Tuesday Morning Self-Esteem (And Hurricane) Check.

I Remember When Hurricanes Used to hit the Southeast.

This is two hurricanes in two years now.  I heard something about the NY stock exchange being shut down for the first time since Hurricane Gloria in 1985.  I am barely old enough to remember Hurricane Gloria.  I was too young, and too much of a dipsh*t to have any clue what was going on and I think we got off pretty easily anyway that time around.  For the next 25 years I operated under the assumption that there was almost no way a hurricane was going to hit the Mid-Atlantic.  And none did.  Now, we’re on an unfortunate streak.  I look at the pictures of NYC and I know I’m lucky I dodged the worst of it again.  I doubt the Tuesday Morning Self-Esteem Check will be any consolation to those flooded and without power, but here goes anyway…

NFL Pick ‘Em Standings:  

  1. Grossy, 22-16-2
  2. JCK, 22-17-1
  3. Nichols, 22-18
  4. Big Dub, 20-18-2
  5. Kraft, 20-19-1
  6. DC, 20-20

The “Power is Still On, ” Pick of the Week:  Kraft, Oakland +1.

There were some real solid picks this week.  Atlanta, New England, and of course I was tempted to toot on my own horn.  At one point Sunday afternoon I thought I was headed toward 4 quick outright dog winners.  But, then it didn’t happen and the Saints made my theory look pretty suspect.  Kraft didn’t send his usual hard-hitting analysis along this week, but I’m pretty sure it would have included something about Oakland beating the ferocious Jags last week and laying points with Brady Quinn.  There also might have been a Todd McNair or Neil Smith reference.  When the Cowboys came charging back on NY and almost stole a cover I remembered why I talked myself out of that game.  I don’t remember how I talked myself out of this layup.  

The “Basement’s Flooded,” Awful Pick of the Week:  Big Dub (New York Jets -2.5)

There were a few candidates this week, I thought.  My aforementioned Saints debacle (that Nichols joined me on) and I could have highlighted DC for taking the exact opposite of our pick of the week, but something about taking the Jets stands out.  Something felt so very wrong about putting your support behind that mess.  Dub mentioned something about the Jets building up a false sense of security, but I think those days are over.  The Jets have gone from stingy defense, enviable running game and sometimes game-manager QB to a total train wreck.  The Dolphins were just clearly the better team.  And, that’s as big of an indictment of the Jets as any, they could be the worst team in a pretty bleh division.  No more laying points with the Jets, people.  

The Arbitrary, But Definitive Top-10.  

1.  Atlanta, 7-0.  Do the Eagles become their best win, or are we still thinking Atlanta hasn’t played anyone?  Reid haters could forever be in debt to the Falcons.  

2.  San Francisco, 6-2.  The next four teams are really close, but San Francisco’s whooping of Arizona is fresh in my mind.  

3.  New York Giants, 6-2.  The Giants maybe got caught taking their foot off the pedal a bit?  I can overlook it in the big picture.  

4.  Houston Texans, 6-1.  A bye-week doesn’t help the Texans in the rankings, just makes me question the AFC even more.  

5.  Chicago Bears, 6-1.  There was something troubling about having a tough time with the Panthers.  Letdown, or some old Cutler magic?

6.  New England Patriots, 5-3.  Watch out if the Super Bowl is ever in London.  

7.  Green Bay, 5-3.  Real ugly win for the Packers over Jacksonville.  Sad thing: improvement over early in the year.

8.  Denver, 4-3.  Denver looking better each week, or was that just the Saints defense?

9.  Baltimore, 5-2.  The Ravens will continue their decline in the coming weeks.  

10.  Pittsburgh, 4-3.  Nice solid win over the trendy RG3.  

3-PT D.A. of the Week:  Brady Quinn.

Check out the tab at the top of the page for a look at Quinn’s brief outing and the D.A. standings.  

 

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Morena Baccarin Wants Winners…

…And the Truth About Brody.

There are 85 picks in a Pick ‘Em Season.  Up to this point, no one has really distinguished themselves.  I blame bad luck and officiating, but that’s only a game here or there and 19-14-2 is a bit further away from true greatness than I’d like to be.  My dream is to run off about 65% winners one year, build up a stake and go win the Las Vegas Hilton Super Contest,  Mike McD style.  As far as I know, the Super Contest is the best 5-game per week competition out there.  The leader is sitting at 24-9-2.  Hello.  I’d be a full week of wins behind.  The good news?  I’d still be ahead of plenty of idiots.  There is currently someone in last place who is 9-25-1.  Is that possible?  Are they trolling the contest?  This week’s winners…

JCK, Record: 19-15-1

  1. Chicago (-7.5) over Carolina
  2. San Francisco (-6.5) over Arizona
  3. New York Giants (-2.5) over Dallas
  4. Detroit (-2.5) over Seattle
  5. San Diego (-3) over Cleveland

***

Kraft, Record: 18-16-1

  1. Indianapolis (+3.5) over Tennessee
  2. Seattle (+2.5) over Detroit
  3. Washington (+4.5) over Pittsburgh
  4. Oakland (+1) over KC
  5. Green Bay (-14.5) over Jacksonville

***

DC, Record:  17-18

San Francisco (-6.5) over Arizona.  San Francisco has had a lot of time to rest up for the opportunity to step on the disintegrating Cardinals.  Extra time might be bad for baseball teams in the playoffs (see Verlander, Justin) but here, the 49ers have had almost a second bye week to get ready for this game and Arizona’s offense is a house of cards. SFO 23, ARI 3.

Chicago (-7.5) over Carolina.  Am I supposed to say that Carolina is going to suddenly show me something because their GM got fired?  Maybe the Panthers are ready to prove something this week, but until they do, there is no credible evidence to believe that Carolina can keep this game close.

New York Giants (-2.5) over Dallas.   Dallas is another team that hasn’t put together a solid enough body of work to bet on–they barely squeaked past Wake Forest last week.  Giants, on the other hand, I think will find sufficient motivation to beat an NFC East rival by more than a field goal.  Let’s go ahead and put this one at NYG 27, DAL 19

Kansas City (-1) over Oakland.  KC is coming off a bye week and Oakland is coming off an emotional overtime win against the Jaguars.

Indianapolis (+3.5) over Tennessee.  May the best team win, preferably by a field goal or less.

***

Big Dub, Record: 19-15-2

New England (-7) over St. Louis.  New England loves to get up by double digits and then squander the lead. This time around the Rams can’t put together a late rally for tha backdoor cover

Philadelphia (-2.5) over Atlanta.  I don’t care about Reid’s bye record. I care more about the weather and how a dome team reacts to playing in awful conditions. Are the Eagles a power running team that can benefit from such a mess? No. But neither is Atlanta.

Seattle (+2.5) over Detroit.  The Lions flat stink. I hate backing a bad QB, but I’m gonna do it here

New York Jets (-2.5) over Miami.  The Jets are running their mouths and it feels like one of those games where the Jets roll and build up a sense of false sense of security.

***

Nichols, Record: 19-16

New England (-6) over St. Louis.  The NFL needs to prove that American football can be fun for the Brits.  Pats by 17 is that way to do that

Atlanta (+2.5) over Philadelphia.  Fat Andy Reid is undefeated after the bye, but so is Mike Smith.  Atlanta won’t go unbeaten, but this isn’t the game they lose.

Chicago (-7.5) over Carolina.  Chicago is playing well and Carolina sucks.

NY Giants (-2.5) over Dallas.  Giants want revenge for the opener.  Dallas already sucked and now they’re hurt.

New Orleans (+6) over Denver.  Denver wins, but not by six.  Not sure why.

***

Grossy, Record: 19-14-2

Cleveland (+3) over San Diego.  I’m going to keep hammering underdogs this week.  The Browns beating the Chargers would be a big upset, right?  Then why is the line only three points?  Because the Chargers are what the Ancient Greeks referred to as, “A f*cuking horrible road team.”  I took Cleveland last week and they lost, but it was another game where they were right there at the end.  Philip Rivers continues his quest to be the Jets’ starting quarterback next year, Browns outright.

Seattle (+2.5) over Detroit.  Got into a bit of a discussion about Detroit in the comments section earlier in the week.  The bottom line is, the Lions didn’t impress me and haven’t impressed me all year.  The Seahawks defense will be a 2nd straight tough test.  It’s been two weeks since Russell Wilson crafted something from his charisma machine–here’s your 2nd straight outright dog winner.  It’s as easy as Dave Krieg to Steve Largent.

Miami (+2.5) over New York Jets.  The Jets are in disarray.  Is Tebow asking for more playing time?  Do they allow that type of behavior in the good book?  Switching to Tebow might be a bigger waste of time than switching to Brady Quinn.  Miami might have the best defense in the AFC and the Jets won’t do a thing to test them.  Any game that seems destined to end in OT is a tough pick, but Miami is due for a break.  Outright #3!  Dolphins in the extra period.

New Orleans (+6) over Denver.  The O/U for this game is 55.5.  They might do that in the 1st half.  Let’s remember the last time we saw Pey-Pey on the big screen he was playing the perfect half, but that came after spotting the Chargers a 24-0 lead.  The Broncos still make a lot of mistakes, and Brees isn’t going to pull a Rivers.  Jimmy Graham plays, Jimmy Graham doesn’t play, it doesn’t matter to me.  Saints bust up Denver, IN DENVER, because the AFC is a trash heap.  That’s 4 outright dogs.  Pressing on…

Atlanta (+2.5) over Philadelphia.  Have the Eagles won a game by 2 points this year?  I honestly can’t remember.  One of these years Andy is going to lose after the bye, right?  RIGHT?  But that has nothing to do with it.  Things that matter:

  1. The  weather isn’t going to be that bad (more Monday/Tuesday according to my charts).
  2. Julio Jones and Roddy White.
  3. Who’s covering Gonzalez?
  4. Danny Watkins is hurt.  He’s so bad, he shouldn’t be in there anyway.  His backup?  Lulz.
  5. Atlanta is the better team.

There you go, folks.  It’s the year of the damn dog.  These five are winning outright this week.  If you want to parlay those 5 money lines together, it pays 73 to 1.  You’re welcome.

Mid-Week Mailbag.

Do You Sell, or POWER Sell?

There’s nothing worse than having a great idea only to find out that it’s not original.  I was eating the other day sans napkin, as is my custom, and I wiped my hands on my jeans.  That’s what jeans are for, correct?  It got me thinking, if people love wiping their hands on their jeans so much, why not denim napkins?  Think of the endless possibilities.  Right there on the spot I started counting my millions.  Then I checked out the internet and saw that denim napkins are everywhere.  Foiled again.  The mailbag…

Q:  I just bought five identical pairs of jeans off eBay because I can’t find them in stores and they are the only ones that fit.  Now I am bombarded by emails from the sellers wanting me to give them positive feedback and I don’t want to.  I just want to buy them and be done.  Is positive feedback on eBay important?  Taylor Denim, Richmond, VA.

A:  I feel for people who can’t just go out and buy a pair of pants.  Feels like something you should be able to do IN AMERICA.  But, not everyone fits in that size window or sometimes the pants are just not CUT RIGHT.  Sometimes I try on a pair of flat-front pants and they fit around my waist, the length is fine, but the pockets are stretched and taxed to the point of exhaustion.  As in, I couldn’t slide one thin dime into those sumbitches.  It makes me feel like I have a thigh circumference issue and wonder why all the skinny people forced us to get rid of our pleats.  But, anyway, getting back to eBay…the feedback is very important to the people who use eBay.  Is it important to you?  Is it important in the grand scheme of things?  Absolutely not.  The positive feedback is how sellers distinguish themselves.  Are you a POWER SELLER?  Or are you  just some clown that pulled a pair of pants out of their closet and threw them up for auction?  I think some people still fear eBay.  What if they don’t send my stuff?  So, those hundreds, or thousands of positive comments are reassuring to the novice buyer.  Did you check out the feedback before you bought?  If you did, you may be obligated to perpetuate the chain.  If you went in with blind faith, then you can probably go ahead and the stiff the guy.

Q:  Now that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour de France titles and had his name removed a building at Nike, etc…what do you think will be his lasting legacy?  Greg T. World, Paris, France.

A:  Nike is having a hell of a time keeping people’s names on their buildings.  Maybe it’s just time to start lettering or numbering them?  The Michael Jordan Center for Shoelace Development….how about Building K?  Safer.  The Tour de France is the most fraudulent sporting event in the world.  I didn’t even check to see what happened, did they award the titles retroactively to the guy who finished 2nd?  Because there’s probably a pretty good shot that guy was pumping himself full of super blood as well.  Are they acting like they never happened?  Can we all just agree that Lance was the best of the doped cyclists during that era?  I think it’s the cover up and all the lies that really haunt Lance at this point.  The athletes who have done the best with steroid fallout are the ones who admitted it right away.  But Lance probably thought his image was too crucial to his Livestrong brand and fund-raising efforts to come clean.  He pulled a bit of a Pete Rose.  What you can’t deny is all the money and awareness Armstrong helped raise regarding cancer research.  Those Livestrong bracelets were a pretty revolutionary idea.  You could argue that the NFL’s pink cleats and MLB’s pink bats have roots in Armstrong’s bracelets.  In the end, he’s kind of like a benevolent gangster.  The guy who runs an organized crime syndicate, but is throwing turkeys out of the back of a truck at Thanksgiving.  The cancer fundraising should be more important than anything else, but Lance’s image will never be fully restored.  The Livestrong brand will probably continue on, he’ll just be scrubbed from the records and eventually forgotten.  

Q:  How do you get out of a writerish funk? Like, say you used to bang out 10 pages in 10 minutes and now (like Q), you get to paragraph 3 and you’re like…I have no direction where this is going? It’s all of a sudden. Like a virus. Advice. Maybe it’s the topic. It’s not the caffeine. That variable is constant.  Bea Lankscreen, Ludwigs Corner, PA.

A:  Well, I never banged out ten pages in ten minutes.  In the best of grooves, we’re probably talking about a few thousand words a day when it comes to non-blog writing.  I’ve never had too much trouble coming up with blog content.  It did get a bit harder after the first couple of years, but what helps about the blog is that you start and finish a post at the same time.  That end is always in sight.  This will be my 1,855th post (according to the stats, I don’t count).  At a conservative estimate of about 600 words a post, that’s well over a million words.  The point is, if I set out to write a million words, I’d never get there.  When I get into a funk with writing it’s usually because I can’t see the finish line.  Why write a few pages when there are a couple hundred that have to follow?   I think the best way to persevere is to set aside a lot of time.  If I have a full day to write something, or to hit a goal, it’s a lot easier because I know I can waste some time, I can stare at the blank screen for a while.  If I only have two hours, as soon as I don’t jump right in it, the time pressure starts and I think…now I’ve only got an hour-45.  I think the bottom line is, it’s very hard to be a part-time writer.  In any capacity.  And if you aren’t a full-time writer you’ve got to be easier on yourself during periods of “block.”  

 

Q:  Do you think women who run on the streets are ever flattered by catcalls or is it always a nightmare of an experience?  Do you think they spend their whole run hoping not to hear a car horn or some meat head hollerin’?  Wandy “Eyes” Rodriguez, Houston, TX.

A:  Well, I can say with some conviction that men often intend their actions to be flattering, but some things get lost in translation.  You know all those rules you hear about not hitting on a girl at the gym?  I’m pretty sure that yelling out your car window takes all the worst parts of that and MAGNIFIES them.  If the roles were reversed, the guy would be totally flattered.  He might even blush.  His stride would pick up, he’d CRUSH his personal best 5K time.  It’d be all positive.  But I bet half the time a woman is thinking, my god, I hope this neanderthal doesn’t stop and get out of the car.  Guys will never be able to stop doing this though, so I think if you do it, you have to be as harmless as possible.  Bring some humor to the situation.  Or reveal your intentions to be playful and nothing else.  Nothing says casual like the old car horn “double-tap.”  That should be OK, right?  RIGHT?  Or possibly yelling, “HEYYYYY,” out the window?  Pushing it.  Just try not to be like, “Hey (expletive), nice (expletive).”

Q: There are numerous ways to shoot a certain score on a golf course.  Could you go through some of the ways you could shoot, oh I don’t know, 82 and rank which one might be better than the other? Vanity Handicap, New Haven, CT.

A:  There are dozens of ways to shoot 82.  That could be an entire blog, not just an entire post.  I’ll do five real quick, in increasing order of satisfaction:

5. The 2 Greens in Regulation, 28 putt, 82.  Nothing is worse.  Why?  Because you obviously hit the ball like BUTT.  That impresses no one in your group and they also are bitter because you got up and down all day and probably made some crucial putts.  Also, no one wants this guy as their partner–even though they should.  

4.  The Didn’t Shoot 82, “82.”  I feel like 82 is a real popular score to throw out there when you are lying about your score.  This is something a real good player might do.  Oh, god, I played terrible.  What did I shoot?  I don’t even know–82?  Felt like a billion.  

3.  The Miracle Reversal, 45-37, or 46-36, “82.”  The opposite of this is probably one of the worst things that can happen.  I was once 1-under par through 11 holes at Galloway from the tips and anyone who knows me and has played that course knows it was the finest stretch of 11 holes of MY LIFE.  I don’t know for sure if I broke 80.  I think I did, but I totally derailed.  Might have been an “82.”  When you go the other way you feel pretty good.  Hey, I didn’t waste the entire day.  Maybe I shouldn’t QUIT FOR LIFE.  

2.  The 10 fairway, 12 green, 38-putt 82.  This is in many ways frustrating.  You hit the ball really well.  Your score, though?  Bleh.  That’s because putting is stupid and you are horrible at it.  Why is this the same sport?  I DON’T KNOW.  Anyway, at least you are hitting it good.  It could be a lot worse.  

1.  The played a real golf course, careered it for 82.  Unless you are a real fancy gentlemen, you probably spend the majority of your time playing average golf courses.  Maybe you turn yourself into a decent player, but it’s hard to say, because you never really get tested.  Then you get invited to Merion, or your new girlfriend says something like, “My dad’s a member at Winged Foot, ever hear of it?”  At this point, you overcome the nerves, the greens, the dipsh*t caddy you can’t get comfortable with and scrape out a real, live 82.  Great score. 

Q:  Do you think it’s ever OK to abduct a pet?  I have a friend with an elaborate plan to kidnap a dog.  It involves a van, a fake sweepstakes check and various other diversions.  They claim that once the dog goes missing and the people make no effort to find it, we will be vindicated.  I’m kind of stuck on the whole illegality issue.  The dog doesn’t look sick, or mistreated necessarily, it just spends 24/7 in this tiny yard.  Patty Larceny, Jupiter, FL.

A:  That’s a tough one.  I don’t think you can steal the dog.  Or, abet in the dog thieving.  I’d really like to see this plan play out, though, possibly in some type of viral video.  Are you the fake check man?  That’s a big responsibility.  If the dog wasn’t healthy, or was being mistreated in some way then I think you have some room to work there.  Perhaps not a straight abduction, but you can report such behavior to certain authorities or organizations.  I get that some people think they are the best kind of pet owners and everyone should own a pet the exact same way that they own it.  Doesn’t always work out that way.  Does the dog get returned if they do look for it, by the way?  Or is that an empty promise?  Has your friend already named the dog?  So much is troubling me about this question.  For now I’m sticking with: Don’t rent that van.  

Q:  I’ve always heard people talk, sharps if you will, about not betting on bad Quarterbacks.  What do you do then when Josh Freeman plays Christian Ponder–like tonight?  Am I to believe that no sharp is betting this game?  Kenny Parlay, Nashville, TN.

A:  Oh, I think the game will get plenty of action.  It’s the only NFL option mid-week.  That’s huge.  I think all gambling rules are to be looked at as general guidelines and not hard & fast.  Minnesota was a decent bet last week with a terrible QB who played a terrible game.  I don’t think any sharp acts on one bit of information (assuming the game isn’t fixed).  It’s all cumulative.  You just feed it into the machine and see what comes out.  Speaking of which…

Big Dub, Record:  18-15-2

Tampa Bay (+6.5) @ Minnesota: The Vikings are seen as a good team and I don’t fully understand it. They beat Jacksonville, Detroit, Tennessee, and Arizona. Ugh. Yes, they beat San Fran, but that was catching the 49ers in a bad spot. And who honestly trusts Christian Ponder? It’s Thursday Night, which means a stinkfest. Take the points.

Why Not? A World Series Prediction.

Morris or Verlander in Game 1?

I was going to write up a little MLB playoff preview a few weeks back.  I never got around to it.  Someone asked me for a World Series prediction and I said Reds/Tigers, but that was as close as I got to making a post.  I probably should keep the “no baseball,” streak going, but in the end it is the World Series.  A fairly significant sporting event the last time I checked. 

How the Tigers Got Here:  On the arm of Justin Verlander for the most part.  Detroit’s 88-74 record isn’t too inspiring, but after Texas imploded down the stretch the AL became wide-open.  One of the stories of this post-season has been cold bats.  None were colder than NY’s as Detroit cruised through the ALCS.  Detroit has gotten the best mix of offense and pitching to this point and the biggest stumbling block might be their long layoff.  

How the Giants Got Here:  I’m not sure, exactly.  The Reds lost their ace, the Braves lost the play-in game and the Cardinals blew a 3-1 lead.  Other than that, the Giants have been incredible.  Despite a hit-or-miss offense the Giants have survived without much contribution from Tim Lincecum.  The unsung duo of Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong has been huge.  This isn’t quite like the team that won the 2010 World Series, but SF still relies on a stout bullpen and big home field advantage.  

The Melky Factor:  Melky Cabrera helped carry the Giants offense for a good portion of the season before his PED suspension.  He’s served that time, but the Giants have chosen to keep Cabrera off the World Series roster.  Hard to argue that he isn’t one of the best 25 guys on this team.   Is this a nod to the integrity of the game?  Is it fair to the rest of the players on the Giants to leave Cabrera at home?  

Most Important Tiger:  Justin Verlander.  The Tigers have their rotation set, which means Verlander will start at least two of the first five games.  If he can continue his dominant run through the post-season it’ll be difficult for the Giants to prevail.  Remember two years ago, it was then Rangers’ ace, Cliff Lee, who couldn’t hold down the Giants offense on route to a disappointing series.  Hard to see Verlander having that type of meltdown and with SF’s starting pitching not quite in 2010 form, he’s one of Detroit’s biggest advantages.  

Most Important Giant:  Madison Bumgarner.  I’ve lost faith in “Big-Time Timmy Jam” Lincecum.  The Giants are going to need someone to give them a solid outing before they get back around to Matt Cain.  Going on talent, Bumgarner would be the best candidate, but he’s been mostly lost since late-August.  Can the Giants really expect Zito and Vogelsong to hold up against this AL lineup?  At some point I think Bumgarner gets some important innings in this series, whether it’s a start or out of the ‘pen.  Could swing the momentum.  

What Vegas Says:  Verlander is (-170) tonight against Barry Zito, which is a pretty significant line for a World Series game.  Despite that, Detroit is only (-175) for the series.  True favorites, but certainly not overwhelming.  Odd that Detroit will be significant favorites in two of the first 5 games, but the series price stays in check.  The Giants do have home field, and the underdog NL team has been the spot to be in recently.  

Final Prediction:  Tigers in 6 Games.  The Tigers have the best pitcher and the best hitter.  That’s always a good place to start.  What concerns me a bit is Detroit’s bullpen.  The Giants are loaded with intangibles.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull out a game or two in the late innings.  Bottom line, I think they split the first four games, Verlander turns the momentum in game five and then it’s over.  Like I was going to pick the Giants.  

 

Tuesday Morning Self-Esteem Check.

Backdoor Cover?

That was one of the worst backdoor covers I’ve ever seen.  These Monday night games–good lord.  The Lions were so thoroughly dominated, but the Bears cussed around and blew the cover.  It makes me want to yell and scream, but I guess I’ll just get over it, live to pick another day.  There really is a solid, one, two hundred more words of rant left inside me, but how about a topic change?  What happened to the era of the dominant QB?

As hideous as the NFL product can be at times, and really, thank god for fantasy and gambling–there does appear to be a definitive hierarchy forming in the NFL.  The power is shifted toward the NFC.  Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Chicago look a step above the rest.  In the AFC, it looks right now that Houston has a cake walk to the Super Bowl.  The Ravens?  Laughable.  So, if these are the best teams, the question is:  Where is Brady?  Brees?  Peyton?  Rodgers?  Big Ben? As recently as last season you thought you needed an elite QB to make a playoff run.  A stout defense was cute, but you’d eventually get picked apart.  

Not the case so far this season.  Sure, Eli is still there and Matt Ryan could be taking a big step this year, but the rest of the QBs atop the league are a mixed bag.  Alex Smith, Cutler-Face, Matt Schaub.  Talented for sure, but 2nd tier.  The teams at the top aren’t relying on QB play, for the most part they are shutting teams down.  The Bears put on a defensive clinic Monday night and they are absolutely the last team I’d want to play in the post-season.  Can the golden arm boys make some headway in the 2nd half?  We’ll see.  

NFL Pick ‘Em Standings:

  1. Grossy, 19-14-2
  2. JCK, 19-15-1
  3. Nichols, 19-16
  4. Big Dub, 18-15-2
  5. Kraft, 18-16-1
  6. DC, 17-18

As you can see, on the whole, we’re doing all right.  Pretty average stuff.  At this point last year the standings were fairly similar, though the leader, JCK was 10 games over .500 and had a nice lead.  Things got progressively more difficult, which I can’t even imagine considering some of the games I’ve already lost this year.  

The “Comfort In Numbers,” Pick of the Week:  Multiple Pickers (NYJ +10.5)

I don’t see a singular, stand-out pick this week.  Correct me if I’m wrong.  And, I don’t see any real penetrating analysis.  I think it was a tough lineup this week so there was a lot of, “just because,” or “I hope and wish.”  Not that there is anything wrong with that type of analysis, but no one was out on a limb.  Nichols did have the Lions, but I don’t care what you say, that was an awful pick.  So, why the Jets?  Well, I think conventional wisdom would be to think the Pats were going to come out on fire as revenge for what happened in Seattle last week.  “I wouldn’t want to be the Jets this week.”–2008.  But, this version of the Pats seems to play worse in the 4th quarter.  They show flashes, but give up too much through the air to cover big spreads.  A nod to everyone who recognized that.

The “LaRussa Would Have Made More Pitching Changes,” Awful Pick of the Week:  (Cleveland +2.5)

I imagine there is some type of rule about taking the Browns on the road?  Or taking the Browns?  Or picking a game in either direction involving the Browns?  Again, I don’t see a real stand-out piece of idiocy here.  Let’s try to distinguish ourselves a little better next week, gentlemen.  I wanted to highlight Oakland/Jacksonville, but what’s my argument going to be?  How can you not take Jacksonville?  It’d be halfhearted at best.  Too many horrible teams in this league, too many teams on bye this week.  

The Arbitrary, Yet Definitive Top-10

1.  Atlanta, 6-0.  Eagles should provide necessary springboard into the 2nd half this Sunday.

2.  Chicago, 5-1.  Suffocating defense, if healthy could steamroll the NFC.

3.  New York Giants, 5-2.  I imagine right where they want to be.  

4.  Houston, 6-1.  The AFC is so incredibly bad that Houston is the Vegas favorite to win the Super Bowl.  Think about that.

5.  San Francisco, 5-2.  Probably better than Houston, but trying for some AFC/NFC balance.

6.  Minnesota, 5-2.  If they can win with Ponder playing like that?  Why not #6?

7.  Baltimore, 5-2.  Still falling.  Cripled with injuries and Flacco was scary bad against Houston.  

8.  Green Bay, 4-3.  Two game winning streak?  Welcome to the top-10.  

9.  New England, 4-3.  AFC Nostalgia Division Part I.

10. Pittsburgh, 3-3.  AFC Nostalgia Division Part II.

3-PT D.A. of the Week:  Christian Ponder.

Check out the D.A. Tab at the top of the page for a rundown of Ponder’s week and a photo of his newsy significant other.  We’ve got cumulative totals as well, see how poorly you stand in the tie-breaker race.  You’re probably slightly better off than this guy.  

 

Jennifer Lawrence Takes Aim at NFL Winners

Always Bet on Katniss.

Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers were responsible for one of the great emotional swings in gambling history last night.  The Niners appeared to be on their way to a deliberate, if ugly, cover but then Alex Smith threw an interception near the goal line and the clock just melted away.  On what appeared to be Seattle’s last gasp, Russell Wilson came up inches short on a fourth down pass and the Niners would win by seven points.  But, there was a flag!  A penalty resulting in a safety.  Niners by nine!  That would have covered any line out there, but Harbaugh declined the penalty, took a knee and made or ruined a million nights.  Could you be faulted if you had either side?  More importantly, can you handle the swings, come back with a clear head for Sunday?

DC, Record: 14-16

Green Bay (-5.5) over St. Louis.  Somehow this line feels like a trap to me, but let me put it this way: how am I supposed to take St. Louis in the face of what Aaron Rodgers did last week?  Lawrence Phillips could walk through that door right now, but it wouldn’t make any difference because he’d be wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles.

Carolina (+2.5) over Dallas.  Carolina is coming off a bye week, and Dallas is still bickering with each other about things like getting back to the line of the scrimmage when the game’s on the line.  Dallas has more talent but my hunch is that it’s going to take them a few more weeks of coaching-change gossip to figure out what’s wrong with them.  Meanwhile Carolina is bound to see some marginal improvement over the next few weeks.  I’ll take the home team and points.

Chicago (-6.5) over Detroit.  Detroit must be getting a few extra but undeserved points for beating the Eagles. Zachery Ty Bryan’s favorite team has a worse point differential on the year than the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Chicago runs away with this one.

Minnesota (-6.5) over Arizona.  It’s a big line but I think Arizona is really taking a step back at the moment, and they are one bad hit away from Ryan Lindley stepping in at the helm.  I think Minnesota will also regress a little bit from their current trajectory, but I like them at home here.

Houston (-6.5) over Baltimore.  Again, a big line, but I think we’re being tempted to remember Houston’s stinkbomb last week and overlook the facts that the Ravens are playing without Ray Lewis, are probably looking forward to the bye week, and are playing over their heads anyway at 5-1.  Houston 34, Baltimore 23.

***

Kraft, Record: 15-14-1

This is going to be a tough week, to steal an analogy I feel like I’m the baby who is victimized by the creepy guy (Vegas)…my best shot:

 Houston (-6.5) over Baltimore.  No Ray Ray, Ngata with a torn ACL…John Harbaugh will play the “no one believes in us,” card, but no one does believe in a Ravens squad with a decimated defense and an offense that struggles on the road.  Houston had their pants pulled down in prime time last week.  They bounce back.

New England (-10.5) over NY Jets.  There were murmurs of Tebow at RB.  I never thought I’d feel sympathy for the Jets Fireman in the stands…I stand corrected.  You had a good run, made a valiant effort, you will be hated in the long term, but just get it over with.  Buy a Giants jersey and become a Giants fan.

Carolina (+2.5) over Dallas.  The drumbeat for Jason Garrett’s job begins…

Washington (+6.5) over NY Giants.  Giants are .500 at home.  They’re inconsistent.  RG3 is apparently the best QB of all-time.  All I know is that when you are getting more than a FG and have a god at QB, you go with it.

Green Bay (-5.5) over St. Louis.  The Pack is back…

***

Big Dub, Record: 17-12-2

Carolina (+2.5) over Dallas.  Good teams bounce back from that debacle in Baltimore.  Dallas isn’t good.

Washington (+6.5) over New York Giants.  During the regular season the Giants are never as bad as we think, and they’re never as good as we think.

Oakland (-4) over Jacksonville.  The Jaguars blow.  Somehow they take it to additional depths of suckiness on the road.

Chicago (-6.5) over Detroit.  The Lions looked good for one quarter against a bad team.  This is the week they look bad for four quarters against a good team.

***

Grossy, Record:  16-12-2

*Brutal slate this week.  I don’t have proof of this, but I’ve definitely had a sense of how I was going to do each week this year.  I felt that 1-4 coming a few weeks back is what I’m trying to say.  I don’t know if that means I’m getting better at this, or if I’ve just become familiar with my own idiocy.

Washington (+6.5) over New York.  I’m not sure the Giants care all that much about the regular season.  Last week, statement game–OK.  But, week to week is there some boredom?  It has to be something, because they can look average at home, you know they’re going to lose five or six games this year–is this a week they drop one?  I’m not calling outright, but a division game and RG3’s ability to avoid the pass rush should keep this one close.

New York Jets (+10.5) over New England.  I’m just going to blindly take some dogs.  They’re 24 games over .500 this year, and this seems like a case where a lesser team might cover.  The Pats have lacked that finishing touch a bit this year.  The Jets are terrible, but if the Pats can blow a 10-point lead in Seattle–maybe the Jets can backdoor?

Cleveland (+2.5) over Indianapolis.  The Browns are 1-5, but they’ve been in most games.  Their point differential is only (-29), which in relative terms isn’t that bad.  I’m ball-parking the Titans at (-136).  You could even make the argument they are getting better.  The Colts had a huge effort two weeks ago, but it’s back to the slog of being a very, very mediocre team.  I’d make a Bernie Kosar joke, but he’s actually too young to play QB for the Browns.  Take the points.

Pittsburgh (-1.5) over Cincinnati.  This game looks way too easy.  But into this pick I stroll, like a child wandering into a theater.  I think the Steelers are getting healthier, despite Big Ben’s little ding and the Bengals just give up way too many points.  To everyone.  I’m even thinking of putting that stiff Antonio Brown back into my fantasy lineup.  Whenever you’re ready, Antonio.

Chicago (-6.5) over Detroit.  Chicago should be ready to go after a bye.  Big divisional game for them, and Detroit on the road for a 2nd straight week after an comeback win.  The emotion meter just doesn’t line up.  The Bears defense will do what the Eagles failed to do last week and the offense will probably do something crazy like give Matt Forte the ball.  Pure offensive innovation.

***

Nichols, Record:  15-15

  1. Indianapolis (-2.5) over Cleveland
  2. Green Bay (-5.5) over St. Louis
  3. New York Jets (+10.5) over New England
  4. Oakland (-4) over Jacksonville
  5. Detroit (+6.5) over Chicago

***

JCK, Record: 15-14-1

  1. Indianapolis (-2.5) over Cleveland
  2. New England (-10.5) over New York Jets
  3. New Orleans (-2.5) over Tampa Bay
  4. Dallas (-2.5) over Carolina
  5. Green Bay (-5.5) over St. Louis

Mid-Week Mailbag.

Ubiquitous.

I thought about running a sweet slideshow of fall foliage today instead of the mailbag, but I couldn’t put my finger on the right background music.  So, mailbag it is–envelope yourself.  

Q:  What do you think is the most realistic Rocky movie? You have to keep them in context.  Like if you say Rocky III, you have to take into account what happened in the first two movies.  Spider Rico, Philadelphia, PA.  

A:  Believe it or not, I think this is a pretty easy question.  As long as Rocky V counts, that’s the answer.  A heavyweight champion blows all his money?  Sounds pretty standard.  The mentoring of “Tommy Gunn,” is a bit far-fetched, but not by Rocky standards.  But, like a lot of people out there, when I think of the Rocky movies, I’m thinking of the 1st four.  These are the iconic installments of the franchise.  The least realistic Rocky movie is Rocky IV.  It’s an incredible film, but everything from Rock’s Siberian training regimen to Uncle Paulie’s robot girlfriend is almost laughable when looked at independently.  Really any movie based on the premise that Rocky Balboa is a good boxer, or the heavyweight champion is complete horsebleep.  That’s why the original is the most realistic of the first four.  The movie  may or not be loosely based on a real fighter, Chuck Wepner–The Bayonne Bleeder.  Wepner took Mohammed Ali to 15 rounds in an otherwise average career.  The thought that a champion could get challenged by a guy who he was unprepared for and overlooking is something that’s happened throughout boxing history.  When you get past that, and Rocky starts winning rematches and turns into a long-standing champion, that’s when you cut the ties with reality.  So, to summarize: Rocky loses=realistic.  Rocky wins=UNREALISTIC.  

Q:  Your thoughts on pumpkin flavoring?  Gordie Orange, Boise, ID.

A:  I’m pretty sure during the month of October that pumpkin becomes a synonym for “plain.”  Order a muffin?  PUMPKIN SPICE.  Care for a coffee?  PUMPKIN LATTE.  Cold beer?  PUMPKIN ALE.  We’re awash in orange this time year.  It’s all so festive.  Personally, I cannot stand the flavor of pumpkin.  In my mind, they’re a decorative gourd.  Prop them on a bale of hay, carve a cute little face into them, do what you have to do, but I’m not in a hurry to put pumpkin in my belly.  I dislike the whole Fall beer genre and my stance is that if these beers were so great, wouldn’t they figure out how to make them year round?  And, the same goes for pumpkin.  Wouldn’t they be available all year if there was a REAL demand instead of a novelty demand?  If pumpkin pie is so great, why doesn’t anyone serve it in March?  Pumpkins just put people in a good mood, make them think about a holiday.  A pumpkin?  Is it almost Halloween?  Oh, hell yes, give me that pumpkin muffin.  It’s like candy canes.  There are few less exciting treats, but you see them appear in November and Christmas goes off in your loins.  I’LL TAKE SEVEN BOXES.  

Q:  What was your best Halloween costume ever?  My best was the year I duct-taped a brown throw rug to myself, put in some fake teeth and went as a beaver.  Can you top that?  Hal Oween, Jupiter, FL.

A:  I can’t top that.  I had a pretty short Halloween career.  By the time I was 13 or so, I think I was pretty much done going door to door.  In the years since, I’ve grown quite an aversion to putting on costumes.  I think college was the last straw.  Halloween on a college campus is SERIOUS BUSINESS.  You have to be fully committed.  You need a costume.  You need to be irresponsibly drunk.  You have to love the crush of the crowd.  I could never quite go all-in.  While my friends were putting together elaborate costumes with hopes of luring in the “slutty” (Fill in the Blank), I was being a huge downer.  One year I wrote “GOODYEAR,” on a piece of paper, stuck it on a gray shirt and went as the blimp.  That was my best college costume.  How about I give you my worst/most embarrassing costume?  Sometime around I’m going to guess 1987, my sister and I both went as “punk rockers.”  We had crazy wigs, crazy clothes, and I think fake electric guitars made out of cardboard.  The question is, why?  Did we listen to punk rock?  NO.  Was punk rock over by 1987?  PRETTY MUCH, YEAH.  The reasoning behind these costumes remains a great mystery.  

Q:  I got into a gigantic argument with a friend of mine the other day over the size of pizza slices.  He got angry because there was no consistency to the slice sizes.  I claimed as long as we both got an equal half, who cares?  But he went on and on about the integrity of the slice.  Frankly, it ruined the whole dinner.  

A:  I appreciate a little care in the craftsmanship when it comes to wielding the pizza cutter.  No one is perfect, but no one wants that feeble mini-slice.  Even if you get the giant complimentary slice too, it still feels like you are getting short-changed.   Perhaps there should be a saying in the business that goes, “You’re only as good as your smallest slice.”  A huge, floppy slice has a lot of appeal.  Isn’t this one of the reasons why NY Pizza is so popular.  Yeah, it’s delicious, but they have no restrictions on size.  Giant triangles of loving.  I’m not a huge fan of the tiny slice.   When I was a kid we often went to one pizza place and they had one pizza that was a square and came in 12 pieces.  After a long hiatus I went back to this location and got the same pie.  It was still square.  It still tasted exactly the same, but it was cut into 16 pieces.  I opened the box and it was obvious something wasn’t right.  Then it hit me and I was all, “OH HELL NO.”  It bothered me to the point that the next time I went back to said joint I dropped the, “this is going to sound a little strange, but can you cut that hoss into 12 slices?”  THEY FORGOT.  Slicer’s rhythm, I guess.  So, now I’m stuck with this pizza that just isn’t quite right.  Troubling.

Q:  I’d like to create the female equivalent of the sports bar.  Not that women don’t enjoy sports, but the sports bar caters to male clientele.  I’m thinking of a place like Hooters, or the recent addition to the rockin’ King of Prussia scene, “The Tilted Kilt.”  My question is, say you opened up a bar that had a bunch of “cozy and fun,” seating areas, big screen TVs that showed Real Housewives, or Nashville, or whatever and threw in a bunch of good-looking guys serving everything in martini glasses.  Would this be the most profitable bar ever, or go out of business in seconds?  Kosmo Politan, Oaks, PA.

A:  Great idea–on paper.  If there can be sports bars, why can’t there be Bravo Reality TV bars?  Can women sustain such an establishment?  Are there enough women out there who are this interested in drinking during the week?  I think there are.  Plenty of classy ladies out there like to get their DRANK on.  But, I see two problems.  For the 1st problem please allow me to stereotype.  Aren’t these shows a bit of guilty pleasure?  And, if that’s the case aren’t they more pajama on the couch shows?  I’m not sure women want to PUT THEIR FACE ON and go out for something like this.  The thing about most guys is that they’ll throw on a pair of swishy pants and a jersey and hit a sports bar with NO QUALMS.  The bartender will still TOTALLY be into them.  I’m not sure women are so breezy.  I don’t know that they could get comfortable, relax, and get into their housewives.  The other problem and another reason they wouldn’t be comfortable?  The bar would immediately be overrun with shady creepers.  Guys would flood into this place.  They’d ruin it.  Almost immediately, I’d imagine.  So, cancel your plans to open Ally McBeal’s.  

Q:  Have you ever pretended that you were in the mafia and you had to “off,” someone?  Assuming you have, did you think about how you’d pull it off without getting caught?  Rando Soprano, NE Media, PA.

A:  I’ve definitely thought about being in the mafia.  And I’ve thought about needing to get away with a crime, but I’m not sure I’ve ever gone to mafia hitman mode.  Maybe some people in our audience can help you with the best ways to dispose of a body.  On Breaking Bad they use some type of acid or corrosive material.  In Snatch, they used feral pigs.  In Goodfellas–the Pine Barrens.  That DID NOT work, by the way.  I don’t think I’ve got any great insight for you, but I can say if you are looking to get away with any type of crime the best way is to have no motive and no witnesses.  If the proper authorities can’t figure out why you’d do it, then it’s hard to make you a suspect.  What I can’t understand about people who participate in criminal activities is how they live with the fear of getting caught?  If I was a bookie for example, every time someone knocked on my door, or every time a car followed me for more than 2 seconds I would be PARANOID AS HELL.  Every time I got a new punter on my book, I’d think, was that an undercover detective?  He looked a lot like Joe Pistone.  I guess that is what separates the true criminals from civilians like me.  They just don’t care.  I suggesting forwarding this question to a prison of some sort.  

Q:  How angry will you be if the Seahawks beat the 49ers tonight?  And, if they do, will you come around on Russell Wilson?  Carol Peterson, Seattle, WA

A:  We’ll get to the picks in a bit, and I don’t want to put a curse on anyone, but Seattle is in a real tough spot here.  That’s about all you can say.  Will I come around on Russel Wilson?  Spoiler alert: I’m never going to come around on Russell Wilson.  There’s a bit of the Rory McIlroy phenomenon going on here.  But, I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about Wilson achieving that kind of success.  He’s too limited.  He’ll have some moments, but the guy has thrown for 1,100 yards in 6 games.  To quote Kraft, when talking about my High School’s point guard, “He’s legally a dwarf.”  So, let’s just see what happens.  We don’t have to go all Sportsguy here, who already crowned Wilson and Seattle, backed off completely after one game and then jumped back on the wagon all in the span of six weeks.  Will there be more or less Wilson momentum this week?  We’ll see.  A pick…

Big Dub, Record: 17-12-1

San Francisco (-7) over Seattle: Let me get this straight. Last week San Fran was laying 6.5 to the defending Super Bowl champions and now they only have to add half a point against Seattle? Don’t get hung up on the previous week’s results. Russell Wilson had a short week to prepare for this defense. I’m assuming he’s gonna look a lot like Sanchez and Fitzpatrick in their matchups with the 49ers.