Camp quickly devolved into an after school special. It’s being described as a dramedy, and unfortunately it’s the drama part that makes it intolerable. On the surface level it feels like a comedy, and there are certainly funny parts, but then we quickly learn about one camper’s battle with leukemia, and one counselor’s dilemma between leaving for Stanford law school or sticking around to help his gambling addict mother get her life together.

If it was a pure sitcom, I’d give it more time. But it’s the dramatic cliches that made it the summer show I permanently deleted from my DVR the quickest.

#4. Under The Dome

TV schedule: Mondays on CBS at 10 p.m.

Where you can catch up: All episodes are on Amazon Prime Instant Video, and CBS.com has the two most recent episodes

I’m out on this show. I gave it four episodes because I really wanted to like it. The pilot was impressive enough that I was telling people it might be the closest thing to Lost since Lost. Initially it seemed to have the elements that made the ABC island drama such an addicting show: a mysterious “something” forcing a group of people together (the island/the dome), characters presenting themselves as different people than their backstories suggested, everyone trying to figure out what logical reason there is for them to be in the situation they’re now in.

But then a few episodes passed, and it was like the entire town of Chester’s Mill no longer cared about the dome. Everyone was so wrapped up in the soap opera-like dramas of their fellow townspeople that the real main character, the dome, became just a background image. What pulled us in during the first season of Lost was not just that these were interesting characters with checkered pasts, but that they desperately needed to get off the island, and they were always in search of answers about the mystery surrounding them.

How am I supposed to be invested in these characters escaping the dome when they don’t seem invested in it? A typical episode has the town’s leaders (police, city council member, priest) running around trying to stop something bad from happening inside the dome (police officer going AWOL, outbreak of meningitis), but never do we see anyone spending time trying to get out of the dome or make contact with the outside world.

Rather than capture the magic of Lost’s season one, Under The Dome seems to have fast forwarded to Lost’s season three. And anyone who was a fan of that show knows this is bad news for the longterm prospects of the Dome.

#3. The Bridge

TV schedule: Wednesdays on FX at 10 p.m.

Where you can catch up: fxnetworks.com

After a disappointing pilot (not nearly as bad as it was described by one of my friends on twitter: “about as awful of a pilot as I’ve seen”), the second episode was much better. Really this show is no different than any other crime show where the authorities are chasing a serial killer. The big gimmick that was supposed to create some buzz is the fact that the first body was found right on the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. This means the “by the books” American detective must team up with the “shoot from the hip” Mexican detective. Classic odd couple police procedural.

If you are into the CSI’s, Law & Orders and the other typical police shows, you’ll probably enjoy The Bridge. If you usually aren’t entertained by that format, don’t waste your time. There’s nothing so special about this show that you should give it a chance if it’s just not your style.

#2. Drunk History

TV schedule: Tuesdays on Comedy Central at 10 p.m.

Where you can catch up: comedycentral.com

Here’s how I would describe Drunk History in as few words as possible: Each episode contains three seven-minute skits where well-known comedians and actors try to act out a historic event as told by a ridiculously drunk person.

I shouldn’t have to say anything more for you to run over to your DVR right now and set up a season pass. It’s fulfilling my always-lofty expectations for a comedy, and even the less interesting skits will still cause you to laugh.

Maybe it’s not a great thing to be glorifying the act of getting so drunk that you can hardly form complete sentences, but that’s something for concerned parents to worry about, not me.

Do yourself a favor and start watching this show ASAP. It’s about the only comedic effort worth watching this summer.

#1. Orange Is The New Black

TV schedule: Netflix Instant, all 13 episodes available

Where you can catch up: Netflix, dummy

OK, Netflix, I’m in. You got me.

Between the Arrested Development reboot, early returns on Orange Is The New Black and what I hear about House of Cards, it seems like Netflix is taking over the TV world.

In what has become a staple of shows produced for Netflix, all 13 episodes of Orange were released on July 11th. Even though I’ve only seen the first two, it’s a matter of days before I plow through the other 11. This show is that good.

I guess you’d call it a drama, since the subject matter revolves around a woman sent to prison for being part of a drug ring and the people she comes into contact with at the prison. But similar to a show like Weeds, Orange gets a ton of humorous mileage out of the fact that this middle class woman is suddenly thrust into an unknown and dangerous world. And it makes perfect sense that Orange would share many traits with Weeds since both shows were created by the same woman, Jenji Kohan.

Other than the Weeds similarities, Orange should also play well with fans of the Lost format. Just like we slowly learned about Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the rest of the island gang through flashbacks, we’re getting the background on the Orange main characters through that same device.

At least through the first two episodes, both the dramatic plot lines and the lighter comedic moments play very well together.

It’s doubtful you’ll see another blog from me until I devour the rest of this terrific new show.

So there you have it. Skip the cheesy summer camp and dome experiences, get on board with buddy cop experience only if you like seeing the same crime show format over and over again, and make a date with Drunk History and Orange Is The New Black.

At least until August 11th, that’s about all we’ve got.

Adventures in Relocating: Losing My Mind over Home Entertainment Choices

I worry that I’ll come home one day to find Julie trapped inside my wire jungle

I have already lost two full days trying to solve this riddle, and there’s no end in sight.

In my current apartment, we have DirecTV, a DVR for recording shows, and a Blu-Ray player.  Our DirecTV package has most of the regular cable channels as well as HBO & Cinemax.  We have typically bought the NFL Ticket and MLB Extra Innings packages to watch football and baseball when they’re in season.  Our Blu-Ray player can stream Netflix Instant content.  Those are all of the options we have available at this time. While Netflix Instant is affordable at $8 per month, DirecTV rapes us to the tune of $124 per month.

With the move to the new place in LA only two weeks away, I thought this would be the right time to do a reset of my home entertainment packages to see if I can A) leverage different services and devices to have a broader choice in TV shows and movies, and B) cut out some significant costs from my current situation.

As I started researching this topic via the web and chatting with friends, I came across an endless amount of options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Roku, AppleTV, iTunes, DirecTV, Comcast, On Demand, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, illegal downloading…

Don’t worry, this can go even one layer deeper in complexity when you start to consider the following: Netflix has its instant service and its regular/ship you dvd’s service; HBO GO only works if you have an active HBO subscription through a participating cable or dish provider, Hulu has free and plus services, Roku has four different devices with options on picture quality as well as having ports for your USB cable.  Not a single service seems to have “everything.”  For instance, Netflix Instant has almost every well-known TV show, but lags in making the newest seasons of shows available to you.  Hulu Plus’s claim to fame is that the newest episodes of currently airing TV shows are available the day after they air.  But their problem is they don’t have deals with all the major network and cable channels so some shows are missing.  Amazon looks awful for current TV shows but awesome for movies.

It also seems like if you were to create a spreadsheet that matched up all content providers (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) with all the physical devices that the content can be streamed through (i.e. PS3, Xbox, Roku), your computer would probably explode.  Just like my head was about to do when I started to consider all these options.

Maybe the first thing I should figure out is what I really want access to. Ideally I want to be able to watch any new/currently airing TV shows close to the date that the new episodes actually air.  I also want to catch up on old seasons of still-airing shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and 30 Rock.  I need the ability to watch the playoffs of all major sports.  But I also need access to every Red Sox and Patriots game. Movies don’t matter as much: I just want the option to see most new movies that are coming out on DVD.

I know some people who have gotten rid of cable/satellite service all together and get their content exclusively from the Netflix and Hulu’s of the world.  This is the dream scenario, and I eventually want to get there. But here are three reasons why I’m reluctant to get rid of DirecTV/cable: playoff sports still have a lot of games on channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT; without cable I feel like I might miss out on something (there’s no logic to this feeling, it’s just an emotional reaction); and Julie will go ApeShit on me because all of the ridiculous shows she watches are on Food Network, MTV, E!, and TLC, and I don’t think she could get access to all of that content from another service.

I guess I’m leaning towards keeping DirecTV (but going back to the most basic package possible), and then buying a Roku to stream Netflix Instant and the MLB.tv package on my TV.  This will probably satisfy me for three months, at which time I will buy AppleTV, subscribe to Hulu Plus, buy a PlayStation 3, add HBO to my DirecTV package again so I can access HBO GO, and of course activate the NFL Ticket just in time for football season.

I’m exhausted from this talk we just had…any better suggestions for me?