Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Week 17 NFL Picks

"Would you please
just SHUT UP!!!"
I'm limping home like I did at the end of the 2001 Baltimore Marathon when I grossly underrated the severity of the elevation changes in the city ("gentle" rolling hills of Northern Parkway my ass!) and found myself racked with calf cramps as I hobbled down a Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. completely devoid of spectators except for one elderly black woman who was pumping her fists and cheering "YOU CAN DO IT . . . YOU CAN DO IT . . . .YOU CAN DO IT . . . PUT YOUR BACK INTO TO IT!" over and over and over and over again (I can still hear it . . . my God make it stop!)    

This week we've got two games with playoff implications for both teams (Cowboys at Giants and Ravens at Bengals), four games that have no bearing on the playoffs (Redskins at Eagles, Bears at Vikings, Colts at Jaguars and Seahawks at Cardinals) and ten games with playoff implications for one team (the rest of the games).  I'm not picking any of  the irrelevant games because (a) I don't want to encourage the truly degenerate gamblers and (b) I'm currently 11 games over .500 and by only picking 12 games, I'm almost assured of having a winning record.  Let's do this thing.

San Francisco by 10.5 over St. Louis:  The Pick - 49ers

"Ahh, Sam I'm gonna need you to go
ahead and not come in next season."

The 49ers are actually taking this whole Super Bowl thing seriously as evidenced by the recent cutting of Braylon Edwards who brought little more to the Niners this year than his years of experience as a key figure on losing teams.  The Rams have made a nice late season push to be the worst team in the league.  Now they're just hoping the Colts don't win this week which would set them up for a very awkward conversation with Sam Bradford. 

Detroit by 3.5 over Green Bay:  The Pick - Lions

Packers coach Mike McCarthy is talking a big game but I'd be surprised to see Aaron Rodgers play more than one series.  I'm not sure I'd even have Rodgers in the same stadium with Ndamukong Suh.  Oh by the way, we're potentially one Lions playoff win away from a Harbaugh-Schwartz rematch and you know Jim Schwartz would like nothing more than to jump across the field after a Lions' win in Candlestick, lift his shirt up and then kick Harbaugh right in the jimmies.

N.Y. Giants by 3 over Dallas:  The Pick - Giants

This is simply a game the Giants win and the Cowboys don't, especially this current version of the Cowboys.  I don't think you even need to factor in the home field advantage, the status of Romo's hand or the fact that Jason Garrett is still inexplicably coaching the Cowboys.  And not to continue harping on this subject but I can't help myself when a guy like Mike Lombardi who usually knows what he's talking about says of the NFC Pro Bowl quarterbacks, "both Brees and Rodgers have been great, and Manning has been just as good."  Stop it.  Just stop it.  Manning is fine but he doesn't even deserve the third spot on the Pro Bowl team over Matthew Stafford who has thrown 10 more touchdown passes, 2 fewer interceptions and has two more wins.  For that matter, I'm not sure he deserves the spot over Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Alex Smith and Cam Newton.  Any non Giant fans want to bet that he leads his team past the Cowboys and then either the Falcons or Lions in the first round of the playoffs?  I didn't think so.       

New Orleans by 8.5 over Carolina:  The Pick - Panthers

At some point in the second half, Sean Payton is going to look at the scoreboard and see that the 49ers are smoking the Rams making this game meaningless.  He'll let Brees tack another hundy onto the passing record and then take him out which will open the door for the king of the backdoor cover and next year's fantasy bust, Cam Newton, to score a late touchdown and make this about a five point game.   

Tennessee by 3 over Houston:  The Pick - Titans

"I don't know, it just
hurts when I do this."
If I were Gary Kubiak, I'd see if I could get away with putting a few Fatheads out there in place of my real players to avoid any more injuries.  He should be fired on the spot if Arian Foster is even allowed to stand-up for the national anthem.  Chris Johnson currently has 986 yards rushing.  Just thought you'd like to know that so when he gets 14 more to collect his 1,000 yard bonus and is standing on the sideline with an undisclosed injury, you'll know why.

Baltimore by 2.5 over Cincinnati:  The Pick - Bengals

There is a term used by professional gamblers called the "New York Effect" which explains the impact that increased wagering on their teams by New York fans has on point spreads.  The spread of this game is a product of the "Cincinnati Effect."  The Bengals may have the fewest fans in the NFL (they've only sold out one game this year) ergo no one bets on them with their heart because no one loves them (maybe that's the root of their years of futility).  How else do you explain the Ravens being favored when they (a) have stunk on the road this year, (b) barely beat the Bengals at home thanks in part to a very suspect call in their favor and (c) have won in Cincinnati once since 2004 and that was against pre-beard Ryan Fitzpatrick filling-in for an injured Carson Palmer?  Ravens fans will be watching this one with their asses clenched like a dad sitting in the passenger seat as his 16 year old daughter merges into beltway traffic for the first time.        

Pittsburgh by 7 over Cleveland:  The Pick - Steelers

"You want some of this?!?"
The Browns could win this game right?  I mean it's not technically impossible like traveling through time or looking tough while driving a minivan.     

Miami by 2 over N.Y. Jets:  The Pick - Jets

The Jets will find a way to win and hopefully make it into the playoffs (because that would mean the Ravens beat the Bengals).  Then they would get to go to Houston (and win) and then to New England (and probably win) and then back to the AFC Championship Game at either Pittsburgh or Baltimore which would actually be great for the rest of the AFC because it would probably mean three more years of Sanchez and Schotty running the offense.  Ravens fans love Schotty because he makes us feel better about Cam Cameron.

Atlanta by 12 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Falcons

The Falcons and the Lions are battling for the chance to play at the Giants in the first round of the playoffs as opposed to going to New Orleans to get blown out by the Saints. Meanwhile, half of Tampa's players had to unpack their equipment on Tuesday because they thought (hoped) the season was over last week (and apparently some thought it was over five weeks ago which was the last time they showed-up for a game).  By the way, fairly typical Matt  Ryan game on Monday night.  373 yards passing that yielded a whopping 16 points.  That guy dominates between the twenties. 

New England by 11.5 over Buffalo:  The Pick - Bills

"What in the fuck are
you talking about?"
This week's "Athlete Who Gets It" award goes to Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez who recently responded to the question, "what do you hate most about your job?" with the following:  "We have to listen to the coaches all the time and do what they say."  So basically the thing you hate most about doing your job is actually doing your job.  Nice.  I'm sure that quote prompted a flood of invitations to speak at Boston area elementary schools.  What a jackass.            

Denver by 3.5 over Kansas City:  The Pick - Chiefs

Over his last three games against one good defense, one mediocre defense and one awful defense, Tim Tebow has looked pretty average.  The Chiefs have a pretty good defense and if they'd had Kyle Orton all season, they'd probably be going to the playoffs (which is pretty much all you need to know about the AFC West this season).  They're also playing to get Romeo Crennel the full-time gig as head coach.  Romeo is what is known as a "player's coach" which translates into a lot of water breaks at training camp.  Beware the team fighting for the job of the "player's coach".  The good news for Broncos fans, however, is that they're still going to host a playoff game because....  

Oakland by 3 over San Diego: The Pick - Chargers

Phillip Rivers is going to carve-up the Raiders and send Norv Turner off to his next job on a high note while the Raiders are left to ponder why they panic traded a big chunk of their future for a 32 year old quarterback who has never won a playoff game.   (I can hear Hue Jackson at the nail salon, "Wait a second.  He's never won a playoff game?  Did I have that information?  Man, when you put it like that, maybe it wasn't such a good idea.")        

Last week:  9-7 . . . .  Season:  84-73-3

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

General Sherman

In the episode of The Simpsons titled, "The War of the Simpsons", Homer and Marge host a cocktail party at which Homer gets overtaken by the drink and subsequently tells off one of his guests (whom he has never met before), quits his job, ogles some breasts, puts a lampshade on his head and then passes-out flat on his back in the middle of the living room prompting Dr. Hibbert to tell Marge on his way out the door, "if you want him to live through the night, I suggest you roll him onto his stomach."

"No, no, no . . . I want the
ones on the bottom."
After the guests have left, Marge stands over Homer berating him and they have the following epic exchange:

Marge: "I've never been so embarrassed in my whole life."

Homer: "Why, what'd you do? (and then passes out again)."

The next day, it is decided (by Marge) that she and Homer should attend a marriage counseling retreat hosted by Reverend Lovejoy at a lake. On the drive up, Homer stops at a gas station to secretly buy bait so he can go fishing during the retreat and, while in the store, he learns of a legendary fish in the lake that many have unsuccessfully tried to catch called "General Sherman." Homer announces to the shock and awe of the store's regulars that he will catch General Sherman and proceeds to blow-off the second day of the retreat while successfully doing so.

Suffice it to say Marge is not pleased and she greets Homer at the dock to tell him that the fish is symbolic of his selfishness. He responds that the fish will actually mean a better life for both of them further explaining...

Homer: "But Marge! If I catch this fish, I'll be a hero, respected and admired for years!"

Marge: "BY whom?"

Homer: "Those weirdos down at the worm store!"

And with that, the writers of The Simpsons perfectly summed-up fantasy football right down to the fact that Homer sings his own rendition of Queen's We are the Champions as he rows back to the dock with General Sherman on board (We are the Champions). You see it's not about catching the fish. It's about being the GUY who caught the fish and being forever admired by the weirdos down at the worm store. 

What day did God create the
Fantasy Golf Report and couldn't
he have just rested instead?
I've caught a few fish in my time. Four to be exact (we're talking about fantasy football now because I don't go fishing. I only get up that early to play golf). But I had never caught General Sherman. The Holy Grail of fantasy football. That's right. The undefeated season. This year I had a shot. Entering week 16, I stood on the doorstep of immortality in my own mind and on the verge of having a story that would bore friends and acquaintances for years to come. (Warning: This is about to get more self-indulgent than The Gospel According to Spinal Tap).

I knew I was onto something early when my top four picks of Drew Brees, Calvin Johnson, Darren McFadden and Wes Welker all came out of the gate strong. LeGarrette Blount showed bust potential early but I had fortunately grabbed Fred Jackson in the next round and then took a flyer on Jimmy Graham as my tight end. I cruised through the first seven games riding Megatron's historic start but then McFadden went down with the worst kind of fantasy football injury - the one where your star player is literally day-to-day for 10 straight weeks and ultimately never sees the field again. Now that Fred Taylor has retired, we should just start calling this injury a "McFadden".

My closest scare came in Week 9 when Johnson had a bye, Fred Jackson struggled and the Chiefs gave me the dreaded -2 points by getting shellacked by a Dolphins team that was still vying for the number one pick in the draft. I eked out a two point win in a week where I would have only beaten 4 out of 12 teams. I got it rolling again in Week 10 and then lost Fred Jackson for the season. (Let's face it. Fred Jackson was just too good to be true. We all knew it and those of us who had him should be thankful for the nine week run). But then I caught another break as Drew Brees and Sean Payton started smelling records and Brees proceeded to reel off an epic flurry of fantasy points (39-28-24-37-27) averaging 3.6 touchdowns and 353 yards per game down the stretch. (I'm sure glad the Ravens didn't get involved in the Brees free agency negotiations because at some point, that 2005 shoulder injury is really going to come back to haunt the Saints).

The title game fittingly came down to me against the last team in the league I could handle losing to (yes, THAT team).  By this point, the rotting carcass of Legarrette Blount was no longer an option as a  starter so I had the following choices:  (1) roll the dice on Felix Jones gutting his way through a sore hamstring (you never want to start a guy who's less of a gamer than Chas Osbourne in Back to School), (2) roll the dice on Jeremy Maclin gutting his way through a sore hamstring (where's Kerri Strug when you need her?), and (3) going with the always ill-fated theory of starting Santana Moss to counter the fact that the other guy is starting Rex Grossman because you couldn't handle the devastating emotional fallout of losing while the other team's quarterback is throwing multiple touchdowns to a guy on your bench.  I went with option (3).

So it was Brees, Bush, Megatron, Welker, Moss, Graham, Bironas and the Titans D versus Grossman, Lesean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Hakeem Nicks, Julio Jones, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Nugent and the Texans D. Fortunately, the Texans D made Dan Orlovsky look like Roger Staubach  so I dodged a bullet, however, I still faced Grossman against a woeful Vikings defense, a ridiculous backfield of McCoy and Peterson and the scariest thing of all....the fantasy football beast that is Rob Gronkowski (has a tight-end ever had a seven game stretch comparable to his 42 catch, 687 yard, 10 touchdown bonanza?)  Every time they cut to the Patriots' game on Redzone, I had to look away.

Saturday started badly. Michael Bush could get nothing going against the same Chiefs defense that screwed me eight weeks earlier.  Grossman was throwing touchdowns but to Gaffney and Stallworth, not Moss (Stallworth?!?!). Peterson scored an early touchdown and Mike Nugent was literally lining-up for a field goal every five minutes. The only good news was that the Dolphins were all over Brady so that Gronkowski wasn't doing anything crazy (I would have taken a Gronkowski-Welker push in a heartbeat if offered).  Then just like that it slowly started to turn. It was subtle at first with Nugent missing two field goals for the first time all year and Bironas answering with a couple of his own (amazing how often the battle of the kickers decides these things). And then BAM....the tipping point. A yell from the basement, "Hey dad, they're carrying Adrian Peterson off the field."

Now anyone who loves football loves Adrian Peterson. (I always start sentences that are going to put me on shaky moral ground with "now"). In my lifetime, there have only been two speed/power backs who thrash like a shark when someone dares to try to tackle them: (1) Walter Payton and (2) Adrian Peterson. I wish it had it had just been a minor sprain but business is business and Peterson's torn ACL combined with Rex Grossman's two inevitable turnovers set the tone for the rest of the contest. In the afternoon games, Calvin Johnson outscored LeSean McCoy and Hakeem Nicks 19-6.  (I've started calling a certain part of my body "Megatron" in Calvin Johnson's honor. My wife is not amused. Especially when I tell her we need to get Megatron more involved in the game plan).

"I'm looking for an old cup, it's
probably guarded by a knight. 
Seen anything like that?"
So I entered Monday night up by 10 with one hand on the Grail and I had a quarterback on the verge of breaking one of the most hallowed records of all time along with his elite pass catching tight end. The other guy had a rookie receiver being thrown to by an above average quarterback. To me, it seemed like a recipe for disaster so when Jones caught a touchdown pass in the first quarter and the Saints seemed less than interested in covering him, I was sure I was going to lose. 

And then came one of those plays that convinces a guy in my position that he must have pissed on an Indian burial ground at some point in his life. 

Brees threw a pass that hit Graham in the hands in the back of the endzone and as I was rising off the couch to celebrate what likely would be the perfect season clinching play, I saw a Falcon kneeling with the ball. Huh? It turns out the ball popped out of Graham's hands and was going out of bounds when a defender slapped it back to one of his teammates in the endzone resulting in a 14 point reversal of fortune for me and a sudden shooting abdominal pain. The old tap the ball back to the guy in bounds play?  Are you fucking kidding me? That never works. At that point I couldn't watch anymore so I switched over to the last 45 minutes of Horrible Bosses (which was (a) much better than the first 45 minutes and (b) a clear indication that it's time to stop ripping-off The Hangover and find a new comedy crutch). When I went back to the game, I was able to fast forward right to a successful Brees-Graham touchdown connection which effectively sealed the deal. By the time Brees was finished shredding the Falcons' secondary, I had cruised home with the title 107-79. Never a doubt.

Nothing you fight this hard for
can be truly meaningless.  Can it?
Is it pathetic how much satisfaction I derive from this? Of course it is but I don't care. I caught General Sherman and for now I am a hero to the weirdos down at the worm store.  I will again defer to the professional writers to explain it.  As the The War of the Simpsons goes to credits, we see the bait store clerk regaling another customer with the legend of General Sherman:   

Clerk: "Yep, General Sherman.They say he's five hundred pounds of bottom-dwelling fury, don't you know. No one knows how old he is, but if you ask me, and most people do, he's hundred years if he's a day." 

Customer: "And, uh, no one's ever caught him?" 

Clerk: "Well, one fella did. Went by the name of Jerkstore.  Seven feet tall he was, with arms like tree trunks. His eyes were like steel: cold, hard. Had a shock of hair, red . . . like the fires of Hell!" 


This Drunk Homer Simpson Montage includes Homer's recollection of the party the next morning (at 1:48) which hits pretty close to home. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Week 16 NFL Picks

"Get the commissioner on
the phone.  We're forfeiting
the rest of the first half."
I have a little issue with John Harbaugh's clock management at the end of the first half last Sunday night.  (This part will be better if you picture Jack Nicholson sitting in Cuba wearing a Colonel's uniform while you read it).  "You see, I can deal with the missed field goals and the blown coverages and the interceptions. I can deal with the frustration and the angst and the aggravation.  I don't want excuses and I don't want apologies. What I want is for the head coach of my favorite team to stand there in that dorky Ravens sweatshirt and, with his Miami University mouth, extend the fuckin' first half by using his timeouts."

Late in the second quarter, Phillip Rivers hit Malcom Floyd who was tackled on the one yard line with about 1:46 left in the half.  The Chargers had two timeouts left which meant that they were in absolutely no jeopardy of running out of time before they ran four plays from the one.  In fact, the ideal scenario for them would be to run two plays to get the clock down under 30 seconds and then score the touchdown on third and goal.  John Harbaugh, however, was in a perfect position to thwart this as he had shrewdly saved all three of his timeouts so the Ravens could get the ball back with over a minute to play.

Instead, he called no timeouts and, to compound the mistake, the Chargers scored on second down after running the clock down to 26 seconds.  So instead of getting the ball back down by 10 with about 1:30 left and one timeout, the Ravens got the ball back with 13 seconds left and three timeouts which were worth less than American Airlines stock at that point.  They got off two plays before the end of the half.  The Chargers then got the ball to start the second half over because you're not making-up 17 points on a night when bad Joe Flacco got on the plane again.  (Have we ruled-out the possibility that Joe Flacco has a twin brother he sends to all of the away games except Pittsburgh because he's afraid to fly?)

"Bring out the Nerd!!!"
It's probably unfair to single out Harbaugh when there are multiple clock management debacles by different coaches every week (see Andy Reid having Michael Vick scramble around and throw a 25 yard pass out of the back of the end zone with 6 seconds left against the Bills and then stare at the zeroes on the clock in disbelief or any of Jason Garrett's recent work).  What I don't understand is why they don't brng in a specialist to handle these situations.  They already have a dozen coaches, trainers and managers roaming around the sidelines.  Why not add a math nerd and put him next to the coach for the last two minutes of each half to handle the timeouts?  If nothing else, the Sound FX scenes would be great, "OK Gandhi, talk to me" . . . ."coach, my name is Bill". . . ."yeah whatever."

On to the picks:                

Houston by 5.5 over Indy:  The Pick - Texans

Now that the Colts have gotten the monkey off their backs and let the Vikings and Rams back into the Suck for Luck race, I expect them to start digging their heels into the ground like the harness jockey in Easy Money.  (Check out Tom Noonan on the right auditioning for his part as the serial killer in Manhunter three years later.  He looks like he wants to cut the jockey's eyes out before Joe Peschi jumps him.  ( 

Kansas City by 1 over Oakland:  The Pick - Chiefs

"So you really think we can single cover
Calvin Johnson?  I hadn't thought of that."
Raiders' coach, Hue Jackson, was recently pictured in ESPN Magazine getting a pedicure next to the following quote, "After putting the game plan together, I come to this East Bay nail salon on the weekend before every home game and gather my thoughts.  I'll spend about 90 minutes getting my feet rubbed, calluses scraped and fingernails and toenails buffed."  The first thing that jumped into my head was the image of a disgusted Jon Gruden reading that quote followed by the sound of spit whistling through his clenched teeth.      

Denver by 3 over Buffalo:  The Pick - Broncos

 A game Tebow is actually supposed to win.  I'm sure God is thankful for the bye week.

Tennessee by 7.5 over Jacksonville:  The Pick - Titans

"Whaddya say guys...let's just go out
and play our best game ever!"
Here's a quiz:  Blaine Gabbert, Jarrett Dillard and Chastin West - (a) Starting quarterback and wide receivers for an NFL team, or (b) the cast of High School Musical 4?  This should be a slam dunk but the Titans have gagged away the greatest single season window of opportunity in NFL history by not winning a division where every other team lost it's starting quarterback for the year so who knows?           

N.Y. Jets by 3 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Giants

"Eli"te Manning barfed-up a no touchdown three interception hairball against the Redskins just when the Giants were in position to take control of the division. Here's a good stat for measuring quarterbacks. How many games does their team win in the second half of the season when playoff spots are on the line? So far the Saints and Patriots have won their last 6 and the Packers are 5-1 (but we'll cut them some slack considering they were 8-0 before that). The Giants? 1-5. During that stretch Eli has thrown 9 picks while Rodgers, Brady and Brees have combined for 5.  And I'm picking the Giants in this game which shows how much I think of Mark Sanchez.

New England by 10 over Miami:  The Pick - Dolphins

"Honey, where's that jacket I wore when
I was on the Match Game.  I really want
to make a strong first impression."
Brian Billick said that he would have an interest in the Dolphins' coaching job if approached.  Rumor has it that Rex Ryan and Bill Belichik have already faxed over their letters of recommendation.      

Cincinnati by 4 over Arizona: The Pick - Bengals

Speaking of Billick, he draws the assignment of covering this flavorless match-up as part of Fox's "C" crew.  I bet he jokes with his friends that the "C" stands for "Cool" as he quietly dies inside.

Baltimore by 13 over Cleveland:  The Pick - Ravens

Joe Flacco fans will tell you that you have to look at more than just statistics when you judge him which presumes that he has certain qualities like leadership skills and the ability to perform under pressure that exceed those of the guys we might want to compare him to like say Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady.  I don't want to completely dismiss the argument that Joe has the intangibles edge over the guys who've won seven of the last ten Super Bowls but, for just a second, let's put that argument over there on the side . . . no a little further . . . little more . . . ok now close the door.     

Here are the bottom line numbers.  Flacco has thrown 17 touchdown passes and the Ravens have scored 31 total offensive touchdowns (rushing and receiving).  There is a good chance that if they are going to win the Super Bowl, they will have to beat Tom Brady and either Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees to do it.  The average number of touchdowns thrown by those three guys is 37 and the offensive touchdowns scored by each of their teams is Packers - 52, Saints - 51 and Patriots - 49.  That means those teams are averaging 3.6 offensive touchdowns per game to the Ravens' 2.2 which translates into a 9.8 point differential.  I'm not a "Ravens Insider" but I'm guessing the fact that the Ravens have not extended Flacco's contract and handed him $30M guaranteed may have something to do with these numbers.  Just a theory.                           

Washington by 6.5 over Minnesota:  The Pick - Redskins

"What the fuck was that?!?"
The Redskins are gathering steam and could be headed for a 7-9 record which would put them just out of reach of the top quarterbacks in the draft though they might luck out because teams like the Browns, Jags and Bucs will be too stubborn to admit their recently drafted quarterbacks stink and will pass on the highly rated prospects in this draft (because why would you want depth at the most important position on the field?)  This is also known as "The Boller Gambit" made popular by Ravens coach Brian Billick who passed on Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 draft because his pride and arrogance prevented him from giving-up on Kyle Boller after two years despite the fact that Boller clearly had the pocket presence of an over-caffeinated squirrel.  

Carolina by 7.5 over Tampa Bay:  The Pick - Panthers

This is one of two games this week where neither team involved has a mathematical chance of making the playoffs so let's just say goodbye to Bucs coach Raheem Morris and move on.      

Pittsburgh by 15.5 over St. Louis:  The Pick - Steelers

On Saturday morning at about 2:00 a.m., the alarm went off in our house and believe me, nothing gets the heart pumping like being woken-up by a blaring alarm and then looking at the keypad in your bedroom and seeing "Intruder - Kitchen".  As I stood in the hallway trying to listen for man made sounds coming from downstairs (other than the blaring alarm), I started running through the mental checklist I had for this situation:  (1) pretend you have a gun by yelling, "I'm getting the gun!" and (2) grab the hunting knife from the closet (but then I had a vision of it sticking out of the side of my head so I decided to go in unarmed).  By that time I started to get my wits about me and realized that it must be a false alarm . . . . and then I heard someone sprinting up the steps.  (We've had a burglar in the house before and I can tell you from experience that the sound of someone downstairs looking for stuff to steal has a distinctly different effect on your adrenaline flow than the sound of someone sprinting up your steps).  

At that point I set myself about six feet from the top of the steps and got ready to launch myself at the guy (not sure what I planned to do after that).  I've actually had some practice at this move having used it on an overly celebratory Titans fan in the concourse of Ravens' stadium after a particularly frustrating playoff loss in 2004 (turns out running 20 feet and slamming yourself into the midsection of a total stranger wearing the other team's jersey is a great way to blow off steam).  Anyway, as the guy was reaching the turn in the steps and I got ready to make my move I thought "those sound like pretty small footsteps."  A second later my formerly sleepwalking and now sleep running 8 year old son appeared at the top of the steps and I resisted the urge to flatten him anyway.

What does this have to do with the Steelers-Rams game?  Not much other than the thought of ramming the guy in the face with my head a la James Harrison never crossed my mind because what kind of psychopath hits like that?       

Detroit by 2 over San Diego:  The Pick - Chargers

"That includes free
paintball lessons."
OK let's roll through the rest of these as I have an office gift exchange to get to.  (I hope I score the bag of paintballs this year).  The Chargers are rolling while the Lions appear to be careening toward the last NFC playoff spot and a 45-17 loss to New Orleans in the first round highlighted by Ndamukong Suh punching a ref in the face and then saying, "what?  I was just trying to straighten his cap."       

San Francisco by 2.5 over Seattle:  The Pick - Seahawks

I probably owe it to the 49ers to pick them after they potentially saved the Ravens' season on Monday night but the Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in football right now and Tavaris Jackson is playing like a top ten quarterback.  (Writing that felt weird).  I hope the Seahawks win just so we get to see Pete Carroll redefine the word "smug" when he shakes Jim Harbaugh's hand.

Dallas by 2 over Philadelphia:  The Pick - Eagles

The "Clock Management Bowl."  We may have our first instance of a coach calling a timeout to ice a punter.        

Green Bay by 12.5 over Chicago:  The Pick - Packers

Over the past five weeks the story line for this game has devolved from "Epic Divisional Match-Up" to "Two Wins Away from Perfection" to "How Many Fantasy Football Titles Does Aaron Rodgers Control?"  Unfortunately not mine as I was one of the eight guys in America who had him and missed the playoffs (and the only guy who had Rodgers and Calvin Johnson and missed the playoffs).  I hope he sits out the second half to make me feel better.  Screw everyone else who owns him.   

New Orleans by 6.5 over Atlanta:  The Pick - Saints

Let's just say that if Drew Brees has a big night, there will probably be an extremely self-serving (even by my standards) fantasy football post on Tuesday.  Come on Drew bring it home for the Jerkstore baby!

Last week: 7-8-1 . . . . Season: 75-66-3

Special Bonus NBA Preview

For the five of you that care, I'm going with the Heat over the Thunder in six games as Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert stages a protest on behalf of small market teams outside of soon to be renamed American Airlines Arena that (a) ignores the fact that one of the teams in the finals plays in Oklahoma City, and (b) somehow has less impact than Martha Burk's Masters protest.

My female readership takes another hit. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bitter Monday

I've had a few female acquaintances (ok, both of them) tell me that they like reading my blog but they often don't find the subject matter that appealing and they wonder if maybe I could broaden it a bit.  My initial reaction to this was of course "no" but then I had an experience last week that changed my perspective.  Let me preface what I'm about to write by saying that I love both women and the city of Baltimore as evidenced by the fact that I am married to one and choose to live in the other.  Unfortunately, when you combine the two, you might get the world's most uninformed avid sports fan.  (Are you sure you're in the right frame of mind to write this today?  Maybe we should wait for Laurence Fishburne to come calm you down).

This revelation arises out of a conversation I overheard last week between two women while I was sitting in a waiting room.  (I'm not going to identify the location because why insult two individuals when you have the opportunity to offend an entire segment of society?)  The dialogue went down something like this:

Woman A:  "Did you hear that the Ravens game is going to be blacked-out on TV this Sunday?"

Woman B:  "Really?  (agitated) They better not, because I love those night games."

"Maybe there's somewhere
else to watch the game. 
Check the movie listings."
(Note that so far we have a proffer that a game is going to be blacked-out in the hometown of the visiting team which is 3,000 miles away from where the game is being played.  We further have a tacit acceptance of that proffer by someone who is enough of a fan to (a) know that it's a night game and (b) be frustrated by the prospect of not getting to watch it).

Woman A:  "That's what I heard.  It's because the Chargers didn't sell all of their tickets."

Woman B:  "You'd think that Keith Mills would have said something on Channel 11 last night."

(At this point, I should note that these women were having this conversation within two feet of a computer that would presumably grant them access to all of the information needed to assuage their fears). 

Woman B:  (In all seriousness) "Well you could always go to the game if there are that many tickets left.  It's got to be easier than getting a ticket to a home game."

Woman A:  (Also in all seriousness) "Yeah but the airfare would be a fortune."

"It's not your fault ladies."
That last one was enough to drive me out of earshot so I don't know if they ever discovered the truth but you get the picture.  Look, I love that the teachers at my daughter's preschool go all out for "Purple Friday" and that the ladies are extremely well represented at home games but I bet if you asked most of them to describe a draw play they would tell you that it's what the coach does on the chalkboard at halftime.  And the sad part is that you can't blame them entirely for their ignorance because they live in a town where the primary sources of sports information are The Baltimore Sun (which wouldn't even be a Top 20 college newspaper) and broadcasters who can tell you who the punters were for the 1958 NFL Championship Game but can't tell you who the current starting quarterbacks are for more than half the league.  That would be like blaming the people of Havana for not understanding the basic principles of capitalism.    

"Oh yeah, well YOU think a
'tight end' is something you
get from using a Thighmaster."
So here is my advice to Charm City's female fans to help get them up to speed:  (1) When watching the games on TV, try to stop talking over the announcers for at least 25% of the time and do not, under any circumstances, turn the TV down and listen to the game on local radio while you watch it, (2) read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback.  It's written in a format like US Weekly and there are enough human interest stories to make the football talk palatable to even the most casual fan, (3)  watch one of the ESPN or NFL Network Sunday night highlight shows (and not just the Ravens part) and again, try to stop talking for at least 25% of the show (not including the commercials), and (4)  keep reading this blog.  It's like reading Plato's Republic or Dante's Divine Comedy in college.  It might not make any sense but it will subconsciously make you smarter.  (Take it from the guy who bought the Cliff Notes for the Old Testament).  To paraphrase George Constanza, "it's smart.  It's a smart blog and a smart crowd will appreciate it.  AND I'M NOT GOING TO DUMB IT DOWN FOR SOME BONEHEAD MASS AUDIENCE!"  ("The Jerkstore" -

"I'd stop talking."
So there you go ladies.  A blog post tailored to your love of advice you didn't ask for and pictures of celebrities.  The only thing missing was a Kardashian reference (and I think I just took care of that).  I apologize if the tone was a little mean spirited but part of being a true fan is having a bad loss ruin your whole next day.  Kind of like when you get mad at us for. . . I think I'll just go ahead and end it there.  A good man always knows his limitations.        

P.S. - part of my research on this subject included an article on the Chargers' blackout which referenced the fact that they play in "Snapdragon Stadium."  This prompted a reader to post the following:  "Snapdragon Stadium?  They named a stadium after my ex-wife's vagina?"  I love the internet.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Week 15 NFL Picks

Like most adult males, I have an attention span of maybe an hour.  I can push it to two hours for a really solid movie, a competitive college basketball game or if I'm sitting at a large table for dinner and someone has overindulged to the point where the booze has become truth serum and they start prefacing outrageous statements with things like "Come on, let's be honest" and finishing them with, "you know I'm right."  (Followed soon thereafter by "don't tell me to be quiet goddammit!") 
Are these from history or biology?
This was always an issue in college and law school when I'd find myself in those classes that went for 75 to 90 minutes.  By about the 50th minute, my notes would start looking like Sanskrit and the teachers would know not to call on me because my answer would only make the rest of the class stupider.  (OK, I took some liberties with that one because (a) I never took notes and for that matter (b) I never went to class.  Exam time was always a little stressful but then again, it was a great opportunity to meet new people). 

So I struggle at NFL games where the pace of play and commercial timeouts have become almost unbearable.  By the end of the first quarter my mind starts to wander and this was never more true than at the Ravens-Colts game last Sunday because I had my kids there so I wasn't drinking and the Colts made it clear from the outset that they were taking a personal day (more on this later).

"I have an idea."
At some point I became fixated on the first down chain crew.  The Ravens were driving and the crew kept running down the field trying to keep up which was not easy considering the players are world class athletes and the chain gang is made up of 70+ year old guys carrying two giant orange ice cream cones connected by a 30 foot chain (apparently experience is a key factor in the chain gang hiring process).  It was like watching the basketball scene in Cocoon: The Return only without the everlasting youth.  I especially liked when the guy with the line of scrimmage stake got to his spot out of breath, looked out to where the ball was spotted and put his stick in the ground a couple times trying to eye it up before saying "ah fuck it, close enough."  If only we had the technology to make the measurement process more precise.  Oh well, maybe in a few years.  On to the picks:                  

Dallas by 6.5 over Tampa Bay:  The Pick - Cowboys

The two greatest non-game days in Ravens' history - April 21, 1996 which was the day they decided to draft Jonathan Ogden instead of Lawrence Phillips and later took Ray Lewis with the 26th pick; and January 17th, 2008 which was the day Jason Garrett turned-down the Ravens head coaching job and decided to stay with the Cowboys.  I think we can officially replace the expression "deer in the headlights" with simply "Jason Garrett."  With that being said, the Bucs really seem to be getting back to their mid 70's roots and are basically unpickable at this point.

N.Y. Giants by 6.5 over Washington:  The Pick - Giants

I'm glad the Giants came back and beat the Cowboys on Sunday because it's really awkward calling a quarterback elite when his team is riding a five game losing streak.  (Don't you agree Peter King?)  Two of the Redskins' best players (and I use that term loosely), Fred Davis and Trent Williams, were recently suspended after repeatedly testing positive for marijuana.  Mike Shanahan has to be looking at his paycheck every five minutes saying, "it's too much money to quit, it's too much money to quit."          

Atlanta by 11 over Jacksonville:  The Pick - Falcons

So what if I "smell
my own jock strap."
This is the part of the season where the Falcons go on a little roll, take the top wild card spot and get everyone to pick them as their dark horse because they are so "balanced on offense" and "well coached" and because they "don't own a toothbrush" or "wipe properly."  Then they'll get blown out of the first round by the Saints or Giants and everyone will say "huh" and move on.  (Man I miss Chris Farley - Bennett Brauer)

Green Bay by 13.5 over Kansas City:  The Pick - Packers

The Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley despite the fact that they won the division last year and this year they've lost their best offensive player, defensive player and quarterback to injuries.  I like Haley so I am going to choose to believe that he told everyone in the room to go fuck themselves and slammed the door on his way out because that is what I choose to believe I would have done.  (Ironically, I've never been fired though I have had a few resignations happily accepted). 

New Orleans by 7 over Minnesota:  The Pick - Saints

The Vikings have one of the worst pass defenses in the league.  Drew Brees is on pace to throw for 5,376 yards which would crush Dan Marino's record of 5,084.  Brees is the quarterback on my undefeated fantasy team heading into the semifinals of a league where I have made it at least this far five times in a row and never won.  I have no doubt the Saints will win this game 13-3 with Brees going 25-32 for 178 yards, no touchdowns and 2 picks.  Fantasy football is truly a wicked mistress.  

Chicago by 4 over Seattle:  The Pick - Seahawks

Don't look now but here come the Seahawks with an outside shot at the playoffs which is frightening considering they lost to the Browns 6-3 back in October.  The loss to the Redskins at home two weeks ago will probably be their downfall and rightfully so.  Losing to the Browns and the Redskins should disqualify you from the playoffs like watching any of the Twilight movies disqualifies you from being a man.

Buffalo by 1 over Miami:  The Pick - Bills

ESPN Magazine recently asked eight athletes from different sports on a scale of 1 to 10 "how knowledgeable are fans of your sport?"  Six responded with numbers between "6-10" including a runner who gave the fans a "7" (apparently there's more to running than starting in one place and then trying to run faster than the other runners to another place).  Reds pitcher Sam LeCure gave the fans a "4" because, you know, baseball is such a complex sport with all of the throwing, catching, hitting and drinking in the clubhouse during the games.

"Look coach, left is red and right is
blue so I don't have to guess anymore."
But the best was Dolphins linebacker, Kevin Burnett, who gave the fans a "1" and said "they're fans for a reason.  They have no knowledge of what we're doing and how we're doing it."  And all along I thought they just showed linebackers a ball and the other teams' jersey and said "when this is holding this, tackle it."  Apparently it's more like splitting an atom than I thought and Lawrence Taylor met that 16 year old girl at a MENSA meeting.  Who knew?

Oh yeah, they're calling for snow in Buffalo on Sunday so I'm picking the crappy team that's not from Florida.

Houston by 6 over Carolina:  The Pick - Panthers

The Texans are now two home wins and one road win against the Colts away from potentially taking the #1 seed in the AFC and they've won three games in a row with a rookie 5th round draft pick quarterback who probably didn't get to run a play in practice until a month ago.  It's a great story and one the Steelers or the Ravens will ask their coaches to tell them over and over again at bedtime if they get to play at Houston in the playoffs.             

Tennessee by 6.5 over Indy:  The Pick - Titans

"You call that castling?!?  Just give him the
Anyone who thinks the NFL over protects its quarterbacks has not paid to see the Colts play this year.  I've seen chess teams enter the arena with more passion than the Colts did against the Ravens last Sunday (not really, but you get the idea).  The Ravens-Steelers rivalry is fierce but there is no team Ravens' fans want to beat more than the Colts because most of them are bitter former Colts fans or the kids of bitter former Colts fans who've been raised to believe that March 29, 1984 (the night the Mayflower vans rolled out of town) is Baltimore's personal Pearl Harbor Day.  To put it into perspective for those who have not lived in Charm City, the Baltimore Colts' Marching Band stayed together for the twelve years when Baltimore did not have a football team and did not change its name to The Marching Ravens until two years AFTER the Ravens arrived.  M&T Bank Stadium is one of the loudest in the league in part because you can still feel the anger when the crowd gets charged-up.

All of that good hate was wasted last Sunday because by about the start of the second quarter the game was over and the fun of watching Dan Orlovsky bounce passes off of Dallas Clark's shins had worn off.  By the third quarter, it had dawned on the crowd that we were just helping the Colts draft the guy who is going to torment us for the next fifteen years.  We were kind of left holding the phone like Richard Dreyfuss in Tin Men when he tells Danny DeVito "I just poked your wife!" and DeVito fires back with "well that's just fine by me.  She's a pain in the ass, an albatross around my neck . . . . you're welcome to her.  Keep her, and may you both rot in Hell!"                   

Cincinnati by 6 over St. Louis:  The Pick - Bengals

"Next time just chop my freakin'
head off why don't ya."
Can't manufacture any commentary on this game so instead let's recognize the headliner 2012 inductees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:  Guns N' Roses, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the Beastie Boys and Donovan.  (For those not familiar with Donovan's work, think of the scene in Goodfellas when De Niro and Pesci were beating Frank Vincent to within an inch of his life to the chorus of Atlantis which had to inspire Gus Van Sant's use of Baker Street during the playground fight in Good Will Hunting.  The producers of The Soprano's were so impressed with Vincent's performance that they hired him to play Phil Leotardo and then killed him off by having a car run over his head at a gas station.  Can we please get off this tangent and back to the original tangent?)

That is a very solid modern line-up especially when you consider that last year's headliners were Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John and Tom Waits (apparently The Little River Band just missed the cut).  Playing the always fun music to sports parallel game, this class matches-up pretty well with the NFL Hall of Fame Class of '92 with Lem Barney (Donovan), John Mackey (GN'R - because someone had to be GN'R), John Riggins (the Chilli Peppers) and Al Davis (the Beastie Boys).  Couldn't you picture Al screaming this at the other owners and Pete Rozelle when they tried to keep him from moving the Raiders to L.A.: "I can't stand it I know you planned it, I'm gonna set it straight this Watergate, I can't stand rocking when I'm in here because your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear, so while you sit back and wonder why I got this fucking thorn in my side oh my, it's a mirage I'm tellin' y'all it's sabotage."  Yeah, me neither but if you ever need a song on your Ipod to get you through the last three minutes of a treadmill death run, that's a good one and it's also one of the last great MTV videos - Sabotage.                    

Detroit by 1 over Oakland:  The Pick - Lions

Has any trade ever gone from "worst trade ever" to "great trade" to "worst trade ever" faster than the Carson Palmer trade and the best part is that if you had asked any serious NFL fan to take five minutes and ponder how this was going to play out he would have said: "It will probably take Palmer a few games to get back into form, then he'll play a few good games riding the high of being with a new team and then he'll revert back to the B- quarterback he was in Cincinnati."  I hope Raider fans enjoyed that winning record while it lasted.
New England by 6 over Denver:  The Pick - Patriots

"If you're reading this caption,
you're kind of missing the point."
Tough call on this one because the logical thinking would be that the Patriots are going to put up 20+ points which would be enough to beat the Broncos most weeks.  Logical thinking would also lead you to believe that Bellichik will come up with a way to stymy Tebow.  The problem is that when teams play the Broncos these days, they turn into the high school science club when a hot chick walks into the room looking for directions to the girls' locker room.  "Uhhhh you want to head down the hall in that erection....I mean direction."  I think the guy married to the super model is going to be able to handle it better than most.      

Philadelphia by 3 over the N.Y. Jets:  The Pick - Jets

I know I speak for every fan of an AFC playoff bound team when I say that I would like to see the Jets go away because you know if they get in, their playoff path is going to be at Denver where they are not going to let Tebow beat them again and then at Houston against T.J. Yates.  The next thing you know they're in the AFC Championship game again and we're subjected to three weeks of Rex Ryan who has become a parody of himself being a parody of his father.

Arizona by 6.5 over Cleveland:  The Pick - Cardinals

Nothing to see here.  Go ahead and devote the time you were going to spend reading this to another glance at the picture of Giselle.

Baltimore by 2.5 over San Diego:  The Pick - Ravens

Welcome back.  This game is a perfect storm for the Ravens and their fans.  A night road game with huge playoff implications against a quarterback who knows what he's doing.  Those factors should be enough to chalk this one up as a Ravens' loss.  However, the only team that currently has a winning record that the Chargers beat this year was the pre-Tebow Broncos and they were awful.  Speaking of Tebow, would it be sacrilegious to add him to the Nativity set in our living room?  What if we don't put him in the manger but just have him Tebowing next to it? 

San Francisco by 1 over Pittsburgh:  The Pick - 49ers

"You'll have plenty of time to think
about this loss when you're livin'
in a van down by the RIVER!!!"
This is as big a game for the Ravens as it is for the 49ers (and yes, it is all about me and my favorite team) so I'd like to see John Harbaugh pull out all of the stops for the pregame speaker.  "Gentlemen, this set me back a few bucks but this game was worth it.  I've brought in a motivational speaker named Matt Foley.  Now he's been sitting in my office drinking coffee for about the last four hours so he should be ready to go...."    (Man I really miss Chris Farley - Matt Foley).

Last week:  7-9 . . . . Season:  68-58-2.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Week 14 NFL Picks

On my list of things I never want to do again, taking a two and half hour flight with a mind crushing sinus infection falls somewhere between getting a vasectomy and spending two weeks in Carteret, New Jersey being trained to manage a Herman's Sporting Goods store.  (I think I know why they went out of business.  Flying a group of 25 year olds from everywhere east of the Mississippi to train them on the art of fitting a 12 year old for a jock strap may not have been the best allocation of their resources.  Especially when that "talent pool"of management trainees couldn't find a better job than one where they made $25,000 a year working 60 hours a week.  This will all be covered in more detail when I get around to writing the post for "Crappy Jobs I've Had....a 28 Part Series").

"You vill have your eggs
scrambled zis morning?!?"
At least it was worth it as I am now sitting in a bar next to a beach on Cat Island in the Bahamas at a secluded resort called Shanna's Cove which I highly recommend because (a) there are no kids, (b) it's hard to get to which greatly reduces the potential douche factor and (c) it's owned and run by Germans and Germans get shit done.  Imagine an island paradise including customer service delivered with the expertly engineered killing power of a Panzer tank.  (It just takes a few days to learn that "you vill have swordfish for ze dinner tomorrow" is a question and not an order).  Unfortunately there are certain things beyond their control (for now) and the internet service is wired together with coffee cans and kite string so this post has been written in about a dozen sittings, is all over the road and will be short on pictures.

On to the picks.  I did not have the benefit of Redzone, NFL Primetime, Inside the NFL or any of my other "research" materials this week so I'm kind of flying blind . . . and I'm drunk, but here goes . . .        

Pittsburgh by 14 over Cleveland:  The Pick - Steelers

I did get watch the feed for the Dolphins-Raiders game out of Miami.  What does this have to do with the Steelers?  Not much other than watching the Steelers dismantle a quality team on the ticker at the bottom of the screen is almost more frightening than seeing it live.  There really shouldn't be a debate about the best coach in the NFL because no coach has his team more ready to play in December and January regardless of the circumstances than Mike Tomlin.  Knoll, Cowher, Tomlin . . . is there a loophole in the constitution where we can just let the Rooney family pick our next president?    

Tampa Bay by 1 over Jacksonville:  The Pick - Bucs

In Baltimore when our team is 3-9 in December (which is fortunately rare) we go to the games anyway because, really, what else are we going to do?  Play golf dressed like Sir Edmund Hilary or hang more Christmas decorations?  Apparently Paul Tagliabue didn't consider this when he screwed over Baltimore to put another team in Florida.  Have all of the coaches from a state with three or more NFL teams ever been fired in the same season before?  We're one third of the way there in Florida, Sparano is as good as gone in Miami and Raheem Morris better hope that Cowher or Gruden don't start showing-up in the owner's box.  

N.Y. Jets by 9 over Kansas City:  The Pick - Jets

Assuming either the Ravens or the Steelers are going to take one of the AFC wild card spots, that leaves four teams at 7-5 fighting for the last one - the Jets, Titans, Bengals and Raiders (I'm giving the West to the team quarterbacked by our president in 2032).  The Jets have become that guy in college on Saturday night who everyone agrees not to tell where you're going and then he shows-up anyway right as you're getting ready to close the deal, knocks the girl out of the way and yells, "WE'RE DOING SHOTS!!!......but......WE'RE DOING SHOTS!!!"  (Two points of full disclosure: (1) I had and would still have no idea how to "close the deal", and (2) I always kind of liked when that guy showed-up).      

Detroit by 7.5 over Minnesota:  The Pick - Lions

Bad timing for the Lions that their semi-implosion coincided with games against the Packers and Saints.  Now they get what should be a breather at home against the Vikings before they have to close with games at Oakland and Green Bay.  They currently sit with the Bears and Falcons at 7-5 fighting for one of the two wild card spots (with the Giants lurking at 6-6).  The Bears are dead in the water and the Falcons are floundering.  This thing is going to take a couple more twists and turns before it's over but when you have Matthew Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson and the teams you're battling have Caleb Hanie and Matt Ryan (more on him later), come on.

Baltimore by 16.5 over the Colts:  The Pick - Ravens

I have two sons ages 8 and 10 and despite the fact that I went all in on the Ravens before they were born, they are die-hard Colts fans.  This was born out of something of a perfect storm of circumstances: (1) My oldest son begins to take an interest in football sometime during the 2006 season; (2) The Colts come to Baltimore as underdogs in the divisional playoffs and beat the Ravens in what had to be one of the three ugliest games in NFL playoff history (I'm guessing on some of this because I saw the writing on the wall early, began drinking heavily in the first half and was persona non grataBillick deployed one of the worst offensive gameplans of his career, which is really saying something); (3) The Colts go on to win the Super Bowl with the most high profile quarterback of our generation; (4) The Ravens go 5-11 in 2007; and (5) The Colts go 13-3.  Game, set and match.

How do you explain to a six year old kid that he should root for a losing team that makes daddy angry over a winning team with a quarterback who's on TV every five minutes?  He's a kid not an idiot.  But I've been biding my time, waiting for Peyton Manning to retire and planting the seeds for change.  December 10th will be the tipping point as the Ravens push the Colts one step closer to 0-16 with my whole family in attendance.  The window of opportunity is going to be tight with Andrew Luck waiting in the wings and Jim Caldwell giving way to a coach with a pulse.  If the Ravens blow this for me, I may be in the market for a Cam Newton jersey.

Miami by 3 over Philadelphia:  The Pick - Dolphins

"Do you really think we should
air it out this week Andy?"
The Andy Reid farewell tour continued with him having Vince Young drop back to pass 29 times against the Seahawks.  As Ed Hocken said to Frank Drebin right after Frank shot him in the next with a cufflink tranquilizer dart, "Why?"  John Fox is showing everyone how to win with a running quarterback.  It's not like the footage is hard to come by.  I think the highlight of Tebow's run against the Jets is about to pass the Zapruder Film for most views all-time.      

New Orleans by 3.5 over Tennessee:  The Pick - Saints

Suddenly two teams with a lot to play for.  The Saints are clearly the second best team in the NFC but need to make up a game and a half on the 49ers to take the #2 seed which is actually a big deal because they do not want to have to go west to play the Niners in front of what will be a rabid crowd in the second week of the playoffs.  The Titans find themselves in the middle of the race for the final AFC spot despite the fact that they continue to define mediocrity on a weekly basis (they're the AFC version of the Falcons).

Atlanta by 2.5 over Carolina:  The Pick - Panthers

If the Falcons think they're going to win a Super Bowl with Matt Ryan, they better surround him with a butt load of talent because he is average.  He got by for a few years because he looks the part but it's becoming clear that he's just a modern day Trent Dilfer.  With a chance to throw a hammerlock on the the top NFC wild cart spot last week, the Falcons put up 10 points.  

New England by 8 over Washington:  The Pick - Redskins

"We can't run the ball or play why are we laughing?"
The Patriots were favored by 21 over the Colts last week and you had to figure that when they were up 31-3 over Dan Orlosvsky, that that was a pretty safe cover.  I mean back when Bill Belichik was coaching like he was trying to win the cold war, that game would have ended 55-10 with the Patriots going for it on 4th and 6 from the Colts 9 yard line with less than a minute left.  Not anymore.  Now Belichik and Brady are so fat and happy that a 31-24 win over the Colts is ok and they wonder why they can't get out of the first round of the playoffs against tough teams like the Ravens and the Jets.  The Redskins are actually starting to show some signs of life which is what they always do when they get precariously close to a draft spot that might land them a legitimate quarterback.    

Cincinnati by 3 over Houston:  The Pick - Bengals

For the second week in a row I find myself looking to the Bengals for help.  Last week I blindly picked them and they came through on the wrong end of a 35-7 beatdown which left the Steelers tied with the Ravens for first place in the AFC North (and don't talk to me about tie breakers because the Ravens are poised to drop a mega dook against the Browns at home on Christmas Eve which means the children of Baltimore are in jeopardy of waking-up on Christmas morning to some really screwed-up toys).

Denver by 3.5 over Chicago:  The Pick - Broncos

There are currently seven teams in the NFL at 7-5 fighting for playoff spots.  Their quarterbacks are Tim Tebow, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Matt Hassleback, Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford.  If you had to pick one of them to win a game to save your life, who would it be?  Yeah.  Me too.

San Francisco by 3.5 over Arizona:  The Pick - 49ers

Need to start wrapping this thing up before another passing cloud shuts down the internet again.  I think the 49ers just covered something like their 12th out of 13 tries this year so I'm going to keep riding the hot hand.  (I think I just called Alex Smith the "hot hand".  What is the NFL coming to?)    

San Diego by 6.5 over Buffalo:  The Pick - Chargers

"It's really ironic that I play for
an organization this stupid."
Explain to me again why teams hand big money to unproven quarterbacks and guys who have a good 6-7 game run after years of mediocrity.  Was $59M really fair market value for Ryan Fitzpatrick or do the Bills just like saying they have a quarterback who went to Harvard? "We lost four consecutive Super Bowls, we haven't had a winning record since 2004 and we play one of our home games in Canada BUT, have you talked to our quarterback? He's really smart. Ryan, come over hear and tell us the square root of 49. Watch this. It will blow your mind."

Green Bay by 11.5 over Oakland:  The Pick - Packers

Like I said, I watched a lot of the Raiders' game and for a team clinging to a one game division lead, they did not come to play.  It looked like there was enough film on Carson Palmer since his return for the Dolphins to make him look like he did in the end with the Bengals which was not very good.  

Cowboys by 3.5 over N.Y. Giants:  The Pick - Giants

The Cowboys had a shot to take some of the stench off of the NFC East and they blew it.  Meanwhile, the Giants took a legitimate shot at ending the Packers' streak like they did against the Patriots a few years ago and we all know how that ultimately turned out.  Time for Tom Coughlin to really crank-up the grumpy old man routine for the holidays.

Seattle by 6.5 over St. Louis:  The Pick - Seahawks

"I mean what is the deal
with the Seahawks?"
I mean who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?  This game has to be on Monday night because some jackass from Seattle or St. Louis spoke-up at the meeting where these things are decided and said, "remember last year when these two teams played the last game of the season with the NFC West title on the line?  That was awesome.  Plus, we have former No. 1 pick Sam Bradford."  They must have called for the vote right when lunch showed-up.

Last week:  10-6 . . . . Season:  61-49-2.