Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Fantasy Golf Preview Part 1: The Draft Results

I think I've got an idea for how
we could make the "Elf on the
Shelf" slightly less annoying.
Here we go with the first installment in the Fantasy Golf Report's multi-part 2014 PGA Tour preview (I'm going to try to keep this entertaining for those who don't give a rat's ass about fantasy golf). This year we have some added intel as the annual FGR pick six fantasy league drafted the day after Christmas to get the jump on the PGA's early start date (January 3rd) and believe me, nothing makes for a party like gathering a bunch of beleaguered middle-aged dads together at a bar on December 26th. The guy who had the audacity to suggest a round of shots was beaten about the head and then tossed into the street. (Actually that's not true as it would've required more than one person to actually get out of his seat and that wasn't happening).

We powered through six rounds of nineteen teams drafting in a little over forty-five minutes. (Nineteen teams?!? Isn't that too many?!? Won't that dillute the talent pool?!?) I'm glad you asked so emphatically fictional person sitting next to me because it smoothly segues me to the introduction of our new and improved format born out of my desire to keep the league fresh but more out of my refusal to run two leagues this year. By the way, if you want to annoy people, merge two fantasy leagues, change the rules on a week's notice and then schedule the draft for the day after Christmas. Bah hum suck it.

Despite my best efforts, I still had too many people who wanted to play (what can I say? I have a certain charm) so I was left with the choice of (a) telling some past players to go pound sand, or (b) modify the rules. After much deliberation and a miniature version of the FGW on my shoulder telling me not to be a douche as usual (which I thought was a bit uncalled for), I decided to go with (b). But what to do? Nineteen teams would mean guys like Charles Howell, III and Brendon de Jonge would be getting drafted in the second round and, as a matter of principal, I couldn't have that. This called for something truly radical.

I decided from the outset that the basic format would stay the same - draft six golfers in a modified snake draft (top pick goes first in rounds 1, 4 and 5 while the last pick goes first in rounds 2, 3 and 6) but with one major wrinkle (are you ready for it? . . . . are you SURE???). This year as many as two teams could share the same player so that (a) everyone would have more quality players to root for throughout the season and (b) we wouldn't be scraping the bottom of the barrel for the likes of Chez Reavie and Fabian Gomez in the 6th round (no offense guys). Oh and one more thing, Tiger was ruled ineligible again this year because he made 35% more money than the next best player last year and I think he might widen that margin this year, especially if he improves his cheating.*

Here's how it played-out. The order is based on combined draft position for each player's two picks with the spots where he was picked in parenthesis:**

Why not dance this
year's final dance to
. . . the PACHENGA?
1. Matt Kuchar (1st and 4th)
2. Henrik Stenson (2nd and 6th)
3. Adam Scott (3rd and 5th)
4. Brandt Snedeker (8th and 11th)
5. Rory McIlroy (9th and 10th)
6. Phil Mickelson (7th and 13th)
7. Justin Rose (12th and 16th)
8. Steve Stricker (14th and 24th)
9. Jason Dufner (15th and 23rd)
10. Jordan Spieth (19th and 22nd)
11. Keegan Bradley (17th and 26th)
12. Zach Johnson (20th and 25th)
13. Webb Simpson (18th and 29th)
14. Jason Day (21st and 28th)
15. Dustin Johnson (27th and 30th)
16. Bill Haas (31st and 38th)
17. Billy Horschel (32nd and 37th)
18. Hunter Mahan (34th and 35th)
19. Sergio Garcia (36th and 50th)
20. Charl Schwartzel (40th and 42nd)

So if you add the two numbers together and then divide by four, you approximately get the ranking position. I have a loose mathematical understanding of why this is the case but I don't feel like explaining it. Just know that if you have a draft with a similar format, it's going to come out looking something like this. And hey look, here are a few sample rosters that I found intriguing so you can see how this thing shook-out and so I can fill some more space:

4th Pick (My Team)          
1. Matt Kuchar                
2. Hunter Mahan            
Dude stop the cart. You
almost ran over my boner.
3. Graham De Laet          
4. Lee Westwood            
5. Jonas Blixt                  
6. Scott Piercy
               
8th Pick
1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Bill Haas
3. Sergio Garcia
4. Harris English
5. Gary Woodland
6. Charley Hoffman

12th Pick                         
1. Justin Rose                
2. Dustin Johnson          
3. Nick Watney              
4. Chris Kirk                  
5. Bo Van Pelt              
6. Kyle Stanley              

18th Pick
1. Webb Simpson
2. Jason Day
3. Charl Schwartzel
4. Jimmy Walker
5. Bo Van Pelt
6. Louis Oostuizen

So there you go. It's like having two mock drafts in one. I'll get more into sleepers and overrated players in Part 2 along with the Fantasy Golf Report's top 30 but this should serve as a nice Clams Casino appetizer (and buy me more time to do my homework).

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at FGR@fantasygolfreport.com.

Endnotes

* The Tiger exclusion was first used back in 2001 when he was coming-off a season in which he earned $9,188,321, won three majors and more than doubled Phil Mickelson's second place total of $4,746,457. It was the equivalent of a fantasy running back having 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns.

"Be that as it may Alex, those people
have never been in my kitchen."
** It should be pointed-out that six of the nineteen teams were drafted in absentia so the picks were made straight off of the 2013 money list. The result was that guys like Billy Horschel, Kevin Streelman and Steve Stricker probably went higher than they should have but who knows? One of last year's no-shows landed Adam Scott, Billy Horschel and Harris English in the same league where my extensive research generated a last place roster that included Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel and K.J. Choi. (For you Cheers fans, note that "Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel and K.J. Choi" is also the clue for the Final Jeopardy question: "Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?")




Thursday, December 26, 2013

The FGR Week 17 NFL Picks

We're kind of limping home at this point but, if nothing else, we're currently 19 games over .500 so we've locked-up a winning regular season. If you had bet $100 a week with Vinnie (the name of every hypothetical bookie) using the FGR's picks, you'd be $820 in the black at this point. You're welcome.

No real significance here, just
been a while since we've seen
Ms. Gugino . . . and I missed her.
I count thirteen games this week that have at least a remote playoff implication headlined by Bears-Packers, Cowboys-Eagles, Ravens-Bengals and 49ers-Cardinals where both teams have something on the line. In the other games, we have to weigh the choke factor of the potential playoff teams against whatever motivating factor may inspire the non-payoff team. The perfect example is the Dolphins who pulled a major gag job last week against the Jets who could somehow finish 8-8 with a roster built to go 4-12. Let's put it this way, I just switched my pick to the Jets as I was imagining Rex Ryan belching-out his "us against the world" pre-game speech.

Anyway, it's time to clear the way for some fantasy golf preview action* so here are the picks. Ironically, the game I feel most confident about is the meaningless Lions at the Vikings match-up where I can almost guarantee that the Lions will roll now that they have unburdened themselves from the pressure of playing for anything.**

Carolina by 7 at Atlanta: The Pick - Falcons

Green Bay by 3 at Chicago: The Pick - Packers

At Tennessee by 6.5 over Houston: The Pick - Titans

At Pittsburgh by 7 over Cleveland: The Pick - Steelers

At N.Y. Giants by 3.5 over Washington: The Pick - Redskins

At Cincinnati by 5.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

At Indianapolis by 11.5 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Colts

Philadelphia by 7 at Dallas: The Pick - Eagles

At Miami by 6.5 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Jets

At Minnesota by 3 over Detroit: The Pick - Lions

At New England by 9 over Buffalo: The Pick - Bills

At New Orleans by 12.5 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Bucs

Denver by 12.5 at Oakland: The Pick - Broncos

San Francisco by 3 at Arizona: The Pick - 49ers

At San Diego by 10 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs

At Seattle by 10 over St. Louis: The Pick - Seahawks

Last Week's Record: 7-8 . . . Season Record: 127-108-3

Endnote

* Fantasy golf draft night is tonight so I can start revealing all of my secrets tomorrow. Look forward to nuggets like this one from last year's preview on why Rory McIlroy would dominate in 2013 - "because he is the best player in the world and, after winning his second major in two years and then backing that up with a strong Ryder Cup performance, he KNOWS he's the best player in the world." Apparently "knowing" you're the best player in the world doesn't add-up to you actually "being" the best player in the world. Sheesh.

I mean who would have thought THAT
car would be unsafe in the event of a
rear-end collision? Couldn't we make
the rear window just a bit bigger?
** And the amazing part is that Jim Schwartz will probably keep his job because the Ford family are the only ones who can't see that a team coached by Schwartz and quarterbacked by Matthew Stafford (who has thrown 73 interceptions in 60 career games) will never compete for a championship. Then again, we are talking about the same family who, upon learning that the cost to recall the spontaneously combustible Ford Pinto would be more than the money they'd have to pay in injury/death claims, decided to pay the claims. At least that explains the Matt Millen era (I think).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wait, I've Seen this Movie

I started writing this post about Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito over six weeks ago but I could never quite get a handle on what it was supposed to be about which made it kind of hard to finish. (By the way, this is also the explanation for season 3 of Homeland.)* First it was about locker room bullying being just the latest example of the NFL having more blind spots than a cruise ship considering it failed to see the following icebergs looming off its starboard bow: Bountygate, concussions, the replacement refs and making sure the electric bill was paid before the Super Bowl. And now we have Bullygate or whatever name will eventually stick (I wish it had happened to the Cardinals so we could have called it "Hazing Arizona") and again the NFL is dealing with a shit show that it absolutely should have seen coming.**

Then, it was about an out of control locker room and a head coach in over his head but the Dolphins have miraculously won four of their last five games so that position kind of lost some of its momentum (and by "some" I mean "all"). Then it morphed into a review of one of my favorite movies of all-time (that part stayed) but it still didn't have a point. And finally, after re-writing it about six times, I think I finally figured it out . . . but I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Let's just say that the Cowboys and
Meredith were meant to be together.
At some point during all of this analysis, it dawned on me why the Martin-Incognito situation fascinates me. It's because I've seen this story before, only it took place forty years ago and it was called North Dallas Forty, a novel by Peter Gent published in 1973 and then made into a movie of the same name starring Nick Nolte.*** It has to rank as one of my favorite books of all-time based on the fact that I read it in my early teens without anyone telling me I had to . . . and then I read it again. Gent played wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and North Dallas Forty is a semi-biographical novel about him and his friend, quarterback Don Meredith who, shall we say, liked to say "woo" to the ladies.****

The book chronicles a week in the life of my namesake, wide receiver Phil Elliott, beginning on the morning after one game and ending after the game the following week and here's the best part, Richie Incognito is in it, only his name in the movie is Jo Bob Priddy. If you don't believe me, watch this Incognito scene and then watch the beginning of this Jo Bob scene (and that's before Jo Bob starts getting really handsy . . . more on that later). But wait, there's more. Just to make sure I was on the right track with the Jo Bob Incognito thing, I went back and re-watched it and there were even more parallels than I remembered including the following exchange between Phil Elliott and future love interest, Charlotte Caulder, who he meets at the same party where Jo Bob Incognito throws a T.V. in the pool and gropes more women than Jack Nicholson at a Laker Girl audition (HEYOOOOOO!!!!!):

Elliott: Jo Bob is here to remind us that the biggest and the baddest get to make all the rules.

Charlotte: Well I don't agree with that.

Elliott: Agreeing doesn't play into it.

It's not much of a stretch to imagine that scene happening with Incognito at say a Miami Dolphins celebrity golf outing. Oh wait, it allegedly did happen in 2012 when he got hammered and decided to play gynecologist on a volunteer with his pitching wedge. The woman reportedly settled for $30,000, the team covered-up the incident with a confidentiality agreement and Incognito stayed on the roster. (Everybody wins!) But let's keep exploring because the parallels don't end with Jo Bob Incognito.

One key difference between
Hartman and Tannehill - wives
of back-ups don't look like this.
One of the other characters in North Dallas Forty is a devout Christian back-up quarterback named Art Hartman who even looks a bit like Ryan Tannehill. One of the implied story-lines is that the only reason Hartman isn't the starter despite having a better arm than the cagey veteran, Seth Maxwell, is that he doesn't have what it takes to control the locker room whereas Maxwell commands instant respect from his teammates (hmmmmm). Clearly Tannehill has raised his stature this season and maybe his handling of this incident had something to do with that but there is no way he was wading into the Martin-Incognito mess as a rookie beyond maybe praying for the devil to get bored and possess the body of an offensive lineman from a different team (or move back into the body of Ndamunkong Suh).

The head coach of the North Dallas Bulls, B.A. Strothers, is played by G.D. Spradlin (a/k/a disgraced Senator Pat Geary from The Godfather: Part II). If they didn't know who they wanted for what is clearly the Tom Landry role before they watched Spradlin's performance in the Robby Benson college basketball classic, One on One (70's movie sleeper alert), then that certainly clinched it because it's almost the exact same character. Landry was best known for his innovative coaching style and his attention to detail and those are on display in Spradlin's performance, especially when he taps on the keyboard of his Tandy 1000 computer a few times during a meeting with Elliott, scrolls through what appear to be some statistics and suddenly says, "now that's it, that's it . . . Phil, that's what it all boils down to, your attitude." (Apparently the man could glean all kinds of character information from a player's yards per catch). The implication of course was that the essence of each player was his statistical tendencies and attention to the most minute detail was everything.

"Well don't you see it?!?
Then pick it up!!!"
And that brings us to Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin who was featured in a scene from Hard Knocks walking to practice when he noticed a scrap of paper on the ground and bent down to to pick it up as the voice over guy made a comment about his unbelievable attention to detail. I remember thinking that Philbin wasn't going to make it as a head coach because a guy who's distracted by scraps of paper is going to miss the big picture and because Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcells and Chuck Knoll never would have bothered to pick-up a f-cking scrap of paper.

So NFL teams have apparently had bullies, Christian quarterbacks and anal retentive coaches since at least 1973 . . . big deal. Does this book report actually have a point Mr. Elliott? (Holy 9th grade flashback). Well, I think it does - here goes. What sent me down this path in the first place (other than the fact that I always wanted to do a movie review . . . until now) was a scene from North Dallas Forty that always comes to mind when the NFL finds itself in one of these Catch-22 situations where it's trying to run a respectable business despite the fact that a significant percentage of its most qualified employees are giant raging psychopaths. In this scene, an offensive lineman played by real life Raiders defensive end John Matuzak has finally had enough of the constant riding from a short plump abrasive assistant coach (played to perfection by Charles Durning), and unloads one of my five favorite movie lines of all-time, "every time I call it a game, you call it a business . . . and every time I call it a business, you call it a game!!!" Watch this scene for yourself and tell me that Matuzak isn't drawing on some real life deep seeded frustration and rage from his days with the Raiders. 

And this gets us back to Martin-Incognito. Coaches, owners and fans demand that players compete with a fury that borders on homicidal for three hours once a week and then turn it off when the clock hits 00:00. At that point, they're supposed to become students of the game and role models in the community for the next 6 days and 21 hours. That's absurd. We don't ask other entertainers to do that. Imagine if the day after doing a three hour show at Madison Square Garden, the guys from Metallica had to get up and go over all of their missed notes with a music coach and then go visit sick kids at Mount Sinai Medical Center. And then they had to do the same thing the following week in Philly, then D.C. and then Charlotte. By the time they got to Atlanta, the music coach would be in intensive care with a guitar neck sticking out of his ass and the sick kids at the Atlanta Medical Center would hear a Richard Pryor concert's worth of f-bombs.

This would explain why the NFL has never done anything about bullying despite the fact that Peter Gent documented it in his book 40 years ago and it also explains why the league isn't doing anything about it now. The league clearly isn't going to pay this issue the same attention they've recently paid to player safety, off-field misconduct and the Whizzinator scandal because they know they have to give players somewhere to blow-off steam without limitation and the only safe place to do that is in the locker room where the players' code keeps it out of sight (I am trying very hard to get through this without quoting Colonel Jessup but it's not easy). Locker room bullying is as much a part of football as fighting is to hockey, beaning batters is to baseball and crooked judging is to figure skating. Richie Incognito's behavior may have been excessive but it certainly wasn't unprecedented. As Tony Kornheiser noted, Richie Incognito isn't smart enough to start a trend.

This may be the only scene in
which Mr. Blonde isn't shooting,
maiming or igniting someone.
In the end, I don't blame the Dolphins for having Incognito on the roster because he's a good player and if he wasn't playing for Miami, he would certainly be playing somewhere else. Where they went wrong was allowing him to elevate to a position of power within the locker room. Why would they do that in light of the 2012 golf course incident? It's like adding Mr. Blonde to the bank job crew in Reservoir Dogs and look how that turned out. If you're going to have that guy on your team, you better stop picking-up scraps of paper and keep an eye on your locker room dynamic. Or maybe the Dolphins needed B.A. Strothers' super computer to tell them that a raving lunatic like Incognito could be a problem. (This is where it should be noted that Dolphin' GM Jeff Ireland asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute before the 2010 draft so clearly they're struggling with this whole scouting thing).

Let's circle this back to North Dallas Forty so we can tie this thing up neatly with a pretty bow (makes sense considering I waited until Christmas to finish it). Check-out this excerpt from a Philadelphia Enquirer review printed on the inside cover of my dog-eared paperback copy:

"THE CURIOUS LITTLE SOCIETY THAT IS A PROFESSIONAL TEAM, THE DRUGS, THE SEX, THE PAIN, THE COACHES WITHOUT CONSCIENCE, THE FANS WITHOUT PITY, . . . . FUNNY AND POWERFUL AND DISTURBING."

Besides the fact that I want those last five words written on my tombstone, that pretty much sums-up today's NFL doesn't it? (And smile . . . bow to the judges . . . and exit).

Endnotes

* I think my favorite way to describe how awful Homeland was this season is to point out the fact that Quinn, who is supposed to be a combination of Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne, had the following Season 3 highlights: (1) he accidentally shot a kid during an assassination mission, (2) he let Carrie get nabbed from her house by the Iranians when he was parked across the street (dammit . . . no one told me there was a back door!), and (3) he managed to get photographed by a residential security camera while in the process of covering-up a murder for the CIA (ADT - 1 . . . CIA - 0). The only thing he did right was intentionally shoot a fellow agent in the shoulder without killing her though, if he had been a little high and left, it would have made the season a lot more interesting.

** You know why we know they should have seen it coming? Because HBO has been broadcasting the warning signs on Hard Knocks for over ten years. The NFL getting blindsided on this one reminds me of the classic Cheers episode when the guys made-up a fictional secret admirer for Carla. As the whole scheme inevitably fell apart, one of them noted, "man, I didn't see this coming" to which Diane replied, "yes, this from the group who every year fails to see spring coming" to which Norm replied "man that reminds me, I need to get those storm windows down."

*** Another "R" rated movie I saw in the theater before my 12th birthday (along with Animal House, Saturday Night Fever, The Warriors, Stripes and Annie Hall which was just a little over my head at the time. And those were just the ones I remember and don't include the early days of HBO with The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack and The Jerk). If you enjoy reading the FGR as much as I enjoy writing it, then you can thank the laissez faire approach to parenting that prevailed in the late 70's and early 80's for a major part of its inspiration.

At least then I knew I definitely
wanted to go to college.
**** When I was in college, I randomly met Don Meredith once . . . in a liquor store (true story). I said "hey, you're Don Meredith" and, in his smooth southern drawl, he said "why yes I am." He then autographed a six-pack of Budweiser for me meaning that for approximately three hours, I owned the autographs of two Cowboys quarterbacks (Meredith and Roger Staubach). Believe it or not, I lost the Budweiser container. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The FGR Week 16 NFL Picks

An inverse correlation has developed between the amount of analysis I put into the picks and their ultimate success so we're going to put the theory that less talk means more wins to the ultimate test and find something else to opine about later in the week.

Miami by 2.5 at Buffalo: The Pick - Dolphins

At Carolina by 3 over New Orleans: The Pick - Panthers

Dallas by 3 at Washington: The Pick - Redskins

At St. Louis by 5 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Bucs

At Philadelphia by 3 over Chicago: The Pick - Eagles

At N.Y. Jets by 2 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

At Kansas City by 6.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Chiefs

At Cincinnati by 7.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Bengals

Denver by 10.5 at Houston: The Pick - Broncos

Tennessee by 5 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Jaguars

At Seattle by 10 over Arizona: The Pick - Seahawks

At Detroit by 9.5 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Giants

At San Diego by 10 over Oakland: The Pick - Chargers

At Green Bay v. Pittsburgh: OFF (Pick TBD)

At Baltimore by 1.5 over New England: The Pick - Ravens

At San Francisco by 12.5 over Atlanta: The Pick - 49ers

Last Week's Record: 7-9 . . . Season Record: 120-100-3

(Editor's Note: I know 120-100-3 does not add up to the 224 games that have been played so far this season and I actually spent a couple of minutes trying to find the missed game the other day but I tend to be easily dist . . . hey, is that Kate Upton?)

So how about all that snow last week?
(Hey, just because I'm not writing much
doesn't mean I'm completely dead inside).
Email the Fantasy Golf Report here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The FGR Week 15 NFL Picks

Well I blew-off the individual game commentary last week and went 11-5. That's the good news. The bad news is that I walked out of Ravens stadium last Sunday with two minutes left in the game after watching Dennis Pitta catch what I thought was the game winning touchdown. As it turned-out, Pitta's touchdown was just the flicked cigarette at the Exxon station and, in the time it took me to walk to my car, the Vikings and Ravens combined to score twenty-eight more points. But hey, at least we beat the traffic (sheesh).

In my defense, I had a bunch of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 at the game with me, the temperature was in the 20's and it was sleeting (isn't this fun?). I'm very tempted to break the FGR rule of no specific references to family or friends and post the picture of my six year old daughter's face from halfway through the 4th quarter but that's a line I won't cross. I will say that her expression was a combination of "I hate you more than a tetanus shot right now" and "when I'm 15, I will date a motorcycle riding 17 year old with more tattoos and piercings than Dennis Rodman who plays drums in a Sex Pistols cover band to make you pay for this."

Inspired by that uplifting prospect and my disastrous Thursday night pick, let's do this.

At Atlanta by 6 over Washington: The Pick - Falcons

"You know, I've been thinking a
lot about what you said and maybe
the answer does lie in Scientology." 
Look, no one enjoys a complete Redskins meltdown more than me but this situation in D.C. is turning into the high school prank that got way out of hand. When we jokingly sent the hooker from Craig's List to RG, III's house, we never thought it would end with a stab wound, a dead dog and a meth fire. At some point in the next few months, Jon Gruden, Lovie Smith or Josh McDaniels* will step-up to the podium and become the eighth head coach in the fifteen year Dan Snyder era. Keep searching Danny. You'll get to the root of the problem eventually.

San Francisco by 5.5 at Tampa Bay: The Pick - 49ers

Greg Schiano Job Security Check: The Bucs have won four of their last five and, before that run, they took the Seahawks to overtime in Seattle. More importantly than that, however, is the fact that, if they do try to replace Schiano, the Bucs are going to be in a high leverage market for coaches along with the Redskins, Texans, Jets and possibly the Vikings, Titans, Falcons and Giants (Tom Coughlin has nothing left to prove and he's got to be getting tired of this grind and the face chafing so a graceful exit this offseason is probably 50/50). Good luck landing your first choice against the Giants and the wheelbarrows full of money the Redskins, Jets and Texans can roll-out. Though in the cases of the Skins and the Jets, it may take eight digits a year for Jon Gruden to come run your clown college.

Arizona by 2.5 at Tennessee: The Pick - Cardinals

I predicted a 10-6 finish for the Cardinals (my 2013 sleeper team) and now they're just a 2-1 finish away from achieving it with the mediocre to average Titans coming-up this Sunday. That's the good news. The bad news is that they finish with Seattle on the road and then home against San Francisco. Missed it by THAT much.

New Orleans by 5.5 at St. Louis: The Pick - Saints

Since opening with a win over the Cardinals, the Rams have gone three losses, two wins, three losses, two wins and are now on a two game losing streak. Going with the formula almost seems too convenient but, in this case, it was meant to be.

Seattle by 7 at N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Seahawks

There was a part of me that thought the long road trip coming-off a really physical loss to the 49ers for the Seahawks combined with the fact that the Giants have actually won five of their last seven could make this a competitive game. And then I looked at quality of those five wins by the Giants and realized that, on the day each of those games were played, they were up against one of the three worst teams in the NFL. How is this for timing? They got the Packers after Aaron Rodgers was hurt. They got the Vikings for the three hour Monday night Josh Freeman comedy showcase (which has since been cancelled). And they caught the Eagles in the last week of the Matt Barkley/Michael Vick turnoverama experience. Their other two wins were over the Raiders and the Redskins (enough said). To reverse paraphrase Gordon Gecko, "if the Giants owned a funeral parlor over those seven weeks, everyone would have died."

At Cleveland by 1.5 over Chicago: The Pick - Browns

Only on a team that has had 27 different starting quarterbacks in the last 25 years would the head coach bench the guy with the 110 passer rating in favor of the guy who hasn't played in a month with the playoffs on the line. I had the Bears in this game until Marc Trestman made that move. On the other side, you have Rob Chudzinski who has kept the Browns competitive despite having to go from Brandon Weeden to Brian Hoyer to Weedon to Jason Campbell to Weedon and back to Campbell. As a Ravens fan, I'm really hoping the Browns swing and miss on the quarterback they will inevitably take in the draft because Chudzinski has proven he can make caviar out of corned beef hash (I was going to put a picture of corned beef hash here but oh my God who eats that?).

Buffalo by 2 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Jags

This is the only game of the week with absolutely no playoff implications. At the start of the season, who would have thought you could say that in Week 15 about a Buffalo-Jacksonville match-up? (Oh right . . . everybody). So let me take this opportunity to vent about something that's been grinding my gears for the better part of six weeks and I'm going to borrow from the teachings of the great 20th century philosopher, Harold Callahan (his friends called him "Dirty"):

Not sure the Jags are long for
this continent. I sure hope you
speak British sweetheart. 
"No, this stuff isn't getting to me, the shootings, the knifings, the beatings, old ladies being bashed in the head for their social security checks, teachers being thrown out of a fourth floor window because they don't give A's.** That doesn't bother me a bit . . . or this job either, having to wade through the scum of this city, being swept away by bigger and bigger waves of corruption, apathy and red tape. No, that doesn't bother me. But you know what does bother me . . . you know what really makes me sick to my stomach? . . . It's ordering a Harvest Salad from Chick-fil-A and finding strawberries on it . . . nobody . . . I mean nobody puts strawberries on a salad."*** (Click here for the full Dirty Harry rant, it's worth it).

New England by 2.5 over Miami: The Pick - Dolphins

Just when the Patriots are in a position to actually help the Ravens with a win over the Dolphins, down goes Gronk (nice move Cleveland . . . very clever . . . we owe you one). This is going to play out one of two ways: (1) The Pats slip-up against the Dolphins and then come to Baltimore next week and beat the Ravens on a last second drive aided by three consecutive dubious pass interference penalties, or (2) the Patriots take care of business this weekend and then come to Baltimore and get absolutely manhandled by a Ravens defense that appears to be rounding into shape (if you don't count what appeared to be their attempts to tackle Toby Gerhart and Cordarrelle Patterson last Sunday). I know these teams too well. There is no third option.

At Indianapolis by 6 over Houston: The Pick - Texans

Did you know that Wade Phillips' career record as a head coach is 82-63? And if you take out the nine games where he had to step-in as the interim coach of a floundering team, that career record improves to 79-57. And in 48 games as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, he was 29-19 . . . and then they fired him. (The Bills' record since is 78-125). And did you also know that the Colts have allowed over 31 points per game over their last seven and that they haven't beaten a team not named the Tennessee Titans since November 3rd? Oh yeah, did you also know that the Colts' scoring differential is -3? Well now you do. I like the Texans to pull the upset in a "why can't Wade Phillips be our coach? . . . please Mr. Owner, please, we really like him" effort.

Philadelphia by 4.5 at Minnesota: The Pick - Eagles

The success of my last fantasy team standing rides on this game as my long term gamble on the Chip Kelly offense has started to pay dividends with Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy. On top of that, we may even give Toby Gerhart a start because nothing strikes fear in the heart of your opponents like the sight of a big lumbering white running back in your flex spot. (That actually sounds kind of painful).

At Carolina by 11 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Panthers

Really? another hot teacher pic? Ok.
Geno Smith on the road against one of the league's best defenses which was just humiliated by Drew Brees and Co. on national television. I think I would give the points on this one up to about 20 because it wreaks of a 31-6 beatdown. Here's a fun stat. The Jets are only one game under .500 but somehow have a scoring differential of -111. Their last six losses have been by an average of 23 points and their six wins have been by an average of 5. I'm no statistician but I don't think that's the sign of a team trending in the right direction.

Kansas City by 4.5 at Oakland: The Pick - Chiefs

I must be missing something with this line considering the Chiefs just manhandled the East Coast version of the Raiders last week in Washington. After starting with their traditional "hey, the Raiders might not completely suck this year" 3-4 record, they have lost five of their last six with the only win coming against a Houston team that went on strike for better cafeteria food but forgot to tell anybody.

At Dallas by 7 over Green Bay: The Pick - Cowboys

OK Cowboys, since Josh McCown was apparently way more than you could handle, we've dumbed down the test even more for you with Matt Flynn instead of Aaron Rodgers. If that's still too tough, we've got the Redskins lined-up for next week. If you can't win a game in December under those conditions, then Jerry Jones has to replace the current general manager with someone who can find some clutch players (what? . . . he is? . . . oh that was awkward).

Cincinnati by 3 at Pittsburgh: The Pick - Steelers

A Bengals' loss combined with a Ravens' win puts us on a collision course for a week 17 game in Cincinnati for the division title so Raven fans find themselves in the awkward position of rooting for the Steeooolers . . . the Stee . . . the St . . . oh fuck it, I can't say it.

At Detroit by 6 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

"Come on Meat. Just one more
pick and we get January off."
I honestly don't have any problem with Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam calling-out Calvin Johnson for being "old" (doesn't mean I understand it but I don't have a problem with it) and getting Megatron all fired-up because the Lions may be the worst big game team outside of Dallas so anything that makes them want to win more can only help their opponent. I'm a little surprised that Matthew Stafford hasn't picked-up the nickname "Nuke Laloosh" yet.
 
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Last Week's Record: 11-5 . . . Season Record: 113-91-3

Endnotes

* Don't rule-out a guy like McDaniels for a few reasons: (1) Gruden and Smith are too smart to walk into the shit show that is the Redskins organization so it's going to be someone desperate for a head coaching gig or someone who is cocky enough to think he can overcome the structural deficiencies - McDaniels is both, and (2) with previous head coaches like Mike Shanahan, Joe Gibbs and Steve Spurrier, Dan Snyder has proven that the splashiness of the hire may be more important than the quality. Now that I think of it, I wouldn't rule-out Ditka.

** Kids in San Francisco were throwing teachers out of windows for not giving A's? Were these gang kids with high aspirations or nerds with anger management problems? Either way, you have to give them credit for being so passionate about their grades.

*** I mean seriously Chick-fil-A, there are two kinds of salad. There's vegetable salad with lettuce and carrots and shit and then there's fruit salad and never the twain shall meet (that's Rudyard Kipling and Dirty Harry in the same rant bitches). The only exception is the Waldorf Salad because its name is badass. No one fucks with the Waldorf Salad . . . not even the Cobb (truth is, the Cobb is kind of wuss).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The FGR Week 15 Thursday Night Pick

At Denver by 10.5 over San Diego: The Pick - Broncos

This is Sam. I think she could actually
 sell me on the green eggs and ham thing.
With Gronkowski now out for the season, it would certainly appear that the AFC is the Broncos' for the taking. Consider that if the playoffs started today, their toughest scenario would probably be hosting an offensively challenged Ravens team followed by a conference championship game against the banged-up Patriots or the overmatched Chiefs.* No problem right? I mean John Fox and Peyton Manning don't gag away playoff situations where they're heavy favorites (hmmmm). But we don't have to pick that game yet. The one thing we do know is that the Broncos are trouncing teams at home on their way to the top seed and it's time for the Chargers to finally crush the playoff dreams of their fans.

Endnote

* Yes, this playoff scenario is predicated on the Ravens beating the Bengals in Cincinnati but I don't care where the game is being played if you're giving me John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco against Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton. That is simply a matchup of two guys who find ways to win against two guys who find ways to lose.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The FGR Week 14 NFL Picks

I have no good excuse for the lack of commentary. Last week's 5-11 record didn't help, especially when it included three really foolish road picks in the Rams, Bucs and Saints. What can I say? I got cocky and got burned but we're already in bounce back mode with a Thursday night winner and, in the words of the goddess Fergie,* I gotta feeling.

Can I make it up to you
with a Fergie montage?
Kansas City by 3.5 at Washington: The Pick - Chiefs

At Baltimore by 7 over Minnesota: The Pick - Ravens

At New England by 11.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

At N.Y. Jets by 3 over Oakland: The Pick - Jets

At Cincinnati by 5.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Colts

At New Orleans by 4 over Carolina: The Pick - Saints

At Philadelphia by 3 over Detroit: The Pick - Eagles

At Pittsburgh by 3 over Miami: The Pick - Steelers

At Tampa Bay by 2.5 over Buffalo: The Pick - Bucs
Those aren't legs. They're
lightning bolts with feet

At Denver by 12 over Tennessee: The Pick - Broncos

At Arizona by 6.5 over St. Louis: The Pick - Cardinals

At San Diego by 3 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Chargers

At San Francisco by 2.5 over Seattle: The Pick - 49ers

At Green Bay by 3.5 Atlanta: The Pick - Falcons

At Dallas by 1 over Chicago: The Pick - Cowboys

Last Week's Record: 5-11 . . . Season Record: 102-86-3

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Endnote

* I have seen The Who, the Stones, U2, Eric Clapton and the Wiggles multiple times each and I can tell you that no concert moment in my lifetime compares to the ten jaw-dropping minutes I spent within fifteen feet of Fergie's legs at a Black Eyed Peas concert . . . unless you count some of the things I saw while wandering the RFK Stadium concourse for 45 minutes at the '91 Grateful Dead concert but I'm pretty sure most of that wasn't really there. I mean they didn't actually have popcorn vendors dressed as ears of corn and wearing cowboy hats did they? And for the love of all that is holy, please tell me that that the urinals were not singing Broadway show tunes that night (though if they were, hats off to the two on the end that did an amazing duet of Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better from Annie Get Your Gun . . . really quite inspired).


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The FGR Week 14 Thursday Night Pick

Houston by 3 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Jaguars

I thought I told you to take
Pour Some Sugar on Me off
of the halftime playlist!
This game lost whatever limited intrigue it had when the Jags started winning games and elevated themselves to only about the 4th or 5th worst team in the league. An 0-16 watch in Week 14 actually would have been kind of entertaining. To make matters worse, it may feature the worst fantasy football quarterback match-up of the weekend with Case Keenum squaring-off against Chad Henne.* The only guys with any real interest in tonight's outcome are Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr because two of them are almost surely going to be playing in Houston and Jacksonville next season.** Poor bastards.

Endnote

* The sad part is that there may be a worse match-up in New York where Geno "Which Jerseys are We Wearing Again Today" Smith is up against Matt "Don't Call Me 'Pat'" McGloin. ESPN.com has Keenum ranked 23rd, McGloin 26th with Henne and Smith unrated because the list only goes to 26. I'm going to give the nod to the McGloin-Smith match-up because, according to ESPN's QBR formula, Geno has a "QB PAR" of -3.8 which, if I'm reading it correctly, means that he has contributed -3.6 points more than "a quarterback who plays very rarely and is on the fringe of the NFL" a/k/a Blaine Gabbert.  

** Remember the last time the Texans picked that high and smartly resisted the urge to take Vince Young? Are they going to be able to do that again with Manziel? Can you imagine if they do and then the Jags take Manziel and he turns-out to be Russell Wilson 2.0 and he haunts the division rival Texans for the next 12 years and I use the word "and" seven more times in this sentence?