Archive for November, 2004

Week Twelve Picks

November 24th, 2004 Comments off

Fans on the field. Yup. That’s the big, new experiment in the NFL. Starting this week in Minnesota, the league is allowing seating on the sidelines (limited, and far from the benches) at four games to see how it works. Wanna see how it works, fellas? Get tape of the Pacers-Pistons game from last Friday night. That’s how it works.

Lots of good teams playing bad teams this week, which makes the straight up picking pretty simple for the most part. Expect a couple of minor upsets, but that’s about it. Don’t take my advice on anything. And have a lovely Thanksgiving.

Indianapolis (-8) at Detroit
What’s more surprising, the fact that Lions’ quarterback Joey Harrington still has a job, or the fact that the Colts suddenly have a defense? I’m gonna go with option A. I mean, you had to know a Tony Dungy team was gonna find a way to play D eventually. The Colts remain a mostly offensive team, but they’ve got a league-leading giveaway-takeaway ratio of +12, and in their last two games they’ve sacked the living shit out of Houston quarterback David Carr and Chicago’s Craig Krenzel (who, OK, is a rookie). So what do you figure happens when the Colts go up against a Detroit team with a struggling offense (they’ve been outscored three touchdowns to one by kick returner Eddie Drummond in their last two games) led by a quarterback who’s pretty much been told his time is up? I’m guessing another one of those endlessly exciting, lopsided Thanksgiving affairs. Take Indy and give the points. And if you’re into that kind of thing and can find one, consider a prop bet on Mike McMahon taking over at QB for the Lions by about midway through the third. It’s gonna be ugly with a capital UGLY.

Chicago (+3) at Dallas
Is quarterback Drew Henson the answer to the Cowboys’ problems? In the long term, perhaps. This week, probably not. Is quarterback Craig Krenzel the source of Chicago’s problems? Over the long term, probably. This week, not so much. Yeah, Krenzel’s got a bad habit of turning the ball over and taking sacks, but the Cowboys’ defense isn’t exactly the type that forces a lot of mistakes. I think the difference in this game will come down to coaching. Chicago’s Lovie Smith is on his way up, while Dallas’ Bill Parcells is finally on his way down. I like the Bears to pull off this year’s thanksgiving upset.

Cleveland (+6) at Cincinnati
So Browns president John Collins says coach Butch Davis will keep his job through the end of the season, which pretty much amounts to saying he won’t keep it any longer than that. And that’s about the only good news Davis is likely to get this week. It looks like he’s gonna start rookie QB Luke McCown in place of injured Jeff Garcia, because Kelly Holcomb was so utterly awful in relief last week. And that means he’ll need his running back corps to have a big day against a Bengals team that, while inconsistent, has played tough against better teams than the Browns. I’d stay away from tying up real money on this one. Go ahead and take the Bengals straight up, and if you pick against the spread in a pool, look for the Browns to keep it to more like four.

Jacksonville(+6) at Minnesota
The Vikes snapped their three-game losing streak last week. I see no reason to believe they won’t have a two-game winning streak going before this day is out. Take Minnesota and give the points.

Philadelphia (-7) at NY Giants
It’s true, Eli Manning did look very good even in defeat last week. Most notable, I think, is the fact that Manning, who was up against the blitz-happy Falcons, was sacked only once, whereas Kurt Warner had been sacked 40 times in the preceding nine games. Guess Eli really does get rid of the ball a lot faster than Kurt. And Eli will probably have the Giants back in contention for a wildcard berth before this season’s out. But this week belongs to the Eagles, who can become the first team in the league to clinch a division title and a playoff berth with a win here (illustrating the incredible gap between the good and the bad in the NFC). Take Philly and give the points.

San Diego (+3) at Kansas City
How the fuck are the Chargers, who are in contention for the AFC West crown, three-point underdogs in this matchup with the Priest Holmes-less Chiefs. Yeah, the Chiefs are at home and all, but they were at home on Monday night and it didn’t help one bit. This is the bargain of the week. Take the Chargers and those points all the way to the bank.

Tampa Bay (-2.5) at Carolina
Brian Griese continues his campaign to save his career and Tampa Bay’s season all at once (he’ll succeed at the former, fall just short of the latter). Michael Pittman has a big day on the ground and in the air. And the Bucs take it by two touchdowns.

Tennessee (-1) at Houston
Is it just me, or did the Texans look like they simply couldn’t be bothered to try to hold on and win Sunday night? I mean, I know they were playing a Packers team that has come on like nobody’s business, but come on. As the song says, you’ve gotta have heart. They have none. The Titans, on the other hand, have miles and miles and miles of it in spite of the fact that they’re season is effectively sunkified. And that’s why Tennessee wins.

Washington (+10.5) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers and their fans appear to be getting a bit full of themselves. Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger showed up as a guest on David Letterman this week. And there’s a new version of the Steelers fight song that promises a Super Bowl victory (there was one of those in 1995, too; the Steelers didn’t win). That’s all very nice, but none of it has anything to do with football. And the Steelers are starting to pile up some injuries. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress, linebacker Kendrell Bell and defensive lineman Brett Keisel are the latest additions to the injury list. None will play this week, and Bell may be lost for some time. That all may add up to trouble over the long haul. (Especially when you consider that it’s the D and the running backs, not Roethlisberger, that have been winning games.) This week, though, not so much. Washington’s defensive weaknesses have been revealed; and its offensive weaknesses have been obvious for some time. The Steelers win and probably cover.

New Orleans (+9.5) at Atlanta
Jim Haslett’s days as head coach of the Saints appear to be numbered. Team owner Tom Benson compared his squad, with its worst-in-the league defense, to a high school team after last week’s 34-13 loss to Denver. And that was at home. What happens when the Saints travel to Atlanta? The Falcons improve to 9-2. That’s what. But Atlanta probably wins by more like a touchdown than two scores.

Baltimore (+7) at New England
I can’t say as I see how the Pats should be favored by a touchdown in this game. Yeah, Jamal Lewis is out, and Chester Taylor never impressed anyone during Lewis’ brief suspension last month. Plus Kyle Boller isn’t the kind of quarterback who’s gonna beat good teams. So you’ve gotta like the Patriots to win it. Trouble is, the Ravens do have a great D, which is a big part of the reason they’re 7-3 this season and a bigger part, still, of the reason they’ve been winning 70 percent of the games they play in November and December the past few years. (Of course, the Pats are perfect in November and December in the last two seasons, so there’s that.) I like the Pats to win what should be their last tough match until they get to the Meadowlands Dec. 26, but I think they’ll do it by something more like a field goal.

Buffalo (+5) at Seattle
If the Seahawks, who will be without wide receiver Koren Robinson, doesn’t play a shitload better this week than they did last, they’re gonna get a very nasty surprise. But since the Seahawks play poorly one week, well the next, they’re due for a good game. And they’re at home. I expect them to edge the Bills by three.

Miami (pick ’em) at San Francisco
This week’s battle for the bottom of the standings. San Fran is at home. Jay Fiedler is gone for the season. And Jay Feeley leads the league in touchdown passes thrown to opposing DBs. San Fran by six.

NY Jets (-3) at Arizona
I so want to believe the people who keep telling me the Cardinals can pull off the upset here. And a week ago, I would have believed it. But the Jets managed a tough win last week, and Dennis Green showed poor judgement (for maybe the first time in his head coaching career) by benching his quarterback just as his team was heating up. so I’ve gotta take the Jets to pull it off, with Curtis Martin leading the way. But I’ll be rooting the other way (except for Curtis, who I’d like to see have a big day — he’s on my league-leading fantasy team).

Oakland (+11) at Denver
I can’t even think about this game. Fuckin’ Kerry Collins can kiss my ass. And note to Al: If you’re even thinking about giving up anything to get your hands on Ricky Williams, stop. He’s talented, yes, but he’s a great big sack of bad news that even you can’t rehabilitate. Remember Todd Marinovich and stay away. Note to everyone else: Take Denver and give the points (man, does it hurt to say that).

St. Louis (+6) at Green Bay
I’m glad this game is happening on Monday night. I so enjoy watching Brett Favre play football. And I so enjoy watching the Rams lose. It’s a happy, happy twofer. Green Bay by at least a touchdown.

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The Idiocy Goes On

November 19th, 2004 Comments off

OK, so USA Today columnist Jon Saraceno isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of an intellectual heavyweight, but this piece on the Monday Night Football sexy intro dustup has to be one of the three of four stupidest things I’ve read this year. I mean, come on, Jon. You’ve got to be kidding, right?

Let’s start with the racism bit. Saraceno agrees with Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s assessment that the intro — in which Desperate Housewives cast member, and former hot babe, Nicolette Sheridan leaps naked into the arms of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens — preys on racial stereotypes. Saraceno writes:

“Black man + white (blond) woman =

“Sexual conquest? Ultimate revenge? Rape?”

What? Now maybe I live in a different reality than Jon and Tony, but in the piece I saw, Sheridan seduces Owens. She gets him to ditch his team on the night of a big game to have a go with her. So if there’s an element of conquest, who’s the conqueror and who’s the conquered? “Ultimate revenge?” For what? Is Nicolette a Giants fan or something, ’cause, again, she’s the one who did the seducing. “Rape?” Rape? Rape? Where was the rape fantasy there, other than in Jon and Tony’s minds (and maybe the minds of a few thousand redneck morons)?

Fellas, I’m sorry, but you’re dead wrong. I mean, there is certainly some racism at work here, but it doesn’t come by way of an implication that a black man is taking advantage of a white woman, because that wasn’t there. Most of the racism is in the outrage this scene provoked, an outrage based on the very assumptions Saraceno and Dungy are peddling: that a black man and a white woman must always equal something unseemly; that such a combination can never amount to anything as simple as two people hooking up.

In the red states, that plays out as abject terror and hatred, in a belief — even if it’s usually an unstated belief these days — that indeed, the mere presence of a black man in a white woman’s sex life amounts to an intolerable defiling of the “purer” race. (Remember, it has always been permissible for a white man to use a black woman for sex — going right back to slavery — as long as it’s only for sex, but the very idea that a black man might consider having sex with a white woman has been considered abominable and has not infrequently led to the murder of the black man in question.) In Tony Dungy’s mind, it appears — and this is, perhaps, forgivable given the circumstances — the assumption is that if a white-controlled network creates a promo featuring a black man and a white woman, it must necessarily be playing on those very racist fears. That’s a bit of a racist attitude in itself, though, that notion that white people always have the worst in mind when it comes to dealing with black people.

The fact of the matter is that all ABC was attempting to do was to create a titillating promo for one of its shows featuring the single biggest star in that night’s game. If Vinny Testaverde had been the headline-grabber of the moment in the NFL, it would have been into his (uncertain) arms that Nicolette would have jumped, and at least half the national outrage over that moment would never have come to pass.

Now, for Saraceno’s predictable call of “What about the children.”

You can’t really be trying this one here, can you Jon? Didn’t we all go over this after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl thing? In case you missed it, this has been revealed (as if it ever needed revealing — how obvious can something be?) as the biggest bullshit argument in the history of bullshit arguments.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m all for protecting kids from our often sexualized popular culture. I don’t think kids need to be exposed to half of what they’re exposed to on TV (the answer to which, it seems to me, is not to let your kids watch TV, which is bad for them anyhow, not to try to desexualize TV, which isn’t gonna happen — ever). But when it comes to professional football, and MNF, baby, that horse left the barn so long ago it doesn’t even remember where the fucking barn is anymore.

Have you watched much pro football on TV lately, Jon? And if so, have you noticed the ads? The one with the “… and the tweee-innns” song, maybe? Or the one where the guy takes one for the team by hanging out with the boring professional woman so his buddy can dance provocatively with her bimbo pal? Or any of the dozens (scores? hundreds?) of other highly sexual ads that objectify women and portray men, black and white, as drooling, sex-crazed beasts? Have you noticed any of those? If you have, where are your columns decrying their effects on the poor helpless children? Or what about your column on the shots of cheerleaders shaking their asses and tits at the camera that frame every fucking commercial break on MNF? Point me to where you sounded off against those lovely moments out of your great concern for the children.

Of course, those columns don’t exist. Why? Because Jon Saraceno doesn’t give half a shit about what kids are exposed to except when he needs an excuse to jump on the bandwagon of criticism being leveled at a particular easy target.

You’re an intellectual fraud, Jon. Just like 90 percent of the other media types who have taken aim at ABC for that stupid, meaningless little promo this week. It’s just that simple.

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Week Eleven Picks

November 19th, 2004 Comments off

Today I wish I had a kite and the time to fly it. That’s got nothing to do with football. I’m just saying. Seems to me this is pretty much the end of the line for tolerable weather until spring rolls around, and it would be nice to take advantage of it. But I don’t own a kite. And even if I did, I’ve got too much going on to put one up. And that’s how the beautiful days get away from you and you end up the day after Christmas facing down two brutal months to come and holding a great big bag full of regret about the opportunities you passed up. But what the hell are you gonna do?

Wanna know a way to avoid some major regret that doesn’t require buying a kite and ditching work for the rest of the day? Here it is: Don’t take my advice when it comes to picking football. I’ll only break your heart.

Arizona (+2.5) at Carolina
Boy, those Panthers should did have a big day against the 49ers last week, didn’t they? And the Cardinals, they beat up on those big, bad Dolphins. That’s some impressive stuff. Or maybe it isn’t. Probably it isn’t. So, OK, forget last week. Look at the rest of recent history. The Cards have beaten some decent teams — New Orleans, Seattle, the Giants — to climb back into the hunt after starting 0-3. Carolina has beaten exactly one team, San Fran, since topping Kansas City in week two (back when the Chiefs were losing to everyone). Take the Cardinals and the points.

Dallas (+8) at Baltimore
Actual good teams have trouble scoring on Baltimore, which has given up two touchdowns a game on average. Everyone and their brother scores on Dallas, which has given up twice as many points per week as the Ravens. There’s no guess work involved here. Not straight up, anyhow. You take the Ravens. Do you give the eight? Sure. Why not? All the evidence says Baltimore wins by ten or more.

Denver (-4.5) at New Orleans
You know, I have this notion that New Orleans is gonna pull off the upset here. But do not, I repeat do not, bet one single dollar on that outcome based on my advice, ’cause I’m almost certainly wrong. Only, look, Denver has a way of giving up big pass plays, which isn’t good when you’re facing Aaron Brooks at home. And if the Broncos don’t find a way to get after Brooks, he could have a big, big day. The sure path to victory for Denver, though, isn’t to count on the D stopping Brooks; it’s to get out ahead early and keep the Saints’ piss-poor run D (32nd in the league) chasing Reuben Droughns around. I don’t think they’ll do it. I think New Orleans goes ahead early and stays ahead, winning by less than a field goal, but winning just the same.

Detroit (+7.5) at Minnesota
Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss has been practicing, but won’t be playing. That has nothing to do with Nicolette Sheridan or any other over-the-hill starlet sabotaging the Vikes. It has to do with his Minnesota coach Mike Tice knowing he doesn’t need his superstud to beat the Lions. Nate Burleson, Onterrio Smith (and/or Michael Bennett) and Daunte Culpepper are more than enough to get the job done. The Vikes get off the schneid in a big way, winning by two touchdowns.

Indianapolis (-7.5) at Chicago
Well, we know this much: No matter what happens this week, there won’t be any ridiculous whining about running up the score. I mean, one has to assume there won’t be. The Bears are, after all, the same team that put up 73 points (to none) against Washington in the 1940 NFL Championship game. And while there seems to be little that can stop these Colts, 11 touchdowns in a game is probably a bit much to ask in the modern league. Still, take Indy and give the points, because a two- or three-touchdown margin of victory isn’t at all out of the question.

N.Y. Jets (pick ’em) at Cleveland
Herm Edwards won’t make the mistake of chicken-shitting his team out of a chance to win in the final seconds of regulation this week. He won’t have the opportunity. The Browns won’t put up a ton of points against New York’s tough D, but they’ll put up enough to win, and they’ll keep the Jets out of the red zone in the closing minutes of the game.

Pittsburgh (-4) at Cincinnati
The Patriots had to lose sooner or later. The Eagles had to lose sooner or later. And now the Steelers have to lose sooner or later. Frankly, I’m hoping for later (like, say, on Jan. 23 to the Pats), but I’ll take this one, too. Two is the magic number here. That’s two as in Ben Roethlisberger throws two picks and the Bengals win by two points.

San Francisco (+8) at Tampa Bay
What’s the difference between the San Francisco defense starting untested players at cornerback and the New England Patriots defense doing the same? Only everything — from the quality of the teams’ pass rushes to the support on the other side of the ball to the coaching staffs — only probably about three touchdowns. Look for Brian Griese to have a career day (not exactly a tall order, but still) as the Bucs win by a margin of 20 points or more.

St. Louis (-1) at Buffalo
Here’s your bargain pick of the week. The Rams are getting a good bit more credit than they deserve after a home win against an inconsistent Seattle team whose number they clearly have. The Bills’ reputation has taken a bit of a tumble after a loss to a far-superior Patriots team that beats them virtually every time they meet. What you need to know here (other than the fact that the Bills are at home) is that the Rams, who are 0-2 against AFC East teams so far this season, can’t stop the run to save their lives. Willis McGahee’s gonna have an absolutely huge day here and the Bills are gonna win this by a touchdown.

Tennessee (+3) at Jacksonville
This time, we’re assured, Steve McNair, really will be back. Will it matter? It will if you have Drew Bennett on your fantasy team. Other than that, probably not so much. Look for the home team to complete the season sweep over the erstwhile divisional powerhouse. And figure that if the Jags could top a healthier Titans team by three in Nashville in week three, they’ve gotta be able to do a bit better at home.

Miami (+10) at Seattle
What on earth am I gonna tell you about this game? You know you’ve gotta take Seattle straight up, and it’s a silly game to go putting money on, so stop thinking about it. But if you need to bet, or you’re in a pool that requires you to pick against the spread, I’d say take the Fins and their tough D to keep it a hair (maybe just a point) closer than 10. Or not.

San Diego (-3.5) at Oakland
Three weeks ago, San Diego putting a major hurting on my poor, poor helpless Raiders. 42-14. I don’t see where much other than the venue has changed. So give the Raiders credit for home field advantage, and shave the Chargers’ margin of victory down to something more like 17 or 20. That’s more than three and a half. A lot more.

Atlanta (-3) at N.Y. Giants
It seems to me there are two possible reasons for Tom Coughlin’s decision to start rookie Eli Manning at quarterback in place of veteran Kurt Warner, and neither of them is as simple as his belief that Manning will get rid of the ball more quickly than Warner. (Because, really, what is getting rid of the ball sooner gonna accomplish when the Giants receivers are never open? More incompletions? Maybe. More interceptions? Maybe that, too) Either Coughlin is crazy as a loon and looking to turn his team’s star of the future into roadkill behind an offensive line that has allowed 40 sacks to date (and put an end to both the Giants’ playoff hopes and his stint as head coach at the same time). Or Coughlin knows (not thinks, knows) Manning is ready to face the pressure and figures the kid will get him at least as far as, if not a bit farther than, Warner. I’m willing to bet on the latter — over the long term. This week, I’m betting on Michael Vick and the Falcons faring better against the Giants’ injury-plagued D than Eli and the Giants will against the Falcons’ sack-happy pass rush. Tiki Barber could and should make it tough for the Falcons, but I don’t think he’ll make it tough enough. Atlanta wins by three.

Washington (+10.5) at Philadelphia
Don’t count on the Eagles to repeat their 49-point week ten performance here. The Redskins defense simply doesn’t give up that kind of scoring. Their opponents have averaged only 17 points a game this season (though it’s notable that two of the three teams that have topped that average have been NFC East rivals). The trouble for the Skins, though, is that their offense doesn’t put up enough points to make the D’s strong performances pay off. (They score fewer than 14 a game.) I wouldn’t take any team playing on a short week to win by 11, particularly not against the Redskins, but you can count on Philly to take this division game straight up.

Green Bay (-3) at Houston
The Texans have given up 80 points in their last two games (which is just a touchdown more than the Redskins gave up to the Bears in a single game, the NFL championship, in 1940 — something the Texans might wanna keep in mind next time they find themselves inclined to cry about an opponent running up the score). The Packers, winners of four straight, have scored 62 points in their last two. So I don’t want to hear about how Brett Favre doesn’t play well on carpets. He’ll play well enough. And Ahman Green will do the rest. Take the Pack and give the points. It’s gonna be a massacre.

New England (-3) at Kansas City
Priest or no Priest, it’s all the same. The Chiefs will certainly manage to score some points against the defending champs, given New England’s continued injury problems in the secondary (the Pats have patched it up well, but there’s only so much you can do when you face a team like Kansas City), but their Swiss cheese defense won’t hold up against the Pats O in the red zone the way Buffalo’s did last week. Look for a Pats victory that’s about as lopsided as their win over the other Missouri team with the big offense a few weeks back.

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But, but, but … she was … naked (gasp)

November 16th, 2004 Comments off

I’ve got two things to say about this whole Monday Night Football intro dustup — you know, the bit that has ABC apologizing today; the one that had a naked Nicolette Sheridan (remember her? she used to be a sex kitten type) jumping into the arms of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens (how could you forget him? he’s the guy with the most ridiculously overblown ego in a league filled with guys with ridiculously overblown egos):

First, can we please, please, please just get the fuck over ourselves already, America? Would that be possible? I mean, I know it isn’t, but I have to ask just the same … . After all, we’re talking about a little promo for a TV soap, OK? No one’s breast was seen by anyone (except maybe T.O. and the camera crew). No one got exposed to anything that’s in any way likely to scar them for life. And still we get an apology from an FCC-fearing ABC and this bit from humorless fuck (and NFL spokesman) Greg Aiello: “While ABC may have gained attention for one of its other shows, the NFL and its fans lost.” Lost what, Greg? Our innocence? Oh, poor us. Loosen up, will ya?

Second, am I the only one out here wondering if this would have raised such an outcry (people actually complained to the FCC, it seems) if Nicolette had leapt into the arms of a white fellow? I hope not. Because I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have. Like it or not, America is still a pretty racist little place and, even though I’m sure many of the complainers wouldn’t admit it themselves, the idea of a naked white woman in the arms of a black man, is still something a good number of our red state brethren aren’t about to just stand by and watch.

Of course, maybe it’s just me. Maybe the whole thing’s too damned offensive for words and us Massachusetts liberals can’t possibly understand such things. But I doubt it. Somehow, I really, really doubt it.

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Welcome to the Pros, Gentlemen

November 16th, 2004 Comments off

Here’s a little note to CBS’s Randy Cross and all the whiny little whiners in Houston: There’s no such thing as running up the score in an NFL game. There’s running up the score in Pop Warner football. There’s running up the score in High School football. But there probably isn’t running up the score in college football. And there definitely isn’t in the NFL. Why? Because there isn’t, that’s why. Because if you’ve made it to that level and you can’t keep your opponents from scoring seven fucking times during a game, you deserve whatever humiliation you feel. But, most important, because there are provisions in the league’s post-season tie-breaking system that have to do with net points. And that’s just how it is.

Now, if the question is, why didn’t Tony Dungy pull his starters once the game was well in hand, you’ve got something. Why risk a stupid injury to Manning, Harrison and James at a meaningless point in a game, when you know you have to have those guys healthy in order to compete? And why not get some snaps for rookie quarterback Jim Sorgi when there’s no risk? After all, if Manning should go down for so much as a game or two, you’re gonna wish Sorgi had some game experience, ’cause Indy just isn’t a team that can win games if it only scores twice. But that’s a coaching decision. And I, for one, won’t be boo-hooing if one of Dungy’s coaching decisions comes back to bite him on the ass (nor, I imagine, will anyone in Houston).

So, barring a decision to give the backups some field time, what you do in an NFL game is that you continue to play the way you play best until the clock runs out. And that’s what the Colts did. Who cares if Houston didn’t care for it? Who cares if the Texans swear they’ll use the Colts meanness as a motivator heading into their December 12 rematch in Houston? (Good luck with that, fellas, by the way.) It’s the way the ball bounces. And, just like every other hit that doesn’t end your season, you just suck it up and take it.

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Week Ten Picks

November 12th, 2004 Comments off

You know, I don’t have one damned clever. observation to make about how it’s the middle of the NFL season. Not one. I guess I’m the only person in America. I’m sorry to let you down. How about I write some extra long explanations of my picks this week instead? Will that make it up to you? I sure do hope so. Here we go, with the usual warning not to pay attention to me amplified this week by the fact that the picking is extra tough and I’m expecting more than a few upsets:

Baltimore (+1) at N.Y. Jets
As if beating up on New York in an important division matchup last week wasn’t damaging enough to the Jets’ season (and hopes for success in the post-season), the Buffalo Bills also went and put Chad Pennington out of commission for two to four weeks. That puts Quincy Carter under center just in time to face the Ravens’ punishing D. The Jets have a damned tough defense, too, so Jamal Lewis and the Ravens offense will probably have a slow first half. But as the game wears on, and the Jets’ D spends more and more time on the field, Baltimore should be able to open it up a bit. Look for a 13-6 Baltimore victory.

Chicago (off) at Tennessee
Steve McNair is back. Chris Brown is gone. And Craig Krenzel is still taking snaps for Chicago (that’s right, folks, it’s the Bears’ third straight game with the same starting quarterback.) So, you know, this game comes down to … I don’t know. Something. Take the home team. It’s safe.

Detroit (+3) at Jacksonville
The Jags, who have been looking dangerous of late, have to see if they can get it done without Byron Leftwich under center. The Lions, who looked like they just might turn out to be dangerous for a change, until they started sucking it up two weeks ago, need a win to stay in the tight NFC North race with big games against Minnesota and Green Bay just over the horizon. The Jaguars D should prove the difference. Jacksonville edges Detroit straight up. Against the spread it’s a push.

Houston (+9) at Indianapolis
There are two ways to approach picking this game. You can put your faith in the alleged Monday night jinx (you know that thing where only one team that has won a Monday night game this season has gone on to win the next week) and pick Houston in the giant upset. Or you can look at the fact that Houston just gave up 364 yards and four touchdowns to Denver, and pick Indy to win by scoring five or six times. There are gonna be some points scored by both teams in this thing, so definitely take the over. And nine points is a lot to give, even for the Colts, so take Houston with the nine. But don’t pick based on jinxes. The Colts win straight up.

Kansas City (-3) at New Orleans
Saints coach Jim Haslett says his team plays dumb. That can’t be good for morale. Of course, you don’t have to play smart to score against Kansas City, which gives up an average of 26 points a game. And with the Chiefs playing on the road and without Priest Holmes, I see no reason to believe they’ll be able to put up 27, never mind 30. I like the home team to pull off the upset here.

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Cleveland
Pittsburgh’s players are feeling pretty fucking good about themselves after knocking off the league’s top two teams (the Patriots and Eagles) on successive weeks. The Steelers are being heralded as the new team to beat in the NFL. And here come the Browns to do the job. Pittsburgh’s gonna have a mighty tough time stopping Lee Suggs and William Green, which should open things up a bit for Jeff Garcia, who’ll find Antonio Bryant for a handful of big completions, including at least one touchdown. The Browns smart D, meanwhile, will outsmart rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Take Cleveland with the points, because they’re pulling off the upset here.

Seattle (-1) at St. Louis
Mike Martz mad. Rrrrrarrrgh! Mad at his lazy players, who can’t beat teams like the Patriots (even though what really caused the Rams to lose at home to a better, but severely banged-up, team is that Martz was majorly outcoached) and the Dolphins (everybody involved deserves blame for that fiasco). Mad at the St. Louis sports press, who keep asking questions about why his team keeps losing and why he’s so mad about it. And, one might guess, maddest of all about the fact that he’s got a team full of talented players, but he can’t seem to win games. The fault, Mike, is not in your stars (that’s a pun; get it), but in yourself. That is, you’re a suck-ass coach, dude. And this week yet another talented coach is going to drive that point home, as Seattle comes in to extend the Rams’ losing streak to three games. Take the Seahawks and give the point, ’cause they’re gonna win it by no less than a touchdown.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Atlanta
The Bucs are getting better by the week. Their offense has come on since the return of Michael Pittman, so much so that even perennial fuckup Brian Griese has managed to excel under center (though how long Griese will stay hot is anyone’s guess). And their D isn’t exactly the powerhouse it used to be, but it’s hard as hell to pass against. That said, Michael Vick is growing more and more comfortable with the West Coast offense. I think he has a breakout game here and leads the Falcons to a victory. I’d give the points, too.

Cincinnati (+3) at Washington
How do I know this is gonna be a defensive struggle? Is it because Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis are defensive masterminds who have their respective squads stopping just about everything that’s thrown (or run) at them? Mmm, kinda, I guess. But not mostly. Mostly it’s because neither team’s offense can score for shit, which is why both have the same losing record (3-5) in spite of the fact that they’re playing good D. The Bengals are averaging 19 points per game. The ‘Skins can’t even boast that much potency. They’re averaging 14 points a game; and they’ve not scored more than 18 in any week this season. It’s pretty simple to figure it out from there. Except then you get to who wins. Me, I’m thinking Cincinnati pulls off the upset here, because I’m thinking more and more that good old Joe Gibbs just isn’t up to coaching in the modern NFL. I like the Bengals by a point, 14-13.

Carolina (pick ’em) at San Francisco
Even the oddsmakers can’t be bothered to take a close look at this matchup of 1-7 teams. This is the kind of thing where you take the home team because they’re the home team and it’s just too depressing to take things any further.

Minnesota (+4) at Green Bay
Minnesota had damned well better find a way to win this game. They’ve lost their last two. And Green Bay, winner of three straight, stands just a win away from tying them for the division. The Vikes showed they could score without Randy Moss when they played Indy Monday night, which is good, because they’ll need to do it again this week. But you can’t count on 91-yard kick-return touchdowns. So unless Onterrio Smith steps up and has a huge game, the Vikings are gonna find themselves in second place come Sunday afternoon. I think Smith will do well, but not quite as well as Ahman Green, which is to say I like Green Bay straight up, though I like Minnesota to keep the difference to more like a field goal.

N.Y. Giants (-2) at Arizona
It’s fitting these two teams should meet here in the middle of the season. The Cardinals are on their way up, while the Giants (now playing without either of their standout defensive ends) are on their way down. Take Arizona with the points or straight up.

Buffalo (+7.5) at New England
This is a big game for the Pats, believe it or not. With Buffalo beating the Jets last week, a win here and another December 20 in Miami would put the AFC East tiebreaker solidly in the Patriots grasp (i.e. even if the Jets beat New England at the Meadowlands the day after Christmas, the Jets and Pats could only split head-to-head, since the Pats have already beaten the Jets once, so if the Pats are perfect in the division, they own the next tie-breaker). That would mean the Jets would have to come out a game ahead of the Pats in order to win the east and with what’s going on with Chad Pennington, that seems unlikely. Anyhow, it’s a division game, which Bill Belichick always considers important. So look for the Pats to find ways to shut down Willis McGahee and stop the Bills. I think it’s closer than a touchdown, but not much closer. A five- or six-point margin of victory for New England strikes me as reasonable.

Philadelphia (-6.5) at Dallas
The Cowboys are probably showing up as a popular upset pick in office pools around the country this week. The Eagles are coming off a humiliating loss to Pittsburgh, the kind of loss that can start a mid-season mini-slide. The Cowboys are playing under threat of death from Bill Parcells (who’d have started planning for the future and getting young quarterback Drew Henson some playing time by now if it weren’t for the fact that he knows somewhere in the back of his mind that he’ll be calling it quits at the end of the season). And lots of folks just like picking the upset on Monday night, ’cause they figure maybe it’ll keep ’em in the hunt (which is a stupid philosophy). Forget it. The Cowboys have no chance of stopping Terrell Owens and little chance of putting any points on the board themselves. Take Philly in your pool and get a leg up on the competition. And if you’re tempted to bet, either take the points or bet the under (’cause the Cowboys will be lucky to score 10 and the Eagles won’t quite make up the other 32).

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Godfather, I’ll Give Him

November 12th, 2004 Comments off

As if we needed any further evidence that Cris Collinsworth is the biggest moron in pro sports broadcasting, here he is playing apologist for mega-scumbag Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, whose only real competition for the title of NFL’s lowest lowlife is reigning domestic abuse champion Michael Pittman. I’m sorry, but you know what? No matter how much the guy talks about forgiveness and faith, he’ll always be a piece of shit, a standout even in a league that includes such class A fuckwads as Jeremy Shockey and Garrison Hearst. That said, I’ll give Cris his due on one point: Godfather is a pretty good word to apply to Ray.

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November 9th, 2004 Comments off

So St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz is unhappy about a lot of things. And why wouldn’t he be? His team has taken beating in two straight games, most recently at the hands of an injury-plagued New England Patriots team. Martz can’t get over the fact that his team, with al of its big, big offensive weapons got slaughtered (on its home turf) by the Pats, whose secondary featured an undrafted rookie, a guy just signed from the practice squad and a wide-receiver doing ironman fill-in duty.

Yeah, that’s pretty bad, dude. But suck it up and admit you got beat. Don’t go mouthing off once again (the way you did after the Pats stunned your team in Super Bowl XXXVI two years ago) about how the Pats D got away with holds. It doesn’t wash now just as it didn’t wash then.

The reasons your team got beat on Sunday are that the Pats are better than your guys, the Pats play like a team whereas you (like pretty much everyone else in the league) have a group of loosely allied individuals on your side, and, perhaps most important, you’re not half the coach Bill Belichick is. In truth, you’re not a tenth the coach Belichick is. And that’s why the Pats will beat your Rams every single time. That might hurt, but it’s the truth.

Want some advice, Mike? Do yourself a favor and quit bellyaching about what happened Sunday. Because if you don’t stop whining about what happened with the Patriots and start thinking about the fact that the Seahawks are coming to town this weekend (I saw the Seahawks play the Pats a few weeks back; they’re better than your team), your season’s gonna come crashing down around your head in a hurry.

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Week Nine Picks

November 5th, 2004 Comments off

Depressed about the outcome of the presidential election? Down in the dumps about the Patriots’ first loss of the season last week in Pittsburgh. Offended by the miserable lineup of Monday Night Football games so far this season? Don’t worry. We’re gonna solve two of those three problems this week. Unfortunately, the big one’s gonna haunt us all for another four years. But that’s all the more reason to take the little victories where we can get them. Here are my picks. And here’s my tip of the week: Don’t lose money taking betting advice from me.

Arizona (+3) at Miami
This is without question the number one game of the week — ranked alphabetically by visiting team’s home. And that’s the most interesting thing I can think of to say about this game. Take the Fins straight up. Don’t bet this game at all, because that’s not gonna make it one bit more exciting (and it’s a push, anyhow).

Dallas (-1) at Cincinnati
Please, Bengals, please beat the Cowboys. Please. I just so love it when Parcells’ team loses. Don’t think they will or anything, but I can hope, can’t I?

Kansas City (-3) at Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay’s D hasn’t been stellar this season, and it won’t have a banner day on Sunday. But it should do well enough to keep Priest Holmes from finding the end zone a half dozen times (or whatever ridiculous number he’s averaged the last two games). And Michael Pittman should do well enough to keep the Bucs from being embarrassed in front of the home crowd. But that won’t be quite enough to lift the Bucs to a win, or even to help them keep it within a field goal.

N.Y. Jets (-3) at Buffalo
It’s hard to run against the Bills. And the Bills run the ball well against the Jets. And it’s supposed to rain on Sunday in Buffalo. So, you know, the home team could pull off the upset here. I don’t think they will, though, because I don’t think Drew Bledsoe can survive the Jets’ pass rush. Take the Jets straight up. Against the spread it’s a push.

Oakland (+7) at Carolina
I’m looking for the straight-ahead upset here, but I’m a Raiders fan and you’re probably not. I’m expecting Kerry Collins to have a good enough day that the team won’t squander the big, big day Tyrone Wheatley is gonna have. But you shouldn’t listen to me on this one. You should play it safe and pick the big, home favorites straight up, though I’d still take the Raiders with the points if I were you.

Philadelphia (pick ’em) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers, on the heels of ending the defending champion Patriots’ league-record 21-game winning streak, look to earn themselves a shipment of champagne courtesy of the ’72 Dolphins. Will they be able to knock off the last of this season’s unbeatens? Well, someone’s gonna do it. And the Steelers are hot and at home. Plus they’ve got a solid running game, which the Eagles shouldn’t be able to stop and which should help them keep the dangerous combination of Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens off the field. So I’m gonna go with yes, Steelers by a field goal.

Washington (+3) at Detroit
The Redskins do pretty well against the run, so this isn’t supposed to be the week Kevin Jones breaks out. But it will be. And the Lions will take it by a little more than a field goal.

Chicago (+9) at N.Y. Giants
The Bears are down to like two starters. And they’re both kickers. (This isn’t actually true; I’m illustrating a point here, OK?) So, you know, I kinda like Tiki Barber to outscore Chicago all by himself. Take the Giants to win and cover.

New Orleans (+6.5) at San Diego
There’s potential for a big upset here. The Saints are coming off a bye week. They should be healthy and ready to go. The Chargers are headed into their bye. They’re anything but healthy. They’ve come on strong, but they’re limping a bit at the moment. They can probably afford to give up a game, given the way Denver has been playing of late, and a non-conference game can be hard to get up for under these circumstances. You have to take the Saints with the points, but I still like the Chargers to get it done straight up.

Seattle (-6.5) at San Francisco
The Niners are in full-on self-destruct mode, with players bickering over whether they should or shouldn’t talk about whether they’re better off without Terrell Owens. They’re not. And so they shouldn’t. But the fact that they’re sniping at each other in the press about such a silly matter only shows that these guys’ heads are all in the wrong place. The Seahawks? They just wanna make sure they keep on winning. They will. They’ll cover, too.

Houston (+6.5) at Denver
David Carr could potentially have a huge day against a Broncos D that suddenly can’t stop a damned thing. And he may yet. But the Broncos offense will find a way to compensate, because they really, really have to. The Chiefs are pushing their way back into contention in the AFC West. The Chargers are already there. And so the Broncos can’t afford to drop their third straight. Not in a home game. Take Denver straight up, but go with Houston and the points.

New England (-2) at St. Louis
No Ty Law and no Tyrone Poole are supposed to translate to a loss for the Patriots. That’s the way a lot of folks see it, anyhow. The handicappers, however, still have the road team favored by two. There’s a reason for that. Pats fans should be worried, but not about the missing players. The worry is the same as it is whenever you play on a carpet: It’s easy for more guys to get hurt. Barring some catastrophic injury, however, the Pats should come out of this one smiling. Corey Dillon comes back from his injury to have a big, big day, taking some of the heat off Tom Brady. And Adam Vinatieri makes the difference, just as he did the last time the Pats played the Rams.

Cleveland (+6) at Baltimore
Jamal Lewis is back, and he almost always has a big, big day against the Browns. The Ravens D is as tough as they get. And Baltimore is at home. That adds up to the Ravens by a touchdown, maybe a little bit more.

Minnesota (+6) at Indianapolis
The difference here is Randy Moss. If Moss plays, you take the Vikings to cover. If he doesn’t, you don’t. Either way, you take the home team to win straight up. And, of course, you bet the over. Way, way over.

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It’s More Than A Standard Asshole-Off

November 4th, 2004 Comments off

You know, Terrell Owens is a jackass. There’s no two ways about that. He’s a low-class egomaniac and an exceedingly poor sport. And his taunting of the Baltimore Ravens during last Sunday’s very close Philly-Baltimore game (a game the Ravens likely would have won had Jamal Lews not been serving a suspension) is just the latest incident in a long history of T.O. making an idiot of himself for the cameras.

But here’s the thing: On the subject of who is a worse person, and who is ultimately worse for the league and the game, Owens or Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, T.O. is dead on. There’s simply no comparison. Owens is an embarrassment, a guy who deserves regular admonishment for his on-field behavior. But in the end, he’s hurting no one. Lewis, on the other hand … well, he got off, so that’s about all I can say. Indeed.

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