Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Week 12 NFL Picks

Looking to ride the 3-0 momentum from Thursday into the weekend.  If you were ever going to take a Sunday off from the NFL, this would be the one as there is only one game where both teams have winning records and we have the usual assortment of dumpster fire games like Cardinals v. Rams and Redskins v. Seahawks.  (Is there a better way to convey meaninglessness than "dumpster fire?"  It's contained burning trash.  Don't even waste the fire extinguisher.  Just flip the lid closed and let it burn itself out).  

St. Louis by 3 over Arizona:  The Pick - Rams

Three weeks ago these two NFC West heavyweights engaged in a battle of football skills between unarmed opponents and the result was an overtime game that the Rams had a chance to win with a field goal as time expired that was of course blocked.  Since that game, the Rams have lost to the Browns and Seahawks and the Cardinals have resorted to their third string quarterback, Richard Bartel a/k/a "The Pride of Tarleton State University."  (According to Wikipedia, aside from producing third string quarterbacks, "Tarleton is a growing institution, know for its internationally recognized horse production program."  In other words, it's a horse farm with a library and a football team).            

N.Y. Jets by 8 over Buffalo:  The Pick - Jets

"I don't like rookies.  I hate kickers."  
"You said bullshit and experience is all it takes, right? . . . Come on in and experience some of my bullshit."  That was the last thing Reggie Hammond told Jack Cates before he shook down the redneck bar in 48 Hours and I'm starting to think that's what Rex Ryan said before he became head coach of the Jets.  The problem with the "bullshit and experience" method is that sooner or later, the people you are bullshitting are going to catch on and it won't work anymore.  One of the things that made that 48 Hours scene so great was the underlying tension created by the prospect that a bar full of rednecks were going to figure out they were being played by a black guy and what would happen if they did.

I think the Jets players are starting to reach that point with Ryan and may be losing some faith in him (their faith in Mark Sanchez and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is almost completely gone).  If they don't make the playoffs this year, I don't see the Rex Ryan era lasting past 2012.  That is a very old football team with a very shaky quarterback.  Kind of reminds me of the career arc of another mouthy coach in the late 80's.  I think it was Buddy somebody.  It'll come to me.  With all of that being said, it turns out the Bills were a fraud and that was before they lost Fred Jackson for the season.          

Cincinnati by 7.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Bengals

Cleveland Browns season
ticket holder since 1978.
As a Ravens fan, I'm really looking forward to the Andy Dalton era.  Not only did he torch what is supposed to be one of the best defenses in the NFL for 373 yards, he did it without his future perennial all pro receiver, A.J. Green.  If the Ravens' history of helping receivers build there hall of fame credentials is any indication, that guy has found himself in the right division.  On the other side of the state we find the Browns who were already one of the worst teams in football before they looked-up and found themselves in the toughest division in the AFC.  At some point, scores of Cleveland fans wearing Browns, Cavaliers and Indians jerseys are going to start walking into Lake Erie like lemmings and everyone will understand.  No one will try to stop it and the news coverage will have a tone of hopeless inevitability, like when the Leaning Tower of Pisa finally keels over.          

Houston by 3 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Texans

Matt Leinert was picked 10th in the 2006 draft by the Cardinals, muddled through a few unproductive years in Arizona and has now settled into his role as a backup.  Blaine Gabbert was picked 10th in the 2011 draft by the Jaguars, has muddled through nine unproductive games as a starter and . . .  

Carolina by 3.5 over Indianapolis:  The Pick - Panthers

As if the Colts needed more incentive, now they get to play the team with last year's number one pick and see first hand all of the benefits that go along with that.  Next year's number one pick may, however, come with a price because the Colts have potentially overplayed their hand right into an 0-16 season.  This Sunday is their best shot at a win as they go on the road to New England and Baltimore the next two weeks and then finish with three division games against the teams they've been slapping around for the last ten years.  I thought it would be great to see the Colts tagged with the 0-16 stigma until I realized that half the guys on the NFL Network would spin it into more blather about the greatness of Peyton Manning.  You know what, they're going to do that anyway.  Down with the Colts!!!          

Tennessee by 3 over Tampa Bay:  The Pick - Titans

"I'm just saying' I'd run faster with a
twenty dollar bill in each of these hands."
I had never made a desperation fantasy football trade until two days ago when I unloaded Calvin Johnson and Marion Barber for Marques Colston and Chris Johnson but that's what you do when you're 5-6 and your best running back just went from having a strained calf to being out for the season with a broken fibula.  (The Bills are so cheap that it took a few hours for Fred Jackson's HMO to approve the x-ray).  Now I'm putting my season in the hands of a guy who got his fat contract and seems just as happy running for 13 yards as he does running for a 113.  Maybe if the Titans taped a few twenties to the goal posts it would inspire him.  At this point, I'd contribute to the cause.  

Atlanta by 9.5 over Minnesota:  The Pick - Falcons

Viking fans don't get enough credit for the misery they've had to suffer.  They are one of two franchises to be 0-4 in Super Bowls, they missed a chance to get to another one because their kicker who had made 39 field goals in a row missed a 38 yarder in the 1999 NFC Championship Game and then they had to watch Brett Favre throw away another chance in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, both at home.  Now, just over a season and a half removed from being one play away from the Super Bowl, they're starting backfield is Christian Ponder and Toby Gerhardt.  At least they're going to be spared watching the Timberwolves this season.  (Since I wrote that, there was breaking news of an NBA labor deal.  Sorry Minnesota).               

Seattle by 4 over Washington:  The Pick - Seahawks

"I'm a funny guy right?  RIGHT?"
Rex Grossman versus Tavaris Jackson.  What else is there to say?  I can't think of anything because I can't get the word "dreck" out of my head so, instead of forcing it, let me just refer you to one of the funniest things I've ever seen involving Liam Neeson doing improvisational comedy with Ricky Gervais (    

Oakland by 4.5 over Chicago:  The Pick - Bears

See what happens when you accuse your quarterback of being soft.  He breaks his thumb trying to make a tackle just to prove how tough he is like G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand over a candle.  I'm still not completely on board with the Raiders and the Bears have enough to beat average teams without Cutler.  And now that the Broncos have laid out the blueprint for winning without passing, you don't even need a real back-up quarterback anymore.  Caleb Hanie's projected stat line:  3-8 for 53 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.   

San Diego by 6.5 over Denver:  The Pick - Broncos

You're offering me Tebow and points against a team Norv Turner is trying to coach out of a downward spiral?!?  You shouldn't have.  

New England by 4 over Philadelphia:  The Pick - Patriots

You mean this wasn't a documentary?
The Eagles have more talent at just about every position except quarterback which means they have about the same chance of me outracing Tony Stewart if you put me in a Shelby GT500 and Tony in a Hyundai Sonata . . . which would be no chance in hell.  (My three year fantasy NASCAR stats - 3rd, 1st and out of the money.  Then I quit.  I think everyone in the league hated me because I knew nothing about racing and felt compelled to point it out every other week.  "I don't know how I keep winning, I don't even watch the races."  NASCAR fans are very sensitive and protective of their sport.  Kind of like soccer fans with southern accents.   It probably didn't help that I named my team "Shake 'n' Bake").  

Pittsburgh by 10 over Kansas City:  The Pick - Steelers

Remember when the Raiders started Kyle Boller right after signing Carson Palmer because Palmer wasn't ready, but after Boller threw three picks they put Palmer in anyway and he proceeded to throw three more picks?  Well the Chiefs just signed Kyle Orton but he's not ready so they're going to start Tyler Palko against the Steelers and this could get out of hand in a hurry.

New Orleans by 7 over N.Y. Giants:  The Pick - Saints

Savor this Monday night game because for the next two weeks we get San Diego at Jacksonville and St. Louis at Seattle.  (Don't be surprised if they go all out to save the ratings for that second game and give Hank Williams, Jr. an open microphone to say whatever he wants at halftime).  Give the Giants credit.  They're hanging on despite being crushed by injuries and Eli Manning is actually being mentioned as one of the top quarterbacks in the league.  I think Drew Brees puts that into perspective on Monday.        

Last week:  6-5-2 . . . . Season: 41-37-2

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Week 12 NFL Picks - Thanksgiving Edition

I''ve never been a big fan of Thanksgiving (really?  We're stunned).  I think it's because I don't like eating dinner at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I don't like eating breakfast for dinner either but I don't think the two are related.  I just think serving waffles or pancakes for dinner is a sign that someone was too lazy to make a decent meal (hi honey, really looking forward to our trip next week).  Thanksgiving also always seems to involve three of my least favorite things in life: (1) uncomfortable shoes, (2) small talk, and (3) wearing a sweater.  It's hard to enjoy a day when you know the payoff is sore feet and a sink full of disgusting dishes that you have to wash with wet wool sleeves.  And that concludes my tribute to Andy Rooney.

"I'm gonna put my nutsack
on your playbook!"
Well this year is going to be different because we are going out.  Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can certainly be used to pay misery to stay away from your daughter.  On top of that, we've got an early game with huge playoff implications and A-list fantasy players all over the place for the first time I can remember.  Then it's a dinner I don't have to clean-up after followed by a trip to M&T Bank Stadium to watch John Harbaugh teabag his brother's playbook.              

Green Bay by 6 over Detroit:  The Pick - Packers

I have Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson and Fred Jackson on a fantasy team ("Jerkstore Country") and I'm inexplicably 5-6.  Now the charts for Johnson and Jackson's points are mirroring the Dow Jones Industrial Average for 2008, Jackson's banged-up and I need two wins and some help.  (Fortunately, I also have Johnson and Jackson on another team that's 11-0 but shhhhhhh).  This frustrating season has taught me one valuable lesson.  When you have a wide receiver score 11 touchdowns in his first eight games, TRADE HIM because, unless his last name is Moss or Rice, his upside for the rest of the year is 4 more at the most.  (I wrote this right before I traded him last night in a desperate and probably futile attempt to save Jerkstore Country's season).

"Anything else you want to
get off your chest Brett?"
I see Matt Stafford getting way too amped up for this game and having a minor version of his meltdown against the Bears.  On the other side, Aaron Rodgers has been patiently waiting for this opportunity to shut the Lions up so he may take it to another level.  Where that would be I have no idea.  Maybe he'll just start throwing the ball with his mind like Chevy Chase in Modern Problems.            

Dallas by 7 over Miami:  The Pick - Dolphins

Dolphins' coach Tony Sparano coached Tony Romo for two years in Dallas so if anyone knows how to confuse Romo (and it's apparently not the league's biggest secret), it's Sparano.  Now factor in that the Cowboys have won four of their last five (which is way too much prosperity) and that the Dolphins have been rolling people lately, and I'm going to take the points with a word of caution.  I wouldn't bet more than a cup of warm turkey fat on a game where Tony Romo and a "hot"  Matt Moore are playing quarterback.   

Baltimore by 3 over San Francisco:  The Pick - Ravens

"Hey, great game J....KAPOW"
The 49er's are first in the league at stopping the run holding opponents to an average of 73.9 points per game.  If you're a Ravens' fan, that stat is hitting your plate like a double serving of Aunt Martha's nasty sweet potato's and marshmallow surprise because all you're thinking is that Cam Cameron is going to abandon the run during the National Anthem.  I'm staring at the Niners' schedule trying to find some weakness to justify my pick but I can't.  They just find a way to beat everybody.  They beat Detroit, Cincinnati and Philly on the road.  They've smoked bad teams at home and stymied what was a decent Giants team at the time.  In short, they have been taking care of business in a way the Ravens have not which is why they are 9-1 and the Ravens are 7-3.

So why Baltimore?  I just can't believe that (1) Alex Smith is going to come into Baltimore and win a night game (see Mark Sanchez) in front of an inebriated angry crowd that just spent the whole day listening to Uncle Louie blame their entire lazy generation for the closing of the mill (or plant, quarry or factory), (2) Ray Lewis is going to miss a chance to be miked up and over the top on national television, and (3) John Harbaugh is going to let his punk brother get the best of him.  Like T-Sizzle, I too am looking forward to the post-game handshake.  I just hope it's accompanied by a mildly condescending and not the least bit heart felt expression of good will by John along the lines of "great game, tell your guys they have nothing to be ashamed of because no one beats us here." And then of course I hope they drop the gloves right in the middle of the field like Carl Racki and Dean Youngblood with the players forming a perimeter and yelling, "this is their fight!"          

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Week 11 NFL Picks

"Let's see, I've got a starfish, a donkey, a guy
with four arms lying down...I know, a coyote!"
When I decided to go with the crutch of picking NFL games as a way to fill space in golf's off season, I figured I'd found 13 to 16 ready made topics every week and the thing would basically write itself.  I remember feeling similarly about an open book calculus exam I took in high school.  Suffice it to say I failed it despite being good enough at math that I majored in it in college until I failed an open book exam on multivariable calculus at which point I headed straight for the English department.  (How does that saying go?  Fail me once, shame on you.  Fail me twice, fuck this I'm majoring in something where there is no "right" answer).  Turns out there are only so many ways you can say the Browns suck.

I was 8-8 last week but, in my defense, the NFC West went 4-0 including big upsets by the Seahawks and Cardinals over the Ravens and Eagles (note that in nature, the Eagles would have been big favorites over the Cardinals while Ravens v. Seahawks (ospreys) probably would have been a pickem.  Maybe I should stop wasting so much time on the preamble and get on with the picks especially if it means finding a way out of this seemingly endless parenthetical):      

Atlanta by 6 over Tennessee:  The Pick - Falcons

"Yeah . . . that's the spot."
The Titans are Natasha Henstridge in Species.  One week they look really hot and lure you in and the next thing you know you're getting a back rub from an alien in a hot tub and they're losing to the Texans 41-7.  Then they're a hot model again crushing the Panthers and you're thinking "I know I shouldn't because she's really an alien but jeez...."  I'm not taking the bait this week.            

Miami by 2 over Buffalo:  The Pick - Bills

Look, I'm fine with the Bills reverting back to their losing ways as long as they stay focused on the one thing that is still achievable this season - getting Fred Jackson to the Pro Bowl (says the guy who lucked into Freejack on two fantasy teams and spent way too much time in Week 6 waffling between "sell high" or "hold" before deciding on the latter).

Baltimore by 7 over Cincinnati:  The Pick - Bengals

I'm beginning to think that if Cam Cameron's name was Lou Cameron, he'd be coaching special teams in the CFL by now.  He was the head coach at Indiana University where he went 18-37 and then built his reputation as an offensive coordinator coaching teams with Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers at quarterback, Ladanian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Lorenzo Neal and Darren Sproles at running back and a healthy Antonio Gates.  (You better make a good sauce with ingredients that fresh).  He then went 1-15 as the head coach of the Dolphins and now he's an offensive guru who had Ray Rice run the ball 5 times (at 5.2 yards per carry) and Joe Flacco throw it 52 times in a game the Ravens lost by 5 against an inferior team.    

This week Cameron was quoted as saying, "hey I feel you guys.  I feel everybody when it comes to Ray (what in the hell does that mean?), continually keeping him involved.  I don't know how he stacks up across the league.  We don't really care how he stacks up across the league."  That comment is asinine and may explain part of the problem.  There are about eight teams in the NFL that have a running back in the same class as Rice.  Those backs have carried the ball between 163 and 191 times this year.  Rice has carried it 138.  And don't talk to me about  throwing it to him out of the backfield because, though Rice has caught a few more passes than the other backs, he and Flacco have also failed to connect on a bunch and, last time I checked, those incompletions get you zero yards.  Hand Ray the damn ball!  There endeth the Ravens rant for the week.          

Cleveland PK with Jacksonville:  The Pick - Jaguars

Happy holidays Browns fans, you get the Jags and then close your home schedule with the Ravens and the Steelers though you might get lucky if Cam Cameron inadvertently shoots Ray Rice with a tranquilizer dart before the Ravens game.  (OK, I'll let it go).  

Detroit by 7 over Carolina:  The Pick - Lions

Someone needs to investigate what bad teams do during their bye week.  The Panthers were competitive in every game they played, took a week off and then went to Tennessee and lost 30-3.  The Lions have lost 3 of their last 4 and are looking literally and figuratively gimpy.  Something's got to give and I think the Lions get it together before losing 4 of their last 6 and miss the playoffs by a game as Ndamukong Suh continues to maul quarterbacks like a PMSing grizzly bear.  (Didn't know "PMSing" was actually a word. . . in the Urban Dictionary.  Love that thing).    

Green Bay by 14 over Tampa Bay:  The Pick - Packers

After O.J. Simpson, James Brolin and Sam Waterston escape from the bad guys (the U.S. Government) in Capricorn One, they shrewdly decide to split-up to make capturing all three of them more difficult and each takes a flare to alert the others if he has been captured and presumably killed.  The Buccaneers effectively shot their flare on November 9th when they claimed Albert Haynesworth off of waivers.

Oakland by 1 over Minnesota: The Pick - Raiders

Another casualty of the bye week as the Vikings played on Monday night like they spent their time off having houseboat orgys on Lake Minnetonka.  Prior to their bye week, they actually looked respectable with a win over the Panthers and a 6 point loss to the Packers.  If you take the Raiders, it means you're beginning to nervously sip the Carson Palmer Kool Aid like someone just handed it to you in a small paper cup while talking about how great things are going to be in the next life.  If that's not a ringing endorsement for picking the Raiders, I don't know what is.           

Dallas by 7.5 over Washington:  The Pick - Cowboys

"I'm not even dead yet Goddammit!"
This is how bad it's gotten for the Redskins.  I grew up despising them and work in a building primarily occupied by their fans and it is no longer fun basking in their misery.  You know you've hit rock bottom when your haters stop harassing you. I don't know when it stopped being fun.  Probably around the time Mike Shanahan was simultaneously benching Donovan McNabb and signing him to a new contract.  Is it possible Shanahan's body is being intermittently occupied by the ghost of Rich Kotite?    

San Francisco by 9.5 over Arizona:  The Pick - Cardinals

I can see Jim Harbaugh in the film room watching Larry Fitzgerald singlehandedly shredding the Eagles last week smugly saying to himself (just loud enough for everyone in the room to hear) "these coaches can't be that stupid!"  The Niners will get to 9-1 but they don't have the offensive firepower to blow anyone out and the  Cardinals have won two in a row (and it should have been three because they had the Ravens on the ropes) so I'll take John Skelton, the points and a shot of Wild Turkey.  

St. Louis by 2 over Seattle:  The Pick - Seahawks

"No I'm not.  Do I look like I
actually give a crap?" 
Is it just me or are there more God awful games every week this year than most others.  Everyone keeps blaming Sam Bradford's lousy season on bad receivers but now that he has Brandon Loyd, do we really expect him to be any better?  He had Loyd the last two weeks and the Rams scored 13 points in both games against the Cardinals and the Browns but that's not even the sad part.  The sad part is that they lost one of those games in overtime and won the other one.  Ray Malavasi is rolling over in his grave.      

Chicago by 3.5 over San Diego:  The Pick - Bears

Considering Norv Turner's full name is Norval Eugene Turner, he should be proud of the fact that he survived high school and overcame the inexplicable cruelty of his own parents.  Unfortunately, his football team is coming unraveled and now has to play the biggest bullies on the block (see how I tied that together . . . I was an English major).

Giants by 4 over Philadelphia:  The Pick - Giants

The information I'm getting is that Michael Vick is unlikely to play meaning Vince Young will start which  makes this line seem very low.  It has to be one of three things: (a) the oddsmakers don't have access to the same information, (b) Michael Vick has been so bad lately that his absence is considered a plus (as the shoulders of everyone who picked him in the first round sag) or (c) Vince Young is ready to prove himself worthy of the 3rd overall pick in the draft.  I'm not buying any of it and I'm starting to believe that Andy Reid is trying to get fired so he can hold a press conference and finally tell the Philly fans what he really thinks of them.  

New England by 15 over Kansas City:  The Pick - Patriots

Tyler Palko is (a) the 2009 seventh place finisher on American Idol, (b) the United States' best hope for figure skating gold in Sochi, or (c) the Chiefs starting quarterback on Monday night.  If you answered (c), you are probably a Chiefs fan and . . . I'm sorry.

Last week: 8-8 . . . Season: 35-32-2

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Week 11 Thursday Night Pick

Jets by 6 over Denver: The Pick - Broncos
You're not fooling anybody
by practicing that.

Tim Tebow is the gift that keeps on giving. After a game where he attempted eight passes and completed two of them, Denver coach John Fox said on Wednesday, "if we were trying to run a regular offense, he'd be screwed."  By "regular offense," we can only assume he meant one that was invented after 1927.  Jim Harbaugh is getting all the love but Fox deserves some coach of the year recognition for taking over a team that Josh McDaniels spent two years running with the Isiah Thomas handbook, traded its best offensive player five games into the season and is starting a 42 year old running back and a tight end at quarterback.  Now they host the Jets and their defense that is designed to shut down quarterbacks who play like Tom Brady not Larry Csonka.  If I was the wide receiver being covered by Darrelle Revis, before every snap I'd say "it's another running play" and then run straight down the field as fast as I could cackling.           

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shallow Thoughts

"There was one?"
In honor of one of the comedic geniuses of our time, Deep Thoughts creator Jack Handey ("If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most?  I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you?  You'd be wrong, though.  It's Hambone"), here are a few random thoughts on topics ranging from John Daly and Andy Reid to Mila Kunis and prostitutes (I like fat guys and fast women, that's why the guys at my country club call me "The Cruiser" . . . . "they should call you the 'Dork'"):

The Presidents Cup had ten "experts" pick the winner of the Presidents Cup this weekend.  Six picked the international team, three picked the Americans and some clown named Chris Dunham predicted it will be a tie.  His rationale was that "with fast greens and a U.S. team coming off a tough Ryder Cup defeat, I expect this event to be as close as they come."  The International team has five of the top ten finishers in this year's Masters where someone once famously said "the greens are faster than a Jamaican pickpocket" plus they have Retief Goosen and Ernie Els who have each won multiple U.S. Opens where the greens have been known to be faster than a Guatemalan purse snatcher so if fast greens are going to be the key factor - advantage International team.

I'm not quite sure about the Ryder Cup logic considering it was played over a year ago and one third of the U.S. roster was different.  Frankly I would have found his argument more compelling if he had predicted a tie because the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter was aligned with Mars.  I googled Chris Dunham and the only place his name came up was on Linkedin where he is listed as either an editorial coordinator for or a Sales Rep at Southern Wine & Spirits.  I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt, go with the latter and assume he was getting hammered with his customers when he made his prediction.

"You tell Lou Reed to show-up or he will
be wearin' those sunglasses up his ass."
As for my prediction, I like the Americans because (a) these 12 on 12 golf matches are impossible to predict and, if you say you're going on anything more than a hunch or a coin flip, you're full of shit, (b) I'm an American and (c) I ain't gonna play Sun City (the event isn't even in South Africa so that was really just a cheap excuse to pull this classic from the archives - - anytime you can blend Joey Ramone, George Clinton, Hall & Oates, Kurtis Blow and a REALLY angry Bono and make it work, I'm on board with your message.  Nice work Silvio).       

The Eagles

I picked the Eagles to cover a 14 point spread last week because their mission was so simple and they spent the off season acquiring the assets to accomplish it.  I didn't think they'd take me seriously when I suggested they should cover Larry Fitzgerald with Herman Edwards and Vince Papale but leave it to Andy Reid to think outside the bun and the box, put Assante Samual, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha somewhere else in the secondary and have rookie safety Jaiquan Jarrett on Fitzgerald with the game on the line in the 4th quarter.  I have to assume that every player on the Cardinals who is not a future hall of famer was extremely well covered.  A confident Reid was overheard on the sideline muttering confidently, "this is the last thing they'd expect in this situation....they're not going to know what hit them.....I bet they don't even look in Fitzgerald's direct......SWEET CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE HE JUST CAUGHT A BOMB ON THE ONE YARD LINE!!!"


"Chasity appears to have
a very nice kitchen."  
My Twitter following recently peaked at six.  As best as I can tell, the list includes my wife, three random people who stumbled on to me thinking I would actually write about golf and two prostitutes.  My most recent follower is Chasity (sic) Evanson who wonders on her home page "is it sexual harassment if a female employee jumps a hot guy?"  As an attorney, I feel compelled to tell her that it is but I'm afraid of where that dialogue might lead and, with my luck, that would be the day the Fantasy Golf Wife (a/k/a the "FGW") decides to see what this Twitter thing is all about.  Considering the demographic breakdown of my followers, I wonder if 90,000 of Rich Eisen's 273,526 followers are prostitutes.              

John Daly

Speaking of Twitter, after hitting seven consecutive shots in the water, running out of balls and walking off the course at the Australian Open, John Daly tweeted "when u run out of balls u run out of balls" which will undoubtedly be the refrain for his newest country song.  Daly's playing partner, Craig Parry, said that "he had the right club to reach the green, but the wind was stronger than Daly realized."  I usually check the wind by throwing up some grass and not by hitting seven balls into the water so I'm not an expert, but I think the "wind was stronger than I realized" excuse loses steam after about the fourth splash.            

Black Swan

"I can't stop thinking about you
scrubbing the oil off of that bird."  
Every time I turn on Cinemax they're showing the last 20 minutes of Black Swan where Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman end up in bed "together." Leave it to the crew at Skinemax to buy the rights to an Oscar nominee that fits right into their post 11:00 p.m. programming.  Does anyone know if the rest of the movie is as good as that scene or do they spend the whole time rescuing swans from an oil spill?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Groundhog Day

"Don't blog angry...
don't blog angry."
I recently noted that, due to our limited options, the hierarchy of Baltimore's rooting interests goes like this: (1) our kids' little league teams, (2) the Ravens and (3) Michael Phelps.  So I should have been on guard yesterday when my 8 year old son's team lost its playoff game in a shootout after scoring the tying goal with 20 seconds left in regulation.  (Don't get me started on having 8 year olds playing games with anything more at stake than the five minutes of satisfaction they get between the final whistle and the post-game cookies.  I'm just glad my son wasn't playing goalie but hey, the haunting memory of that loss will make that kid a better man in 15 years.  I will now step down from my soapbox). 

There was no way the Ravens would ruin option No. 2 for me because, as all of my critics have been telling me, Joe Flacco turned the corner with that clutch drive last week and the team was ready to go on the road and prove they were worthy of being called the AFC's best team and Cam Cameron was going to take it one step further and prove they could win without handing the ball to Ray Rice.  (Cam either panicked and ditched the game plan by the end of the first quarter resulting in a 53-12 pass/run ratio or that WAS the game plan.  Both are scary.  More on this later in the week). 

"Let him catch you
on the backstretch."
The first sign of trouble came when the Steelers beat the Bengals clearing the path to first place in the AFC.  Ray Lewis and John Harbaugh have been playing the "no one believes in us" card for so long, I'm not sure deep down in their hearts they even want to be a frontrunner.  Am I saying they didn't want to win yesterday?  Of course not but I believe that some people are more suited for the underdog role and that becomes part of their Seabiscuit.  Ray Lewis was the 26th player and the 5th linebacker drafted in 1996 because he was thought to be too small.  John Harbaugh was never more than a special teams coach in the NFL until he got the head job with the Ravens but that was after Jason Garrett teased them for a week and then sent them home for a cold shower.  Many of his players probably still wish the team had promoted Rex Ryan instead of hiring him and, oh by the way, his brother, who is on his way to winning coach of the year, played in the NFL and he didn't.  That's not a chip on his shoulder, it's a concrete slab. 

"Don't you think this
guy's overdoin' it a bit."
Anyone who follows the Ravens closely can see that the underdog mentality that drives these two guys permeates the entire team and you have to wonder if part of the reason they give games away to the Titans, Jags and Seahwaks in between crushing teams like the Steelers, Jets and Texans is because on some level, they've developed a slight inferiority complex and aren't comfortable breaking free from the pack.  Check out how John Harbaugh always seems embattled, even when his team wins. 

For the record, I like Harbaugh and think he is one of top five coaches in the league even if he tends to go over the top like he did with his Teddy Roosevelt quote last week (  I buy that ra ra crap but, at some point, you have to recognize that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.  I don't know how he is preparing his team for these games after emotional wins but it ain't working and the problem is that the propensity to fall flat under these circumstances keeps manifesting itself in the playoffs where every win is emotional. 

Hopefully the Seabiscuit analogy will play out.  For now I'm left sucking on a Sunday's worth of losing and bracing for news that Michael Phelps drowned in his hot tub last night.                     


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Week 10 NFL Picks

"First I lose my pistol in the river
and now writer's block...great."
Having a bit of a struggle with the picks this week.  I wasted ten minutes just trying to think of words besides "elite" that you can't spell without "Eli" ("eliminate", "relief", "deliverance") before I finally gave up and went to happy hour looking for some inspiration.  Then I came home and watched a good chunk of The Blues Brothers.  Still nothing.  I felt as hopeless as Christian Bale halfway through Rescue Dawn (you see what I'm up against?  I'm referencing movies no one's even seen).

Then this morning I opened the Baltimore Sun to the picks for the Ravens' game made by the writers and came across this effort by Kevin Cowherd:

"To avoid a slow start, the Ravens will replace their Gatorade with Starbucks espresso machiatto."

Do you see what Kevin did there?  He started with the premise that the Ravens would replace their Gatorade with coffee to avoid the slow starts they are know for on the road and let's face it, most writers would have looked at that joke and said "my work here is done."  But not Kevin.  Recognizing that the game is in Seattle, he took it a step further, made the Starbucks connection, bypassed the basic espresso, the cafe latte and even the cinnamon dolce latte and went right for the fucking jugular with the espresso machiatto and . . . BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!!!

"This blog post is not dying in this
God forsaken jungle....not today!"
When I read that lowbrow effort, I knew that I owed my seventeen regular readers something better.  So I steeled myself like Christian Bale at the end of Rescue Dawn, fashioned myself a new pair of sandals out of some bamboo and pressed on (this may still suck but it won't be for lack of effort).  

Pittsburgh by 3 over Cincinnati:  The Pick - Steelers

This game has me conflicted.  Kind of like the thought of smashing my 1990 Division III Lacrosse National Championship Runner-Up trophy over Ben Roethlisberger's head.  (My athletic career in a nutshell - make it to the national championship game as a role player, lose 18-6 and in the process set the record for largest margin of defeat in lacrosse national championship game history.  Just another brick in the wall of bitterness).  I'd love to see the Bengals lose giving the Ravens a shot at sole possession of first place in the AFC but I really want to see the Steelers dead.  Roethlisberger dead!  Polamalu dead!  Harrison....dead!  This situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.  Unfortunately, I don't think the Bengals are just the guys to do it.   

Kansas City by 3 over Denver:  The Pick - Broncos

"Yes I have a detailed plan for
cutting down on the interceptions."
I can see Broncos' coach John Fox throwing his hands-up in a meeting with Tim Tebow and his offensive coordinator and saying "if you want to run him 20 times and get him killed out there go ahead but don't come crying to me when we're ALL kneeling on the field."  On the other side, you have Matt Cassell who is quietly establishing himself as one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL as he plays out the 3rd (and probably last) year of his six year $63M deal.  In light of coach Todd Haley's recent look, Cassell might be wise to have a bomb sniffing dog with him when he opens his locker.      

Jacksonville by 3 over Indianapolis:  The Pick - Jaguars

One of three games with an over/under of 37.5 or less as six of the lowest eight scoring teams in the league are all playing each other this week (and I'd take the under in all of them).  The Colts are averaging 14.2 points per game down from 27.2 last year so if you want a simple way to quantify the value of Peyton Manning, there you go.  Meanwhile, in a concerted effort to get the people of Jacksonville to throw them out so they can move to Los Angeles, the Jags are worse at 12.3 points per game.  Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein drew the short straw for announcing this gem putting them one step away from hosting American Gladiators.        

Dallas by 5.5 over Buffalo:  The Pick - Bills

"You suck Theisman!"
I'm going against the Cowboys until they show-up at least two weeks in a row.  They've only beaten one good team and that was the 49ers back in week 2 before they knew they were good.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was a Cowboys fan until the Browns moved to Baltimore.  I tell people it's because I grew-up in Annapolis and loved Roger Staubach but it's really because my entire extended family are Redskins fans and one Thanksgiving when I was five the Cowboys beat them thanks to a comeback led by a backup QB named Clint Longley and everyone was completely bummed for dinner so I decided to go the other way by announcing, "I was rooting for the Cowboys."  Little did I know that when you take a prickish stand like that, you have to own it for a long time.  Fortunately for me, the Cowboys started having cocaine air dropped directly to their practice facility right about the time the Ravens came to Baltimore, so the transition was an easy one.  

Houston by 3 over Tampa Bay:  The Pick - Texans

The AFC South has done everything but leave its hotel room key on the bar for the Texans.  They've looked like the best team outside of the North and East over the last three weeks by pounding the Titans, Jags and Browns and they've got plenty more tomato cans (boxing term) on the schedule down the stretch so the 9-7 they'll need should not be a problem.  Tampa Bay is headed in the other direction and taking every fantasy owner who banked on Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams with them.  

Carolina by 3.5 over Tennessee:  The Pick - Panthers

The Titans looked like they had the formula for a winning season after starting 3-1 and not allowing more than 16 points in a game.   Then the Steelers and the Texans hung 38 and 41 on them respectively and now they're struggling to get back to the flight deck because Matt Hassleback's saying "I was hired to hand it to Chris Johnson and throw it to Kenny Britt and, um, well..."  You know you're in trouble when the guy you just signed to a $56M deal runs for 64 yards and everyone starts getting excited.

Miami by 3.5 over Washington:  The Pick - Dolphins
"We suck, we suck, we suck! Oowww!"

Putrid game of the week no. 2 as the Redskins roll into Miami with John Beck at quarterback to play a team that didn't even want him as a back-up.  The Redskins were 3-2 with Rex Grossman at quarterback and are 0-3.  Mike Shanahan was so pissed leaving the field on Sunday that he refused medical treatment for his gall stone and decided to pass it without breaking stride on his way to the locker room.      

New Orleans pick 'em at Atlanta:  The Pick - Saints

Finally a game Scott Hanson can send us to on Redzone without a guilty conscience.  The Falcons seem to have gotten their act together with three wins in a row (if you count the one over the Colts).  The Falcons might be the most boring team in the league and are appropriately coached by a guy named Mike Smith who looks like a 1950's police detective so let's move on.               

Chicago by 2.5 over Detroit:  The Pick - Bears

"I didn't tell them nuthin', I swear." 
One of these two teams is probably going to be the odd man out for a wild card spot and if I had to pick which one now, I'd go with the Lions.  They've got six losable games on the rest of the schedule, no running game and a fragile quarterback who is already living on borrowed time like Adriana after she becomes a mole for the feds.  (If that spoils anything for you, it's your fault for being too late to the party).                

Cleveland by 2.5 over St. Louis:  The Pick - Rams

Putrid game of the week no. 3.  The Browns are 0-2 since I called them the worst 3-3 team in the history of the league and the Rams lost last week by (1) having a field goal blocked at the end of regulation, (2) winning the coin flip in overtime, and (3) allowing a 99 yard punt return for a touchdown.  At least they're creative in their sucking.    

Philadelphia by 14 over Arizona:  The Pick - Eagles

It's a lot of points to give but when you figure the Eagles are going to score at least 28, that means the Cardinals have to find 14 with John Skelton at quarterback and everyone from Herman Edwards to Vince Papale chasing Larry Fitzgerald around the secondary.      

Baltimore by 6.5 over Seattle:  The Pick - Ravens

"Suck on that . . . Cheater!"
Joe Flacco played a great game and threw what may have been the most clutch pass in the NFL since Roethlisberger hit Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII (Roethlisberger!!!), but the Ravens are more prone to letdowns than a little league soccer team that just scored the first goal of the game (nothing is more inevitable than a kids' soccer game being tied 1-1 within one minute of it being 1-0).  This game may mean more to John Harbaugh than the Thanksgiving night match-up against his brother because losing to his brother would be respectable but, if he loses to Pete Carroll, everyone in his family is going to tell him he sucks, even his mom, because (a) they hate Carroll and (b) that's how the Harbaughs roll.      

San Francisco by 3.5 over the Giants:  The Pick - Giants

OK, coming off another break and just legitimately lost to my 4 year old daughter in Sorry again which makes me 0 for as many times as I've played her and now I'm genuinely chaffed.  (It's actually gotten to the point where cheating has crossed my mind).  Let's grind out the rest of this thing.  The 49ers are 8-1 and have screwed-up the natural selection process of the NFL by taking away seven wins that other teams were supposed to have at this point.  Eli Manning just out dueled Tom Brady and after the game Tom Coughlin was caught on camera smiling and laughing with his players.  It's starting to feel like the bridge of the Enterprise right before Khan blasted it from the Reliant.  Something ain't right.                

Jets by 1.5 over New England:  The Pick - Jets

Speaking of Brady, he don't look so good and now he's got to go to New York where all of Giselle's artsy fartsy friends are going to be asking him what's wrong.  There was a great sideline scene on Inside the NFL this week when Ochocinco came over to Brady to explain why he ran the wrong route again and Brady looked at him and said, "keep playing hard, that's all I want you to do, keep playing hard."  Translation - "stop bothering me while I'm trying to talk to Welker."  I love it....every minute of it.        

Green Bay by 13.5 over Minnesota:  The Pick - Vikings

How bad looking could his
upper lip possibly be?
A rookie quarterback starting on the road against the best team in football.  This should be a blowout but the Packers are way past due for the game where a tipped Rodgers pass goes the other way for six.  Has anyone ever been fired at a more opportune time than Brad Childress?  He led the Vikings to two division titles and was one win away from the Super Bowl in 2009 and then they canned him 10 games into last season.  Now the Vikings are wasting Adrian Peterson's prime with a rookie quarterback, are a distant fourth in the best division in the NFC and Chilly has all the time he needs to meticulously groom one of the worst mustaches in the history of mankind.  

Last week:  10-4 . . . . Season: 27-24-2

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Optimistic Realist

The Urban Dictionary defines an "Optimistic Realist" as "someone who is able to look at the positive side of life while maintaining a realistic viewpoint. Although seemingly contradictory, it clearly is not due to the fact that realism has no positive or negative association, only a focus on the realistic elements of a situation."

Now few would describe me as a "glass half full" guy (and by "few," I mean "none").  On the other hand, I've never stepped onto a field, court or tee box when I was not sure in my heart that I was going to win and I always assume that the teams I root for are going to come through .... even when my brain is telling me "you have no fuckin' chance kid."  (So does that make me an optimistic realist or a realistic optimist?)  If you had made me bet my house on whether Joe Flacco would drive the Ravens 92 yards for the game winning score Sunday night, I probably would have gone against him but, in my heart, I believed he could do it.  And that is how I reconcile my position of last week with the following:

"If you don't breast-feed him, he'll
hate you for it later.  That's why
we wound up on the Steelers."
Sunday night Ravens fans had a dream.

We dreamt we were as light as the ether a floatin' spirit, visitin' things to come.  The shades and shadows of the players of the NFL wrestled their way into our slumber.

We dreamt that Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu had decided to retire. Probably that's just as well.  We’d seen enough of that hair and that "punch me in the face" smile.

And then we dreamed on, into the future, to a Christmas Eve in a Baltimore stadium, where Colt McCoy was throwing touchdown Ed Reed.

We saw Tom Brady a few days later, still havin' no luck winnin’ a game in the playoffs.  
"That Welker's a smart one,
already knows his ABC's."
Maybe he did one Uggs commercial too many.  We don't know.

But still we dreamed on, further into the future than we'd ever dreamed before.  Watchin' John Harbaugh's progress from afar, taking pride in his accomplishments.  Wondering if he ever thought of us and hoping that maybe we'd broadened his horizons a little even if he couldn't remember just how they got broadened.

But still we hadn't dreamt nothin' about us and Joe, until the end.  And this was cloudier, because it was months, months away.

But we saw a young quarterback holding the Lombardi Trophy and all his teammates too.
And we don't know.  You tell us.  This whole dream.  Was it wishful thinkin'?  Were we just fleein' reality, like we know we're liable to do?

And it seemed real.  It seemed like the Ravens.  And it seemed like, well...our home with the blue horseshoe on the field.
"The Steelers and the prejudices of
others conspired to keep us titleless."

If not Baltimore, then a land not too far away, where all quarterbacks are poised and consistent and accurate and all the fans are happy and beloved. 

We don't know.

Maybe it was Dundalk.

Email the FGR

The Thursday Night Pick

San Diego by 6.5 over Oakland:  The Pick - Chargers

"Nine times?!?...nine times." 
Who would have thought that the most devastating injury loss after Peyton Manning would have been Jason Campbell?  Since losing Cambell, the Raiders have dropped two in a row by a combined score of 66-24 thanks in large part to their quarterbacks being intercepted 9 times in those games.  Meanwhile, who knows what the Chargers are going to do?  Phillip Rivers has almost singlehandedly lost three games in a row with a botched two minute drill, a fumbled snap and then two pick-6's against the Packers last week.  This is about the time of the season when Norv Turner makes his Donald Sutherland from Animal House plea, "listen, I'm not joking.  This is my job."  Then the players call a meeting where Rivers reminds them that if Norv gets fired, management will bring in a hard-ass like Cowher or Gruden and no one wants that so everyone get their shit together.                   

Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't Want to Hear About It

More on the Ravens win later this week after I've had a chance to recover (nothing like a Sunday night epic that goes down to the wire to wipe out that extra hour of sleep before you even get to take advantage of it).  Don't expect a full blown mea culpa on Joe Flacco.  He played the best game of his career considering the circumstances but the goal was never to get to 6-2.  Anyone saying "I told you so" today is pedaling loser talk.  I will happily eat my words and wash them down with a Natty Boh if the Ravens are playing in Indy on February 5th.   

For now, however, I just want to enjoy the win and respond to the inevitable (so inevitable that I started writing this before the game yesterday) whining from Steeler fans about some of the calls.  All I needed today was some evidence of actual whining and Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was happy to oblige:            

"Steelers fans will tell you their team was robbed. They didn't like that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis wasn't called for a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked wide receiver Hines Ward out of the game early in the second quarter with concussion-like symptoms. (Look for Lewis to be fined by the NFL this week.) They didn't like that Steelers safety Ryan Clark was penalized 15 yards for hitting "defenseless" tight end Ed Dickson late in the second quarter, a call that led to a Ravens field goal. (That one was questionable.) And they really didn't like a pass interference penalty against Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor late in the third quarter that set up a Ravens touchdown (I didn't see any interference)."

To Mr. Cook and the rest of his ilk on behalf of Ravens fans who have seen more bad calls than we care to remember (including last night), I offer the following.....hit it Jack White:

Ohhhh Uh Oh Oh Oh Ohhhhhh!!!!
Don't want to hear about it
Every single one's got a story to tell
Everyone knows about it
From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell

And if I catch it coming back my way
I'm gonna serve it to you
And that ain't what you want to hear
But that's what I'll do
And the feeling coming from my bones

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Week 9 NFL Picks

We had Dan Fouts for 15 years and 
NOW we make it to the Super Bowl?!?
One final word on the importance of having a great (not good) quarterback if your team has genuine championship aspirations (and I count about 14 teams who could make that claim with a straight face - sorry Falcons fans, I saw you smirk).  Of the last twenty Super Bowl winners, four did not have a quarterback who is either in the Hall of Fame (Elway, Aikman and Young), going to be in the Hall of Fame (P. Manning, Brady, Favre, Warner and Roethlisberger (as much as it pains me to say it)) or making a strong case for the Hall of Fame (Brees and Rodgers).  So you can take your shot with Eli Manning, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson or Mark Rypien but you better have a world class defense and you better hope you don't run into one of those HOF guys on the other side.  As the teams with Stan Humphries, Neil O'Donnell, Drew Bledsoe, Chris Chandler, Steve McNair, Jake Delhomme, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hassleback and Rex Grossman found out, you don't want to bring a knife (or in the case of Stan Humphries, a pillow) to a gun fight.  On to the picks:

Atlanta by 7 over Indy:  The Pick - Falcons

The Falcons posted solid wins over the Panthers and Lions before the bye and may prove to be a factor in the playoffs after all (if you can call losing in the first round being a "factor").  Meanwhile, Jim Irsay is doing everything but tweeting pictures of Andrew Luck wearing a Colts jersey. 

New Orleans by 8 over Tampa Bay:  The Pick - Bucs

"Did Sean call yet?"
The Bucs have only played one game where the margin was more than 7 points either way (of course the margin in that game was 45 but who's counting?)  They have the ability to bring the other team down to their level of mediocrity like a bad hockey team or Pat Riley's Knicks.  I also think Drew Brees is really starting to miss having Sean Payton on the sidelines.  Not in a football way but more in a Starsky and Hutch kind of way.               

Houston by 11 over Cleveland:  The Pick - Texans

That's a big number to cover but the Browns are suffering from that rare combination of having almost no talent and being dysfunctional at the same time.  Someone needs to tell them that having talent is a prerequisite to being dysfunctional otherwise ESPN won't even send a reporter to your town. 

Buffalo by 1.5 over the New York Jets:  The Pick - Jets

I don't have any evidence to support this but there seems to be a correlation between Rex Ryan shutting his pie hole and the Jets playing good football and we haven't heard much from Rex since he spouted off about Norv Turner two weeks ago.  The Bills need to score a lot of points to win (unless they're playing the Redskins) and I don't see that happening this week.   

Kansas City by 4 over Miami:  The Pick - Chiefs

We may need to start considering the possibility that Todd Haley is a good coach.  He lost his best offensive player and one of his best defensive players at the start of a season where his team lost their first two games by a combined 78 points.  Did he panic?  No.  Did he change the game plan?  No.  He just started acting like the Unibomber and the next thing you know they're 4-3.  He's crafty.        

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

"We traded what for McNabb?
You're kidding right?"
Exhibit "A" for why you never trade high draft picks for veterans - the Redskins starting backfield is John Beck and Ryan Torrain and their best wide receiver is Jabbar Gaffney meanwhile their 2nd round pick from 2010 and their 4th round pick from 2011 are sitting on the bench in Minnesota and their 3rd round pick from 2006 and their 4th round pick from 2007 are catching passes in St. Louis.  Not a good sign when Terrell Owens would be your best receiver as soon as he walked through the door.                  

Dallas by 11.5 over Seattle:  The Pick - Seahawks

The Cowboys played five games where the largest margin of victory was four points and then they won 34-7 and lost 34-7.  Factor in that you have Tony Romo against a potential combination of Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst and you might want to put your money at risk somewhere a bit safer, like Libyan real estate.      

Oakland by 7.5 over Denver:  The Pick - Raiders

As a quarterback who is resisting his natural urge to run so he can show people that he is a pocket passer, Tim Tebow has to be a defensive coordinator's dream.  It's like playing against a much less accurate Scott Mitchell.  Let's just hope the Raiders fans don't get so carried away mocking Tebow that they accidentally light the fuse on the Apocalypse.    

Tennessee by 3 over Cincinnati:  The Pick - Bengals

"Let me think that one over for a 
minute and...get out of my store."  
I'm riding the Bengals until someone proves they are a fluke (and until the reverse jinx takes effect).  I was offered Chris Johnson and Matt Schaub for Aaron Rodgers this week.  In the words of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, "that offer reminded me of Hi and Lois because it made me laugh."    

Arizona by 3.5 over St. Louis:  The Pick - Rams

These two teams have each won one game.  The Cardinals won their first and the Rams won their last.  I'm going with the team riding the winning streak.  Maybe CBS will send Gus Johnson to do this game to ensure it at least ends on a pick six in overtime.      

New England by 8.5 over the New York Giants:  The Pick - Giants

The Patriots haven't played one game this year that would indicate they can cover 8.5 against a decent team.  If you're the Tom Coughlin, don't you invite David Tyree to come up and hang around during warm-ups reenacting his helmet catch over and over and over again?  That would be hilarious until Belichik signaled the sniper.

Green Bay by 5.5 over San Diego:  The Pick - Packers

"Who likes putting on a tuxedo
after work on a Monday? I do!"
I didn't see much of the game Monday night because I was walking around the neighborhood in a tuxedo trying to pull of the Penguin from Batman which completely worked except that I'm 5'8, 160 pounds and bald so I ended-up looking like the guy from the Six Flags commercial wearing a top hat.  Did I mention that my wife really likes Halloween?  Anyway, what I did see of the Chargers indicated to me that we may finally be nearing the final act of the Norv era which is coming about three season later than most of us predicted so good for Norv.    

Pittsburgh by 3 over Baltimore:  The Pick - Ravens

The Steelers are playing better football right now and the Ravens are struggling to find their offensive identity (again) but (a) The Steelers' linebackers are all banged-up which should give Ray Rice some opportunities to make a couple of cool Ray Rice plays (like catch a one-handed screen pass, break four tackles and go for 50 yards), (b) the Ravens would love to see Roethlisberger throw it 50 times like he did against the Patriots because that would give Terrell Suggs and Jarrett Johnson 50 chances to hit him, and (c) there is a lot more pressure on the Steelers to win this game because they lost the first one and their schedule the rest of the way is tougher with road games at San Francisco and Kansas City.  Then again, I reserve the right to change my pick if the Steelers get the ball down by 3 with more than 1:30 on the clock (and now I will replace that image in my head with something more pleasant, "I'm sitting in the dentist chair now, the shrill whining of the drill begins and......").      

Philadelphia by 8 over Chicago:  The Pick - Bears

These are two teams that appear to be getting their acts together.  If this quote is any indication, Jay Cutler even seems to be winning over some of his teammates.  "He's a lot more outgoing, just more comfortable now,'' said Brian Urlacher who added, "we haven't even given him a swirly since training camp."  (The fact that any of that quote is accurate is surprising).  Strong defensive teams like the Bears always give Michael Vick trouble because of their radical game plans which include (a) covering his receivers and (b) slamming him on the ground.