Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Week 4 NFL Picks - Part 2

In the words of legendary American poet Norm Peterson, "it's a dog eat dog world out there and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear." I actually improved my winning percentage last week by going 7-8-1 and that was only because the replacement refs handed me a freebie on Monday night. The bad news is that I now stand at 20-26-2. The good news is that I think I have this finally figured out. The key is not just the quarterbacks, it's also the head coaches. How else do you explain what's happening in New Orleans with Sean Payton out of the picture wearing a home detention bracelet or the fact that the Cardinals absolutely throttled the Eagles? And with less than an hour to go until kick-off, I just stumbled onto the crutch that's going to help me beat the deadline. Let's throw the home field advantage (with some minor adjustments to the standard 3 points for the better home stadiums, crowds, etc.) and the defenses into the equation and see how this goes (because it can't really get much worse).

New England by 4 over Buffalo: The Pick - Patriots

I'm treating her as a positive
because it's my website.
Home Field: Bills -3
Quarterback: Patriots -7
Coach: Patriots -3
Defense: Push
Giselle: Patriots - 3

= Patriots - 27 . . . Bills - 17

Detroit by 3.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings

Home Field: Lions - 2
Quarterback: Push (Have you actually watched Matthew Stafford this year?)
Coach: Push
Defense: Vikings - 3

= Vikings - 21 . . . Lions - 20

Atlanta by 7 over Carolina: The Pick - Falcons

Home Field: Falcons - 3
Quarterback: Falcons - 3
Coach: Falcons - 3
Defense: Falcons - 5

= Falcons - 27 . . . Panthers - 13

San Francisco by 4 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - 49ers

Home Field: Jets - 4
Quarterback: Niners - 7 (Not good when Alex Smith is getting the edge on your QB)
Coach: Push (Let's remember that Rex Ryan is still one of the best in the league)
Defense: Niners - 5 (No Darrelle Revis)

"That can't be right."
= Niners - 28 . . . Jets - 20

San Diego by 1 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chargers

Home Field: Chiefs - 4
Quarterback: Chargers - 5
Coach: Chargers - 1 (The rare favorable match-up for Norv)
Defense: Chargers - 5

= Chargers - 20 . . . Chiefs - 13

Houston by 12.5 over Tennessee: The Pick - Texans

Home Field: Texans - 3
Quarterback: Texans - 7
Coach: Texans - 3
Defense: Texans - 10 (The Titans are giving-up 37+ points per game . . . seriously)

= Texans - 30 . . . Titans - 10

Seattle by 3 over St. Louis: The Pick - Seahawks

Home Field: Rams - 3
Quarterback: Seahawks - 1 (Yes, I'm drinking the Russell Wilson Kool Aid)
Coach: Rams - 1
Defense: Seahawks - 7

= Seahawks - 17 . . . Rams - 13

Arizona by 6.5 over Miami: The Pick - Cardinals

Home Field: Cardinals - 3
Quarterback: Push (The classic battle of wits between unarmed opponents)
Coach: Cardinals - 7
Defense: Cardinals - 4

= Cardinals - 27 . . . Dolphins - 10

Denver by 6.5 over Oakland: The Pick - Broncos

Home Field: Broncos - 4
Quarterback: Push (Sorry Peyton fans, but that's probably generous at this point)
Coach: Broncos - 3
Defense: Broncos - 3

= Broncos - 27 . . . Raiders - 17

Cincinnati by 2 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Bengals

Home Field: Jacksonville - 1 (Maybe the weakest home crowd in the league)
Quarterback: Cincinnati - 5
Even their cheerleader outfits
don't look quite right.
Coach: Cincinnati - 3
Defense: Jacksonville - 3

= Bengals - 21 . . . Jags - 17

Green Bay by 7.5 over New Orleans: The Pick - Packers

Home Field: Packers - 4
Quarterback: Saints - 3 (Maybe they'll help each other bust out of their funks this week)
Coach: Packers - 5
Defense: Packers - 5

= Packers - 31 . . . Saints - 20

Tampa Bay by 3 over Washington: The Pick - Bucs

Home Field: Bucs - 3
Quarterback: Redskins - 5
Coach: Push (Greg Schiano's Ra Ra college styles has not worn-off . . . yet)
Defense: Bucs - 6

= Bucs - 17 . . . Redskins - 13

Philadelphia by 2.5 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Giants

Home Field: Eagles - 3 (The Giants love the road)
The fact that you thought "wait,
is that real?" is a really bad
sign for the Bears this year.
Quarterback: Giants - 7
Coach: Giants - 3
Defense: Push

= Giants - 23 . . . Eagles - 16

Dallas by 3.5 over Chicago: The Pick - Cowboys

Home Field: Cowboys - 3
Quarterback: Cowboys - 3 (See picture)
Coach: Push
Defense: Push

= Cowboys - 20 . . . Bears - 14

No style points this week but at least I made my self-imposed meaningless deadline.

Last Week: 7-8-1 . . . Season: 20-26-2

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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Ryder Cup Preview

On September 26, 1999 at about 2:00 p.m. I was sitting in PSINet Stadium in Baltimore watching an 0-2 Ravens team play a typically brutal game against the 0-2 Cleveland Browns (and by "brutal" I don't mean the defensive effort).* At some point I looked over to whomever was sitting next to me and said "screw this, I'm going home to watch the final round of the Ryder Cup." That was back in the days when my seat for Ravens games was three quarters of a mile from my front door. It would take me fifteen minutes to walk to the game and about six hours to walk home via something called the "Purple Patio" which was the parking lot of one of the twenty bars between my house and the stadium that the owners brilliantly painted purple. Those were the freakin' Caesar Salad days (drifting off into a trance).

I wouldn't wear that
shirt to a shit fight.
OK, I'm back. As I was saying, in 1999 I made the shrewd decision to forgo an utterly forgettable fan experience to watch one of the most epic events in the history of golf. Yes, the uniforms looked like something from the Rodney Dangerfield collection in Easy Money, the Americans acted like total jackasses** when Justin Leonard rolled in what would be the Cup clinching putt and David Duval's double fist pumping display with his shirt untucked may have been one of the most awkward things ever seen on a golf course that didn't involve a player trying unsuccessfully to high five his caddie but those circumstances only mildly diminished what for me was a sporting event that fits into that tier right below the U.S.A. v. Russia 1980 Olympic hockey game.*** (Hey, that's how I feel. If you don't like it, go read the Fantasy Bowling Report).

I had planned to write a full-blown preview breaking down every player on each team and explaining why I thought Europe was going to win (best player in the world, more experience, better putters, etc.). I actually started it but then found myself writing things like "Luke Donald is 6-0 in foursomes and is one of the best putters in the world." (Really?!? Please tell me more things I can read on So I bagged it and figured I would just post my prediction of a European win and be done with it. Then I forgot to do that at some point last night when Brandon "Freakin" Weedan was driving the Browns for the game tying score against the Ravens and Paul "Did I Ever Tell You the Story About How I Got Stabbed in College" Krueger gave them an extra play to get it done by somehow toppling 300+ pound Joe Thomas by gently placing his hand on his shoulder. (Who knew Thomas was such a big Vlade Divac fan?).

So in true FGR fashion, I found myself this morning writing the preview of an event that had already started and I saw two things when I turned-on the coverage that made me change my pick (always the sign of an astute gambler): (a) Graeme McDowell pulled the opening tee shot of the event and the home crowd not only erupted with cheers but started chanting "U.S.A. . . .U.S.A. . . . U.S.A."; and (b) Keegan Bradley stepped-up in the second match and absolutely annihilated a driver down the middle and then shot a look off to the side as if to say, "I got this." Has there ever been a player better suited for this event than Bradley who absolutely thrives on emotion? Let's go ahead and pencil him in for the next eight and a captainship in 2032.

Not to mention, the Euro flag
makes for a lame bikini.
The other issue is that I have my own match today playing in my club's season long two man match-play tournament that my partner and I won in 2009 (we got knocked-out in the first round the next two years). From a field of sixty-four teams we are now down to the semifinals and I am jacked-up to the point that my fingers are spazzing all over the keyboard**** so we're going to cut this short and end it with a prediction and a promise for a fuller Ryder Cup Update edition next week.

USA - 15.0 . . . Europe - 13.0 and the Cup stays home. U.S.A. . .U.S.A. . . U.S.A.!!!!

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* The quarterback match-up that afternoon was Tim Couch v. Stoney Case. They combined to go 25 for 57 for 288 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions and 8 sacks. The two teams combined for 18 punts. The next time I criticize Joe Flacco, feel free to bring this up.

** I watched the '99 Ryder Cup on the Golf Channel the other night and cringed at the way the Americans rushed the green after that putt when Jose Maria Olazabol still had a putt to halve the hole and keep the Cup in the balance, however, I remember when I watched it live I didn't see anything wrong with it. That may have something to do with me being thirteen years older and watching it sober.

*** I feel sorry for sports fans who are too young to have seen and remember that game because, as the greatest moment in American sports history, it is in that undebatable category with things like "who is the greatest hockey player of all time?" (Wayne Gretzky); "who is the greatest wide receiver in NFL history?" (Jerry Rice); and "who was the biggest asshole in sports history?" (Tie: Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods . . . I was wrestling with a way to end this thing and right on cue they appeared on the first tee at Medinah like it was meant to be).

**** And I don't have time to proofread this either. Just give me the damn C- and let's move on.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Week 4 NFL Picks - Part 1

I played golf on Tuesday instead of Wednesday this week so my whole body clock is out of whack and as usual, I'm scrambling to get the Thursday night pick in. On top of that, I'm not even going to the game and to be honest, I'm not quite sure why. I don't think I'd ever missed a home night game until last Sunday* and now I'm missing two in a row. Just another step toward getting a flag for my golf cart that lets me drive onto the fringe.

"I really think you guys have been
unfairly criticized and are doing
one hell of a job. Thanks."
The good news is that we will have the real refs working tonight which means that arguably the greatest gambling variable in the history of sports has been take out of the equation. The bad news is that, as a Ravens fan, I thought the replacements did a pretty nice job in the 4th quarter last week . . . especially on the illegal contact penalty on the winning drive and of course, the call on the field goal. I think that's what Bill Bellichick was running out to tell them at the end of the game.

Baltimore by 12 over Cleveland: The Pick - Ravens

In games he has not played against the suddenly woeful Bengals pass defense, Brandon Weeden has thrown for one touchdown pass and six interceptions. The Ravens defense has its flaws but one thing it has always excelled at is plucking the low-hanging fruit. Look for Joe Flacco to struggle against an underrated Browns defense and for it not to matter as the Ravens take it in a classic Thursday night stink bomb 17-3.


* Here is my excuse for missing that one - The Week 3 NFL Picks - Part 2. I was so freaking tired Sunday night that I watched Justin Tucker's winning kick sail "inside" the upright through one dying eye. All I remember thinking was that it didn't matter because there was no way those refs were calling that kick anything but good if they had any desire to get out of that stadium in one piece. Remember, Baltimore is the city that inspired a story line where drug dealers killed people and then hid the bodies in the walls of abandoned houses and everyone who lives here thought, "yeah, that could totally happen."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The FGR Rankings Update

Sadly, this was considered
sexy in 1984. A woman with a
tail who smelled like halibut. 
This is the part where I get to do my Eugene Levy from Splash impersonation and declare, "I WAS RIGHT . . . BEHOLD THE MERMAID" or in this case, "BEHOLD THE BEST GOLFER IN THE WORLD!" You see, the original inspiration for the creation of the FGR Rankings was that Rory McIlroy was by far the best player in the world but that fact was not being reflected by the "Official" World Golf Rankings which kept Luke Donald nipping at his heels (and at one point even passing him) by giving him credit for winning random tournaments that no one cares about like the Transitions Championship.* (History of the FGR Rankings).

With his second dominating win in the last seven majors, McIlroy has ended the argument and the WGR seems to have finally figured-out what the FGR knew all along as it has him with what I guess is a comfortable 2.99 point lead.** What the WGR is still clueless on, however, is how to rank the rest of the top 20. I mean how can Keegan Bradley be fourteen spots lower than Lee Westwood when Bradley has a major and a WGC title during a span when the only thing Westwood has won is something called the Nordea Masters in Sweden?*** This isn't so much a knock against Westwood (who is a poor man's Luke Donald when it comes to racking-up top ten finishes) but at some point you have to elevate a guy like Bradley who is now proven winner of big time events which has to be the most important criteria right? I believe it was Socrates who once said, "if you ain't first, you're last."

While we're on the subjects
of Tiger and Sweden . . . 
And that brings us to the case of one Tiger Woods who won three PGA events this year and moved up to second on the WGR. The problem Tiger has under the FGR rankings is that he hasn't won a major or a WGC event since the 2009 Bridgestone which is too old to factor into the equation. Winning the Palmer, the Memorial and the AT&T are all wonderful accomplishments as all of those events had pretty strong fields but the FGR Rankings are primarily concerned with one thing - can you win when all of the A-list guys are in the field? For Tiger, the answer to that question since August of 2009 has been "no" so he currently sits at no. 12.

We've had another minor tweak to the FGR Rankings formula that we'll call the "Jason Day Rule." To summarize, the "Jason Day Rule" basically says that if you take a colossal dump on my fantasy golf season by showing so much prowess last year that I pick you ahead of Rory McIlroy this year, then you don't qualify for the rankings.**** With that rule in effect, here is the current breakdown of the FGR v. the WGR:

         FGR Rankings            World Golf Rankings

1 McIlroy 146 McIlroy 12.68
2 Donald 105 Woods 9.69
3 Bradley, K. 89 Donald 9.25
4 Scott, A. 85 Westwood 7.23
5 Westwood 70 Rose 6.51
6 Schwartzel 64 Scott, A. 6.30
7 Watson, B. 62 Watson, B. 6.17
8 Rose 62 Simpson, W. 6.17
9 Kuchar 61 Dufner 6.00
10 Els 60 Snedeker 6.00
11 Hanson, P. 59 Oosti 5.69
12 Woods 49 Stricker 5.65
13 Simpson, W. 46 Johnson, D. 5.47
14 McDowell 46 Bradley, K. 5.42
15 Toms 46 Kuchar 5.32
16 Dufner 43 Mickelson 5.11
17 Johnson, D. 39 Johnson, Z. 5.08
18 Mickelson 39 McDowell 4.89
19 Oosti 39 Garcia 4.82
20 Kaymer  38 Mahan 4.79

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* What in the hell is the Transitions Championship the championship of anyway? Tampa? Does the winner get free lap dances for life? (If so, that would be pretty sweet because you wouldn't have to keep track of the songs. That can be an expensive learning experience . . . or so I hear).

** We don't do decimals at the FGR because decimals reminds us of the movement to de-Americanize the way we drink soda in this country by switching us to the metric system. You can keep your liters Europe. We're doing just fine getting fatter by the ounce.

You're kind of freaking me out.
Can we bring Elin back?
*** The promotional slogan at this year's Nordea Masters was "Join us for four days of world class golf and we'll show you that we're not all as sordid as the characters in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." (On the back of the ticket it did, however, say "WARNING: DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON ANYONE").

**** The actual rule is that you have to finish in the top ten in one of the nine tournaments used in the rankings within the past twelve months to be eligible. (That shouldn't have been too difficult . . . right Jason?!?). This is the other half of the "Darren Clarke Rule" which states that you have to have at least two top tens in the last twenty-four months which of course led to the creation of the "Webb Simpson Corollary" which awards points for a top five finish in the final FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai rankings. When you put the three rules together, the effect is to remove any doubt you may have that I spent three years in law school learning how to create rules to radically change a system (that I created in the first place) so as to achieve a predetermined end result, a process also know as "lawmaking."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Week 3 NFL Picks - Part 2

As I write this, my wife and I are continuing our efforts to win some kind of fictitious parenting award by hosting about a dozen nine year old boys who are currently watching one of the unwatchable Might Ducks sequels for my son's birthday.* This thing was supposed to happen outside with a movie on the lawn followed by backyard camping. (Because like most avid golfers, I love me some camping). The good news is that the weather negated that overblown effort. The bad news is that we now have that powder keg getting jacked-up on smores in our basement and I fully expect them to burst into defiant laughter when I shut the lights off in half an hour and tell them it's time to simmer down. At least that's what I would have done.

Feels like a great writing opportunity so let's crank-out some picks between bursts of me saying things I never thought I'd hear myself say (DON'T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE!!!).

Chicago by 7 over St. Louis: The Pick - Rams

"Seriously . . . who farted? That's
why I hate playing in a dome."
I can't give 7 points with a team on the verge of a stellar implosion. No offensive line, no Matt Forte and no concept of stoicism from it's starting quarterback have to eventually catch-up with the Bears. Meanwhile, Jeff Fisher seems to have his team headed for a pick outside of the top five in the 2013 draft which is going to ruin what has become the annual high point for Rams' fans.

Dallas by 8 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Bucs

Well I said I was going to ride the Cowboys until they inevitably proved me wrong and that was last week. Super Bowl "contenders" don't lay down against rookie quarterbacks. This Bucs teams seems kind of plucky and I love the fact that Greg Schiano didn't get the coach's memo that you're supposed to tell your team to stop trying to win before the game is over.

San Francisco by 7 over Minnesota: The Pick - Niners

I'm sorry, is Christian Ponder going to be the guy who figures out the defense that has already stymied Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford? Well is he? Right . . . I didn't think so.

Detroit by 3 over Tennessee: The Pick - Lions

Kind of hard to pick the Titans getting a measly three points when they lost their first two games by an average of 24.5. If anyone has information on where the "I Picked Chris Johnson in the First Round" support group is meeting, please let me know.

It's good to see the Skins get a
little of their attitude back.
Washington by 3 over Cincinnati: The Pick - Redskins

This is the first home game of RG, III's career and I can tell you firsthand that the fans are giddy. They haven't been this excited since Joe Gibbs agreed to come back and coach the team part time. I expect to see their savior put on a show.

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

The Jets blew out the Bills and then got hammered by the Steelers while the Dolphins reversed that formula against the Texans and the Raiders. I'm going to bet on the Jets D not letting Reggie Bush run all over them for 172 yards like he did last week. And can we please get Tebow some touches? I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm starting to miss him.


New Orleans by 8.5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Saints

These two teams have each given-up 75 points through two weeks so this is going to look like a flag football game. I'm throwing the spread out the window and banking on someone winning this thing by at least ten points. And that someone is not Matt Cassel.

Buffalo by 3 over Cleveland: The Pick - Bills

Joe Flacco shredded the Bengals defense in week 1 and was very shaky against the Eagles defense in week 2. Brandon Weeden had the same results against the same teams. That's just a coincidence right?

Indianapolis by 3 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Colts

Don't you get the feeling that the Jags are already vying for the #1 pick in next year's draft and getting a firsthand look at Andrew Luck is only going to strengthen their resolve?

"Just inputting the words
'Kolb' and 'undefeated'
crashed the server."
Philadelphia by 4 over Arizona: The Pick - Cardinals

The Eagles have turned the ball over like 20 times and are undefeated. The Cardinals are undefeated with Kevin Kolb at quarterback. The mathematical probability of those two simultaneous occurrences is so unlikely, I need a Peter Brand algorithm to pick this game. Oh yeah, if anyone knows the number for the "I Picked Larry Fitzgerald in the Second Round" hotline, please let me know.

San Diego by 3 over Atlanta: The Pick - Chargers

This game comes to down to which you believe more: (a) the Chargers are ready to put in a full 16 game season or (b) Matt Ryan is ready to start backing-up the hype. Until I see Matty Ice do it against a defense that brings more to the table than the Chiefs and the Broncos, I'm leaning towards (a). (And if you think that this has anything to do with him constantly being rated above Joe Flacco despite the fact that Joe has won five playoff games to Matty's zero . . . then you're very perceptive).


Houston by 2 over Denver: The Pick - Houston

It sure looked like the Falcons laid-out the blueprint for beating the current version of Peyton Manning. Bring a ton of pressure, cut-off the short routes and test his ability to still throw darts down the field. The Texans not only have better personnel to do that but they also have the running game to keep him on the sideline. In a related note - Arian Foster tweet of the week: "R.I.P. to the frog I ran over in my driveway. I didn't even see the little guy. Forgive me, frog gods." Don't count on it Arian. I hear the frog gods are some particularly vengeful mutherfuckers.

Oh I'm sorry, were you saying
something about a frog?
Pittsburgh by 4.5 over Oakland: The Pick - Steelers

So it would appear that last year's 8-8 record and signs of improvement were a smoke screen because the Raiders are terrible again. They never should've cut Kyle Boller. When your offensive line is that bad, you can't underestimate the value of having a quarterback who can throw it 60 yards from this knees.

Baltimore by 3 over New England: The Pick - Patriots (Ravens - 26 . . . . Pats - 24)

The Ravens' new fangled hurry-up offense was all fun and games until Joe Flacco went 6 for 20 in the second half while trying to protect a lead against the Eagles. To make matters worse, when they really needed the hurry-up to work (down by 1 inside of two minutes with two timeouts left), it failed them. Ravens fans were left scratching their heads trying to understand why the only attempt to get Ray Rice the ball on 3rd and 4th down with two yards to go was a bad angle out pattern that required Flacco to loft the ball over a linebacker who was nearly a foot taller then Rice. Then again, it's tough to criticize Cam Cameron for not calling a running play at any point during that drive when Rice is only averaging 6.4 yards per carry this year. (That was sarcasm).

Green Bay by 3 over Seattle: The Pick - Seahawks

Something ain't right about Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense and the deafening noise in Seattle is only going to compound whatever it is. (Takes a lot of film study to come up with that kind of analysis).


Last Week's Record: 6-9-1 . . . Season Record: 13-18-1. (Ouch).

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"Yes, in hindsight maybe a game of duck
duck goose would have been more prudent."
* Our greatest undertaking to date was my elder son's 9th birthday party where we staged the Olympic games in our backyard right down to the march-on of the competitors to the theme song. Everything went smoothly until we decided to close the games with a tug-o-war. When it was over, our backyard looked like a scene from 300 with bodies scattered everywhere writhing in pain from rope burn. Some of the losers were still in tears when they received their silver medals. It was quite moving. Here's some home movie footage - Tug-O-War.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Week 3 NFL Picks - Part 1

The self aggrandizing golf related preambles for last week's picks were so popular that we're going to run it back for at least one more week.* The material for this week is not quite timeline worthy but should be enough to get us rolling.

So last Friday I resumed my quest for some measure of success in the goddamn game of golf (from heretofore the "GDGG") having drawn the unenviable challenge of playing a +3 handicap in the first round of the club championship. I actually played the same opponent a couple of years ago, got up early and made it to the 15th hole where his steady play and my unforced errors (are there any other kind in golf?) closed me out. I figured that if I could follow the same formula this year, cut-out a couple of the mistakes and make a few putts, who knows?

"I'm so sorry . . . I think we have a
nice parting gift right over here."
So we both hit the first green in regulation (me with a 5-wood, him with what looked like an 8-iron) and right out of the gate I have the putt you do not want - a downhill/sidehill 30 footer that is going to roll-out at least a few feet below the hole no matter what. In the moment before I hit it, I think "for the love of God don't leave it above the hole" so I give it a little extra gas and leave myself an 8 footer coming back. He two-putts, I miss and the following sound immediately plays in my head - The Sound in My Head.

From that point forward I felt like I was trying to climb out of quicksand. I made a 10 footer for par to halve the second hole but hit a bad bunker shot on three and lost with a bogey. I halved four and five with pars but then he won six and seven with birdies to my pars. I got up and down from no man's land on 8 and then he lipped-out his putt for a third birdie in a row. By the time we got to the par-3 ninth, I was two over par and four down. I felt like I was in a tug-o-war with a sumo wrestler.

We had to wait for the green to clear and I made the mistake of looking at my phone (just to check the time of course as texting and emailing are illeeeeeeegal at Bushwood). There was a text from my wife which couldn't be good because she knew I was off the grid. I couldn't help myself but I wish I had because the message was that my daughter had broken her wrist. I promptly shanked my tee shot, made double and ended the front nine five down.

- It's ok . . . I'm pre-law.
- I thought you were pre-med?
- What's the difference?
Heading to the 10th tee, I wrestled with the dilemma of whether I should keep playing before finally deciding that, unless I learned some Mr. Miyagi shit on the drive over, adding me to the equation wasn't going to make it any better. Besides, at the rate we were going, this thing was going to be over in 20 minutes anyway. (Full disclosure: I also wasn't too keen on having a big "W/D" next to my name on the scoreboard. I'm sure I'll be pleasantly reminded of this decision during a heated exchange when she hits her teens). My second shot on ten hit the hill in front of the green bounced forward but then rolled back into my pitch mark. Not knowing what the rule was and wanting to keep this thing moving, I decided to play it and made bogey. In hindsight, that may have been an indication of what the golf gods thought of my decision to keep playing. I was now six down through ten.

I won eleven and halved twelve with two more pretty incredible up and downs (if I do say so myself) as my lob wedge put a hammerlock on the award for MVP of the bag. I got a gift win on thirteen and suddenly I was only four down with five to play. Crazier things have happened right? Well maybe . . . but not today. A bogey from 115 yards out in the middle of the fairway on fourteen and it was "snap back to reality . . . oh there goes gravity . . . oh there goes Rabbit, he choked . . ." You know the rest.

Here's one for those who
only know Kim Basinger
as a trailer park junkie.
As Yoda would say, a humbling game this is. Take away the three-putt on one, the ball in the divot on ten and the gag on the last hole and I'm two down with four to play and I've got a shot. That breaks down to one bad thought before a putt, one bad break and one poorly executed shot with a wedge. But it's those tight margins of error that make it a great game right? (Right?) You can't mishit a shot and then hustle down the rebound and shoot it again. It's over. It's on the scorecard and you can't get it back. I am literally shaking my head as I write this. So brutal. But man . . . I can't wait to get to the first tee today.

N.Y. Giants by 1 over Carolina: The Pick - Giants

Two teams that stunk-out the joint in week 1 with quarterbacks who can light it up as they showed in week 2. The temptation here is to give the Panthers an edge for the home field but the Giants are a better team on the road. I'm going with the theory that the Giants found themselves in the second half last week and that Cam Newton and the Panthers are still a year away from being a playoff team.


* This is a somewhat artful way of saying that I don't have time to pick all of the games between now and kickoff tonight because I'm teeing it up in an hour.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Tour Championship Preview

I had a shot of Moore here but
opted for Catrinel Menghia of
the Fiat ads. You're welcome.
We've got two stellar weeks of golf on tap with the most loaded Tour Championship and Ryder Cup fields ever.* We'll get to the Ryder Cup next week but for now let's focus on a Tour Championship field that includes 21 of the top 22 players in the world with no Heath Slocums or Chez Reavies to drag it down. Your slouches are Carl Pettersson, Ryan Moore, John Senden, Robert Garrigus, Scott Piercy and John Huh, all of whom finished the regular season inside the FedEx Cup top 30 or are in the top 40 in the world.** Don't be surprised to see any of those guys contend because they each have their own motivations to get their hands on that $10M - Senden (credibility), Piercy (anger management classes), Moore (a stylist), Garrigus (weed), Pettersson (chocolate) and Huh (I don't know . . . a last name that doesn't sound like it came from a Monty Python skit?).  

Let's start with a review of my predictions which at this point have crushed my first two weeks of football picks (not saying much). Four of the six guys who I predicted would miss the Tour Championship after starting the Cup in the top 30 actually did just that (Mark Wilson, Ben Curtis, Kyle Stanley and Johnson Wagner).*** Scott Piercy slipped to 30th so I almost went five out of six. Of course my sixth pick, Phil Mickelson, actually climbed all the way to 4th and is one of the favorites to win the Cup based on his past success at East Lake and his recent switch to the claw putting grip. Phil could absolutely peak in time for us to believe that he's not going to get waxed at the Ryder Cup.

Of the seven who climbed into the top 30, I hit on three of them (Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott). I missed on Nick Watney, Louis Oostuizen, Ryan Moore and John Senden. Not bad though picking guys like Tim Clark, Bud Cauley and Andres Romero over Louis Oostuizen would be like picking a team quarterbacked by Jay Cutler to win a tough road game on national television. (At least I'm consistent).

So who is going to take down the prize so big that it gets distant second cousins thinking, "I'm sure he could spare at least ten grand"? The highest finisher from last year who is in the field is Hunter Mahan but he just lost to Rory McIlroy by 32 shots (really) and that's kind of hard to ignore so he's out. Adam Scott, Luke Donald and Bo Van Pelt always play well there but let's face it, they all have a mild case of choking dog syndrome and $10M will definitely tighten the collar down the stretch.

". . . . and we're just the guys to do it."
To quote one of the men who inspired me to go to law school, "no, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part." (I actually think it's going to be Tiger, Rory and Phil but sometimes when you find a picture like this one, you just have to go with it). We are way overdue for a showdown between the best players in the world and the stage is absolutely set at East Lake as all three are playing great and have something to prove. In the end, I'm picking Phil. Partly because he's won this thing twice on this course but also because Phil likes money. I am convinced that there is a correlation between his solid play and phone calls from his accountant telling him that it's time to focus. He's not unlike Vincent Chase who would ramp it up every time his crew's lifestyle was threatened which makes this Tour Championship at East "Lake" Phil's Aquaman.****


* I'm not qualifying that statement or leaving it open for discussion. It's almost a fact in that it's probably more true than not true. (I learned this technique watching the political conventions).

"Nothing to see here . . . just
a janitor with a hand fetish
who looks like Han Solo."
** Well except for Moore who I just spent five minutes researching unsuccessfully trying to come-up with some stat about him that would support my "Super Field" theory. So now he gets buried in an endnote like the study results that led to the murder of Dr. Richard Kimble's wife by the one-armed man (which always seemed a little over the top to me especially when Tommy Lee Jones and Joey Pants followed the other random one-armed man into the hospital's prosthetics department . . . "Hey what do you know, we're looking for a one-armed man and there is a one-armed man walking into a room full of arms. What a coincidence").

*** There were actually seven that dropped-out of the top 30. The other three were Marc Leishman, Graeme McDowell and Bill Haas. Information for life.

**** That was a test. If you didn't wince at that, I'm not sure I want you as a reader.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Week 2 NFL Picks - Part 3 of 3

It's time to complete this odyssey. (For Parts 1 and 2 click here Part 1 and here Part 2).


9:00 a.m.: I woke-up feeling a little rocky. The good news was that it was going to be 80 degrees, the pool was open for one more day and the countdown to the start of Redzone began in about four hours. The bad news was that at some point around the end of the 1:00 games, I would have to jump in my car and drive 80 miles to go see Rush introduce their new "concept" album on stage (more on this later).

If you don't know who this is,
you are not watching football
to your full potential.
12:59 p.m.: My boys started the season's first one minute Redzone countdown. This has got to be going on in every frat house in America right? And even with this incredible invention, you know there is still one dickhead who insists on watching his team's game full-time on the big screen.

2:45 p.m.: It's already apparent that I could be in for a long fantasy football season as my no. 1 guys on each team, Drew Brees and Chris Johnson, are looking very shaky. I may have picked the wrong year to write a fantasy football preview.

4:00 p.m.: I swam a mile to close-out the pool season and hopefully generate a little adrenaline for that night's show. Maybe it was the Summer Olympics or maybe it was the cracking sounds my knees made every time I stood-up but I discovered the joy of swimming at some point that summer. With that being said, it is the worst hangover exercise ever. Every inadvertent gulp of water puts you at risk of being the reason the pool was shutdown for the rest of the day.

6:00 p.m.: I rallied with my boys at a sports bar in Northern Virginia where RG, III fever was already going viral after his performance against the Saints. This was getting worse not better but a few Blue Moon drafts started taking the edge off as they always do. I think it's the orange slice.

8:05 p.m.: We pulled into the parking lot and the show was already in full swing. As I learned from seeing Little Feat a couple years ago, rock bands in their 60's take that 7:30 start time very seriously.

This just in. Neil Peart is
stilling gettin' it done.
9:25 p.m.: We were on about our tenth song in a row that I had never heard before so the rumors that they were going to devote the second set to playing their entire new album, Clockwork Angels, were apparently true. You have never truly experienced buyer's remorse until you've listened to Geddy Lee sing unknown songs for an hour. Normally I can just zone out and watch Neil Peart wail away to get me through the weak spots in the set list but this was interminable.

9:45 p.m.: At least they closed strong with YYZ , Working Man and Tom Sawyer as an encore but I don't think I've ever heard a crowd of 20,000 collectively say "that's it?" when the lights go on.

10:30 p.m.: Back at the sports bar we caught the end of the Steelers getting drubbed by the Broncos. I have no feel for how the rest of the game went. All I knew was that I was watching Ben Roethlisberger get pounded and my mood was improving.

12:15 a.m.: For the second night in a row, I forced a bar staff to work overtime. Fortunately for this crew, the kitchen was closed so they were able to dump us on the poor bastards at the TGIFridays down the street.

1:00 a.m.: When you find yourself ordering pot stickers at the TGIFridays in Manassas, Virginia at 1:00 a.m. on a Monday morning, it might be time to start recalibrating your scale.

2:30 a.m.: At this late hour somehow three of us were back at the Candlewood Suites fixing the economy and ironing-out our political differences. Nothing fosters bi-partisanship like playing the home version of Crossfire for an hour and then sharing a hotel room bed together. Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid should give it a try sometime. You almost have to be civil when you know there could be a Planes, Trains and Automobiles moment in your immediate future.


"It stinks like sex in here."
10:00 a.m.: Someone finally decided to make a sound and asked, "what time is it, 6:30?" The room darkening shades in this place were unbelievable.

11:00 a.m.: I finally got some traction and hit 7-11 for a blueberry muffin and a bottle of water. Fortunately, my job involves construction and we had a site right down the road from my current location so the plan was to hit that for a midday visit and then head north and start preparing for the Ravens' Monday night home opener. Genius.

11:15 a.m.: Oh my God! Who's fucking bright idea was it to put on a hard hat and walk around a construction site?!? The noise was bad enough but the real peril was me trying to navigate the ladders and trenches. I had planned to stay for two hours but, after 45 minutes, I looked at my phone and announced with great urgency, "holy shit . . . I gotta go!"

2:30 p.m.: Thirty minutes on the treadmill had me ready to at least attempt one more shift. I think.

5:30 p.m.: Three soft chicken tacos and a few Pacifico's raised my status from doubtful to questionable.

6:30 p.m.: The buzz of the tailgate took me up one more notch and by kick-off, I had a full rally going. Then again, if you can't get your mojo back for a Monday night home opener, it's definitely time to pull-off the jersey and remove the ankle tape.

Ah the sights and sounds
. . . . and sights.
7:00 - 9:30 p.m.: The Ravens were dropping haymakers on the Bengals which kept me going into the 3rd quarter but by then I had switched to water and the yellow fuel tank light had come on. When Ed Reed recorded his umpteenth pick six, I knew it was time to go home.

So that's my 60 hour excuse for spreading the Week 2 NFL picks over four days. Sorry it ended with a whimper but stories like that usually do. On the bright side, last Friday was the first round of the club championship and I saw Weezer on Saturday night so we may be running this thing back as a sequel in three days. Stay tuned.

The Monday Night Pick

Atlanta by 3 over Denver: The Pick: Broncos

All week I had the Broncos in this game due to a lack of faith in Matty Ice. However, my picks have been so dismal to date, that I was then going to go the other way just to mix it up but I can't get away from (a) Peyton Manning, (b) in primetime and (c) in a dome so we'll stick to reasoning . . . for now.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Week 2 NFL Picks - Part 2 of 3

And now for Part 2 . . . . (if you missed Part 1, check it out here - The Week 2 NFL Picks - Part 1).

4:30 p.m.: After leaving Kaos Gentlemen's Club (and if that doesn't make you want to read Part 1, then I don't even know who you are anymore) we decided to waste the rest of the afternoon in more traditional fashion by hanging-out in a sports bar watching golf.* If nothing else, we'd reduce the chances of catching something.

4:35 p.m.: We lost one member of our foursome who also happened to be our driver as we headed to one of the many Greene Turtles that has sprouted-up around Maryland over the past few years. (Remember when you'd say I'll meet you at the Turtle and all you had to know beyond that was which side of the bay you were on?)

And this was after a regular
season field hockey win.
4:37 p.m.: We walked into an almost empty bar with the bravado of three guys who just tore-up a strip club (I guess we were compensating) and immediately demanded that they change the channel to golf. The one guy sitting at the bar with his girlfriend watching the Notre Dame game came over the top a little too quickly and emphatically barked "NO GOLF!" and immediately there was tension. (It probably didn't help that I started audibly mocking him  . . . "NO GOLF, GOLF BAD, ME NOT LIKE GOLF").**

Then it started getting chippy as it always does when you're running with a University of Maryland grad which we were. (Graduates of Couch Burning University will throw-down at the drop of a visor). For the next hour it kind of simmered with the occasional stink eye being cast back and forth but nothing came of it. Frankly, we kind of lost our mojo when we discovered that the golf had been completely preempted in Baltimore by . . . wait for it . . . the Notre Dame game.

6:15 p.m.: I think we could all feel the situation heading towards a few rounds of shots and marriage counseling so we called a cab and headed back to the club to shower-up and put on a fresh face for the ladies.

"Who is that disgusting man?"
7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.: Take Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs and The Departed and add-up all of the F-Bombs uttered on screen.*** Now multiply that number by two and I think you'd be almost to my performance at dinner. I'm pretty sure that I did everything but ask the club president's wife if she wanted to make $14 the hard way ("Hey Ringo, Play Somethin' Hot").

10:00 p.m.: Note to the staff: When you're trying to get rid of the stragglers, do not have the O's - Yankees game on in the bar.

10:17 p.m.: O'S WIN . . . O'S WIN . . . O'S WIN!!! Yeah Teixeira was safe at first but . . . . O'S WIN!!!

11:05 p.m.: The bartender flipped me the keys and said "screw-it, just lock-up when you're done." We took this as a sign that it was time to leave.****

. . . . still 48 hours to go but we need to take another break to get some quick picks in for the record.

N.Y. Giants by 7.5 over Tampa Bay: The Pick - Bucs

Without reading too much into one game, this could be the year the Giants start slowly AND finish slowly. They all seem a little caught-up in their celebrity don't they? Case in point: Victor Cruz wrote a 304 page autobiography called Out of the Blue which is almost four pages for each of his 82 career receptions.
Hey Gisele. Missed
you this summer.

New England by 13.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Patriots

Tom Brady - Kevin Kolb > 13.5 points.

Minnesota by 1.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Colts

We're going to have a lot of these games this year pitting two young unpredictable quarterbacks against each other. Andrew Luck will be playing in friendlier confines this week against a less formidable defense so he gets the nod. This pick is also based on the odds agains the Vikings starting 2-0 and leading the NFC North at any point in the season.

New Orleans by 2.5 over Carolina: The Pick - Saints

I want to say the Panthers don't have the firepower to score the 29 points it's probably going to take to cover this spread but that's tough when RG, III just carved-up the Saints defense in the Superdome. I'm going to conveniently chalk that up to a week one aberration.

Buffalo by 3 over Kansas City: The Pick - Bills

I just can't take Matt Cassel playing on the road seriously. At the same time, that means taking Ryan Fitzpatrick and giving points. If you're able to convince yourself that one of these teams is actually worth betting, it may be time to call the hotline.

Philadelphia by 2.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

This is one of the games Ray Lewis was looking at on the schedule when he decided to shed a bunch of weight and basically become a strong safety. The Ravens D tends to eat-up finesse offenses.

Well at least Tannehil's got one
attribute of a big time quarterback.
Oakland by 2.5 over Miami: The Pick - Raiders

I'm picking against the Dolphins as long as Ryan Tannehill is taking the snaps.

Cincinnati by 7 over Cleveland: The Pick - Bengals

See above but substitute Weeden for Tannehill. (If you think I'm kidding, check-out their combined Week 1 stats: 32 of 67 for 337 yards, no touchdowns and 7 interceptions. I mean we're talking Jake Delhomme playoff numbers).

Washington by 3 over St. Louis: The Pick - Redskins

How many times today is Jeff Fisher going to think to himself, "we should've traded Bradford instead of the pick"?

Houston by 7 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Texans

Blaine Gabbert against a presumptive playoff team? I feel like I must be missing something about this line but I'm going to take the bait anyway. Not to mention, I'm not betting against this guy . . . "I heard Jim Brown once say the gladiator can't change Rome. I love Jim Brown. But I disagree. I'll die trying my brother." - Arian Foster.

Dallas by 3 over Seattle: The Pick - Dallas

I'm a buyer on the Cowboys this year until they inevitably start proving me wrong. I didn't see any of Russell Wilson's debut but there certainly seems to be a lot of hype for a guy who threw for 153 yards with one touchdown and one pick in a 20-16 loss to the Cardinals.

Pittsburgh by 5.5 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Jets

Man I'm starting to worry about the Steelers and when I say "worry," I mean "revel in the fact that their offensive line appears to be in tatters and it's become open buffalo season on Big Ben." I don't buy the offensive outburst from the Jets last week but they should be able to score enough to stay within 5 points of a sputtering offense playing against their still solid defense.

San Diego by 6 over Tennessee: The Pick - Titans

If not for the Raiders back-up long-snapper pulling a Chuck Knoblauch last week, the Chargers would be starting the season in their traditional funk. It's going to get a little funky today.

San Francisco by 6.5 over Detroit: The Pick - 49er's

"Hey, I'm really sorry that I bumped
into you last year and that you
handled it like such an  a-hole." 
Matthew Stafford threw three picks against the Rams last week and it easily could have been five. Now he has to play one of the best and nastiest defenses in the league. I could actually see this one getting ugly for the Lions which would be great because I then envision the following scenario. Jim Harbaugh completely misreads the tone of the moment and jokingly bumps Jim Schwartz during the handshake followed immediately by Ndamukong Suh making him disappear from the screen and then we have Pacers-Pistons II but on a football field.



* Sad to tell those of you who aren't there yet, but the Saturday afternoon sports bar experience becomes something of an oasis once you have kids.

** In hindsight, I'm pretty sure I was in the wrong on that one. I mean who walks into a sports bar during college football and demands golf? What an asshole.

*** I just moved Gutterballs to the top of my Netflix queue - Movies with the Most F-Bombs.

**** This didn't actually happen but I know it crossed the guy's mind. The country club bartender gig is pretty sweet right up to the point where you learn that you can't turn-up the lights and yell "LET'S GO PEOPLE!"

Last week's record: 7-9 . . . Season record: 7-9 (if you don't count me blowing the Thursday night game this week by picking Jay Cutler against the Packers in Lambeau which was like watching the guy in college feed his snake and saying, "I've got $5 on the mouse").

Click here for Part 3.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Week 2 NFL Picks - Part 1

On the eve of the Ryder Cup* and with week 2 of the NFL season looming, I find myself in a jam as I have prepared nothing. How did I manage to get myself into this predicament? Well as usual, it started on a golf course. (I feel a timeline coming on). In the words of Lewis Carroll, this is one of those stories where you just need to "begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end . . . then stop":


Is nothing sacred?
8:15 a.m.: It was that time of year again when I decide to stick my toe outside of my comfort zone and attempt to qualify for a spot among the 16 man field that will compete at match play for the honor of my club's champion.** This year I would catch a break as the qualifier was limited to one round and, as every little guy with a big mouth will tell you, the shorter the fight, the less chance of getting killed.

9:25 a.m.: The first hole is a long uphill par 4 and after pushing my drive right, I laid-up and made bogey which was consistent with my gameplan: (a) take your bogeys, (b) do not hit a 3-wood at a green and (c) never hit an uphill putt more than 3 inches past the hole (this course is a Tillinghast so anything beyond that gets very dicey). I may as well have put condoms on all of my clubs.

9:50 a.m.: My first emotional roller coaster came on the 3rd hole as I half-skulled a chip 20 feet above the cup and then made the par with a putt that would have rolled off the green and ended my day. I felt like I just avoided getting pancaked by an 18 wheeler on the beltway. This was supposed to be fun right?

9:55 a.m.: Standing on the 4th tee I saw one of my fellow 6 handicappers on the 8th tee. He was 4 over and wanted to bet $50. I accepted the bet, hit it to 4 feet and drained the putt for a 2. With apologies to the FGW, that may have felt better than . . . (don't say it) . . . let's move on.    
"You are such a pussy!"

11:05 a.m.: Skipping ahead to the 9th tee where I stood at 2 over after making just one bogey in the previous four holes. No. 9 is a 205 yard uphill par 3 that's probably playing about 225. A perfect 5-wood for me except for the fact that it's into a hurting cross-wind and I tend to hit my 5-wood higher than my 9-iron meaning that I would be introducing all kinds of big numbers if I go for it. So I laid-up on a par 3 and made 4.*** I know. I know.

1:30 p.m.: Let's jump ahead to the finish because there's nothing exciting about nine holes with 5 bogeys and 4 pars other than the fact that IT GOT ME IN AS THE 12TH SEED BABY!!! I screwed myself by three putting 16 and missing a 5 footer on 18 because erasing one of those mistakes would have bumped me up to the 9th seed. As it is, I have to play the same +3 handicap who beat me 4 & 3 two years ago. Then again, that year he crushed me by 20 strokes over two rounds in the qualifier and this year he only beat me by 5 so maybe I'll get to visit the 17th hole.

2:30 p.m.: This is when the fun began because I had planned a second 18 that afternoon with some friends followed by a post-round dinner with our wives (seemed like a good idea at the time). Suffice it to say that I was flying pretty high and the beer was flowing like wine (unfortunately, the women were not flocking like the salmon of Capistrano . . . yet . . . we'll get to that). We were cruising along until the 4th tee when the skies turned a freaky shade of purple and then burped-out a torrent of water that made it clear that we were done golfing for the day.

3:30 p.m.: We're sitting in the clubhouse bar with four hours to kill until dinner and someone said, "we should go to Kaos."**** That drew one of those laughs followed by silence followed by everyone looking at each other like, "what in the hell else are we gonna' do?"

"I don't care if your mom's meth
lab caught on fire, you're on the
schedule from noon til 6:00."
3:50 p.m.: We walk into Kaos and the best way I can describe it is if you imagined the Double Deuce in it's condition when Dalton first showed-up but instead of a raging Saturday night, picture it on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. There were three guys with house arrest bracelets shooting pool and a middle aged woman behind a bar that had a bucket on it to catch the rain water. As we approached, she dropped a line on us that will go down in infamy, "sorry boys, none of my girls have made it in yet today" and with that we became the answer to the question, "what's sadder than some 40 year old guys spending Saturday afternoon in a strip club?"

4:00 p.m.: (Yes we sat down and ordered a beer anyway). A girl came running in with a backpack like she was late for her waitressing shift at the Olive Garden and told us to give her five minutes. I remember thinking the personalized service was a nice touch.

4:05 p.m.: She hit the stage and jumped right into her act.

4:10 p.m. We all started looking at each other like, "what in the hell are we doing?" and took-off. The problem was that we still had three and half hours to kill until dinner and we were in what I like to call a "Zack Mayo situation."

This story still has about 54 hours left in it that I don't want to shortchange and I am out of time in this writing session so . . . . . .

. . . . . oh wait, I've got to make a pick.

Green Bay by 5.5 over Chicago: The Pick - Bears

People who want to look at the 49er's game last weekend as an aberration are ignoring the fact that that was the second time in a row that the Packers have been manhandled by a physical defense at home. For reasons I will cover in Part 2 of these picks, I didn't see a lot of this game but every time I looked-up from my bar stool, Aaron Rodgers was making the same "why is this happening" face that he made throughout the loss to the Giants in the playoffs last year. And don't look now, but here come the Monsters of the Midway with a healthy Jay Cutler sporting a giant chip on his shoulder. (Don't forget that it was in the NFC Championship Game against the Packers where Cutler went down with a suspect injury and was accused of being a wuss). All of the pressure is on the Packers tonight who do not want to fall two games behind the Bears with a second home loss. May not be enough to cost them the game but it should keep it close.


* So when I wrote this, I was under the impression that the Ryder Cup started tomorrow when it doesn't actually start for another two weeks. The bad news is that I'm an idiot but the good news is that I got a jump on the Ryder Cup Preview. Hey, it not's like I write a weekly golf . . . oh shut-up.

** I am a 6 handicap. This year 28 players attempted to qualify and 24 of them had handicaps between +4 and 3. The other four of us were hoping to shoot our best round of the year AND get lucky. As I chronicled last year (The Club Championship Preview), these circumstances have broken my way on only one other occasion. 

*** If you ever thought my writing lacked full disclosure, I hope that admission along with the Ryder Cup gaff convinced you. 

**** I'm not going to link to the Kaos Gentlemen's Club commercial on Youtube but, if you really want to get a feel for this scene, you should check it out.

Click here for Part 2.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Week 1 NFL Picks

There are not many things tougher in the gambling world than picking opening week NFL games. The poster child for this supposition was the 2003 New England Patriots who cut team leader Lawyer Malloy just days before the season started and then watched him dance all over them as a member of the Buffalo Bills in a 31-0 week 1 blowout. I mean losing the opener is one thing but getting blistered 31-0 nothing was clearly an indication that they were in for a long season. So of course they won 14 of their next 15 games and beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl. It just goes to show you how misleading week 1 results can be.*

Here is the one thing we do know about today's NFL - quarterbacks matter more than ever. Before you say "duh," consider how much they really matter. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees combined to go 41-7 in the regular season last year by simply outscoring people (their teams were the top three in total net points despite the fact that their defenses were mediocre at best). Also consider that 6 of the other 7 top rated quarterbacks went to the playoffs including Alex Smith.** The only guys from outside of the top 10 to make it were Joe Flacco (great defense and Ray Rice), Andy Dalton (fluke) and Tim Tebow (God). With that in mind, the analysis for every pick below and every pick this year for that matter is going to start with a quarterback comparison.

N.Y. Giants by 3.5 over the Cowboys: The pick - Cowboys

This match-up in the regular season is more of a coin flip than you think as Romo had more touchdowns and fewer picks than Eli last year and the Giants only won one more game. (But if this was a playoff game, fuggetabouit). At least half of these NFC East night games seem to be decided by a field goal or less. Combine that with the Super Bowl hangover and the early season malaise that often plagues the Giants and I'm taking the points.

Buck-up Jay . . . you're still
going to win the game.
Bears by 9.5 over the Colts: The pick - Colts

I get it. Rookie quarterback playing on the road against a physical team but there are two factors that I think will keep the Colts within range: (1) Andrew Luck is not going to give the game away and (2) Chuck Pagano is a great defensive coach and he's going to come up with a way to turn Jay Cutler over at least twice.

Eagles by 8 over the Browns: The pick - Eagles

Now take that analysis of the Bears-Colts game and flip it upside down as Brandon Weeden is going to gift wrap a couple of scores for the Eagles. It seems almost inconceivable that the Browns have been searching for a starting quarterback since they were reborn in 1999 and the three guys they had battling for the job this year were Weeden, Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace. I must have missed the press conference where Pat Shurmur named Weeden the starter but I imagine it went something like this, "Browns fans, I know it's been a tough road and we appreciate your patience but I am here to tell you it is the dawning of a new day as we have found our starting quarterback. He's a 28 year old rookie who failed at baseball and then racked-up a ton of stats in the same pass happy conference where we found our last crappy quarterback. Brandon Weeden ladies and gentlemen!" (Blank stares).

Jets by 3 over the Bills: The pick - Bills

I actually agree with Rex Ryan when he says he doesn't see himself getting fired as a possibility. I mean his endless stream of bullshit is probably the only thing staving-off a fan revolt. The rest of the AFC just hopes the same can be said of GM Mike Tannenbaum who keeps pulling stunts usually reserved for the Redskins like signing a washed-up LaDanian Tomlinson and of course creating the impending Tim Tebow fiasco (is it too soon to give it a name like the "Tebasco"?). Don't sleep on the Bills this year. They were rolling last season until Fred Jackson broke his leg and Fitzy cracked some ribs.

Saints by 9.5 over the Redskins: The pick - Saints

"It's still $500 for a fishhook but
you've got to draw blood."
The last time the Saints played a home game after a hurricane hit New Orleans, they blew the favored Falcons off the field 23-3. Now they have the post-hurricane recovery, the bounty scandal and the motivation to win one for the gipper while Sean Payton serves his suspension. I also wouldn't put it past Gregg Williams to make a tribute cheap shot worth someone's while so if I were RG, III, I'd audible to a lot of running plays and save my coming out party for next week.

Patriots by 6.5 over the Titans: The pick - Patriots

This line seems about 10 points too low for a match-up between Jake Locker and Tom Brady. I do think Chris Johnson is going to bounce back strong this season but Belichik will plug that hole and the Titans are probably going to have to score at least 25 points to cover this number. Don't see that happening.

Vikings by 4.5 over the Jaguars: The Pick - Vikings

If not for the Cards-Seahawks game, this one could get the ugly stick of the week award. At best we'll have MJD and A.P. in very limited roles supporting a quarterback "duel" of Christian Ponder against Blaine Gabbert. On second thought, forget the straight bet on this game and take the under of 38.5 because they may not make it halfway there.

Texans by 10.5 over the Dolphins: The pick - Texans

"Well don't you see it?!?
. . . then pick it up!"
I didn't watch all of Hard Knocks but I did see the part where they talked about how meticulous Joe Philbin is and then showed him walking around picking-up little bits of trash by the practice field. I looked at the FGW and said "this guy won't be coaching next year." I'm pretty sure Mike Tomlin and the Harbaugh brothers don't spend much time picking-up trash.

Lions by 8.5 over the Rams: The pick - Lions

The Rams appear to be building for 2013 and beyond as they took the haul from the Redskins and parlayed it into more draft picks down the road. Then again, when you're paying $50M guaranteed to the 29th highest rated quarterback in the league, really all you can do is wait. This game could be a very pleasurable experience for Megatron owners along the lines of 10-175-2.

Falcons by 2.5 over the Chiefs: The pick -  Falcons

I don't care how much the Falcons devote themselves to the pass or how many weapons they give Matt Ryan because he is still going to be the very poor man's Tom Brady. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, Matt Cassel is the poor man's Matt Ryan.

Packers by 5.5 over the 49ers: The pick - Packers

Everyone needs to calm down a bit about the 49ers and remember that a few months ago Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman donned their hoodies and flew to North Carolina to watch Peyton Manning throw under the lights. These are the things you do when Alex Smith is your quarterback. Thanks to their weak division, I've got them going 10-6 this year and this game will be one of the 6.

This is so much easier than
googling golfer's wives and
girlfriends every week.
Panthers by 2.5 over the Bucs: The pick - Bucs

Cam Newton is a beast and, despite my efforts to find a downward trend in his performance last year once the league figured-out he could actually throw, I came up empty. He just threw less but more efficiently which is a sign of maturity. With that being said, you have to beware of the rookie college coach in his first NFL game at home. He's going to pull a bunch of Ra-Ra crap and find a way to keep this game in the teens which means at least a cover.

Seahawks by 2.5 over the Cardinals: The pick - Seahawks

The Seahawks signed Matt Flynn to compete for the starting job with journeyman Tavaris Jackson and then handed it to 4th round draft pick Russell Wilson and they STILL might have a better quarterback situation than the Cardinals who keep sending fruit baskets to Kurt Warner that say "Thinking of You." I'm basing this pick on the fact that the Seahawks defense was dropping the hammer on people at the end of last season and Marshawn Lynch was running with the same reckless abandon he had in his college days - Ghost Rider.

Broncos by 1 over the Steelers: The pick - Steelers

Count me among those who think Peyton Manning is going to win some playoff games for Denver but I just can't see how he's going to come in after a year off, with new receivers and beat the Steelers. Mike Tomlin has had that Demayrius Thomas touchdown running on a loop all through training camp and it's payback time.

Ravens by 6 over the Bengals: The pick - Ravens

For all of their faults, the Ravens do two things very well under Jim Harbaugh, win the first game of the season (4-0) and play well at home (27-5). They need to come out with their collective hair on fire Monday night and exercise the demons from the final minute of last season and they know it. I'll be stunned if Bernard Pollard doesn't earn a fine in this game. (I originally had a picture of "The Pass Play that Shall not be Named" here but it's still too soon).

Yes, you make a good case
for one of the other best
uniforms in sports.
Chargers by 1 over the Raiders: The pick - Chargers

The only reason not to take the Chargers is if you think they're going to take the first six games of the season off (and why wouldn't you?) However, the one thing that is currently being concealed by arguably the best uniform in sports is that the Raiders defense is terrible. Phillip Rivers is not going to throw 20 interceptions this year but Carson Palmer may do it by Thanksgiving. This is a 12-4 team v. a 7-9 team.


* Of course after I wrote this opening paragraph, I actually took the time to go back and look at the week 1 results from 2011 and discovered that the only really surprising outcome was that the Redskins beat the Giants 28-14. Unless you count the Ravens absolute manhandling of the Steelers, everything else that happened was a pretty good indicator of how the season was going to play out. The problem is that I had already done all of that research on the 2003 Patriots and I didn't want it to go to waste. I'm just going to act like nothing happened and, by the time we get to the picks, no one will remember the point I was trying to make anyway.

** The only one who didn't was Tony Romo who was the 4th highest rated passer in the league. He's currently sitting in the cluttered office of a Boston area community college teacher being told it's not his fault.

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