Archive for December, 2013

Week Seventeen Picks

December 29th, 2013 Comments off

Really? We’re at the end of the regular season already? And 252 days before we get another Sunday with a full slate of games. That’s kind of depressing. Of course, it also means 252 days before we get a game no one could conceivably want to watch, and longer still before we get the next game that’s undeniably meaningless. So there’s that. And here’s what not to expect in week seventeen.

Carolina (-6) at Atlanta
The Pass Interferences, who are playing to secure a division title and a bye and with the (rather outside) hope of capturing the NFC one seed, bring way too much defense to the field for the Falcons to overcome. The game’s in Atlanta, so the Falcons may be able to keep it close through the first half, or even the first three quarters, but the Pass Interferences will pull away at some point and come out ahead by at least 10.

Houston (+7.5) at Tennessee
I wonder what the Texans will do with the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Titans by two touchdowns.

Cleveland (+7) at Pittsburgh
The good news is that after today we won’t have to hear any more about how dangerous the Steelers would be if they qualified for the playoffs. The Steelers. Who can get to 8-8 with a win here. Would be dangerous. Because, you know, they’re still called the Steelers. And all they need to get into the post-season is to win and have every other contending team lose. So, yeah, that’s pretty dangerous. I’d love to see the Browns put an end to all of this silliness, for everyone’s sake. But that’s not gonna happen. Pittsburgh by seven.

Washington (+3.5) at NY Giants
It doesn’t look like Eli Manning is going to be able to push past his brother to become the active quarterback with the highest single-season interception total. Eli comes into this game with 26 picks, which means he needs two here to tie Peyton’s 1998 total, three to beat it. Only, the Racists DBs wouldn’t know what to do with a ball if it hit them in the hands. So Eli’s just going to have to remain content with leading the Manning family in Super Bowl wins. Too bad for him, eh? Giants by six.

Baltimore (+6.5) at Cincinnati
Baltimore’s title defense came to a close last Sunday. The Ravens can still grab the six seed (and the win they’d need to get it likely would mean a wild card matchup with the Colts rather than a rematch of this game), but they need help that they’re not gonna get from the Jets or the Chiefs. The Bengals are playing with the hope of gaining the two seed if the Patriots stumble. More important, even if New England holds on to the bye, a win here would ensure Cincinnati a wild card game against Miami or San Diego (or, you know, maybe Pittsburgh), rather than Kansas City. This season, there’s a world of difference between the five and six seeds in the AFC; you want to host the six seed. So that’s all nice, but what about the actual matchup? Ah, you know, the Bengals are the better team (if not by nearly so much as one might think). And they’re at home. The Ravens will play it tough, not so much because of the playoff implications, but because that’s how divisional games between fairly evenly matched teams work. But the Bengals will come out on top. Probably by four-ish.

Jacksonville (+10.5) at Indianapolis
I don’t really feel like I should have to say anything about this game. I don’t know, maybe Indy will build a big lead then pull back a bit to try to keep guys healthy for next week’s battle with Kansas City. So maybe Jacksonville finds a way to make the final score look sort of oddly respectable. Like maybe the Jags only lose by 13.

NY Jets (+5.5) at Miami
A win (and a Ravens loss or a Chargers win, at least one of which is going to happen) gets the Dolphins into the post-season for the first time since 2008. A win or a loss gets the Jets a chance to start working toward a 2014 season in which they are destined to a) win the Super Bowl (if you’re a cement-headed Jets fan), or b) struggle to a .500-ish finish and miss the playoffs yet again. Miami by 10.

Detroit (+2.5) at Minnesota
The Lions started this weird season with a win over the Vikings. With Adrian Peterson out, Detroit will add the second bookend. Lions by four.

Buffalo (+7.5) at New England
A win gets the Patriots a week off to heal and prepare for a chance to avenge their regular season loss to the Bengals. (The one seed thing isn’t happening, folks.) The Bills have one thing going for them: They pick off a lot of balls. The Bills have 22 picks on the season, second only to the Seahawks’ 26. Assuming Tom Brady can avoid foolish mistakes, and assuming the Patriots can take advantage of the Bills’ weak run D, New England should be able to get the job done. Patriots by a touchdown.

Tampa Bay (+12) at New Orleans
The Saints need a win to keep their post-season hopes alive. They’ll get it. But not by 12. New Orleans by a touchdown.

Denver (-11) at Oakland 
With a win here, the Broncos will earn a week off to feel all warm about their single-season records and individual accolades before the Chiefs come to Denver in the divisional round and bounce them from the playoffs. Denver by 23.

San Francisco (-1) at Arizona
In which the Niners sew up the five seed with a narrow loss. Cardinals by a field goal.

Green Bay (-3) at Chicago
Finally, someone has to win the NFC North. That will mean something for a week, two at the outside. I’m pretty sure the over/under on punts in this game has to be something like three. If I were betting, I’d be betting the under. At the end of the shootout, Green Bay is the team left standing. It’s a push with the points.

Kansas City (+10) at San Diego
With a win, the Chiefs will be the AFC five seed and earn a trip to Indianapolis (probably) next week. With a loss, the Chiefs will be the AFC five seed and earn a trip to Indianapolis (probably) next week. So, right, Chargers by six.

St. Louis (+11.5) at Seattle
If the Rams turn in a good effort, we’ll all get to hear nine months of talk about how the NFC West is going to be football’s best division in 2014. And probably we’ll get that even if the Rams get clobbered, which is what I expect to happen. The Seahawks put the clamps on the division title and the conference one seed with a 17-point win.

Philadelphia (-6.5) at Dallas
I’m not accustomed in any way to rooting for the Cowboys, but how can I not in this game? A Dallas with with Kyle Orton behind center would throw both teams into a state of disarray. What could possibly be a more fun way to end the regular season? Of course, wanting something and thinking it’s going to happen are two different things. The Cowboys aren’t winning this game no matter who they have at QB. They’re just not good enough. Eagles by nine.

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Week Sixteen Picks

December 20th, 2013 Comments off

Sixteen weeks into the 2013 season and I still have absolutely no idea what’s going on. What can you do? Here’s what not to expect.

Miami (-3) at Buffalo
You know, I was initially inclined to say I expected Miami to qualify for the post-season (for the first time since 2008) with a win here and another at home against the Jets next week. Then I started thinking about sacks. Buffalo’s defense leads the league with 49. And Ryan Tannehill comes in as the NFL‘s most sacked QB at 51. That’s not a great combination. And although it didn’t play much of a role when the teams met in Miami back in week seven, the Bills still managed to come away with a 23-21 victory. So you know what? I think I’ll take the Bills. By three this time.

New Orleans (+3) at Carolina
The good news for the Saints, I suppose, is that after this they won’t have to play another road game in the regular season. That’s when they’ll travel to Philadelphia to lose to the Eagles in the Wild Card round. Pass Interferences by a touchdown.

Dallas (-3) at Washington
If the Cowboys can’t beat the Racists, they don’t belong in the playoffs. Then again, even if the Cowboys can beat the Racists, they don’t belong in the playoffs. And that gets us all of nowhere, doesn’t it? Still, I’m taking Dallas. By six.

Tampa Bay (+4.5) at St. Louis
In an evenly matched game, you take the home team. So that’s what I’m doing. Straight up, anyhow. Rams by a field goal.

Cleveland (+2) at NY Jets
The great thing about weeks 16 and 17 in the NFL is that there are usually lots of games that matter. The lousy thing is that there are always a few that … well, don’t. The Browns are probably slightly less awful — and although the Jets are decidedly less on the road, I’m going to go with the less awful squad in the upset. Cleveland by four.

Indianapolis (+6.5) at Kansas City
Given that these two teams are almost certain to meet again in Indianapolis two weeks from now, I don’t expect the Chiefs will want to show everything they’ve got. Even then, though, the Chiefs are simply a better team than the Colts. Kansas City by six.

Minnesota (+8) at Cincinnati
The Bengals have way too much on the line to lose at home to a sub-standard team like the Vikings. I expect them to get out to an early lead and never look back.

Denver (-10.5) at Houston
The Broncos need to win out to ensure themselves of an AFC West title and the conference one seed. Fortunately for them, they’ve got the Texans and the Raiders. So it’ll be the divisional round before the Broncos lose again. Denver by 17.

Tennessee (-5) at Jacksonville
In which the Jaguars resume their late push to move into a slightly less expensive part of the 2014 draft. Jacksonville by four.

Arizona (+10.5) at Seattle
It was all bound to fall apart for the Cardinals at some point. Seattle sews up the NFC one seed with a victory that’s more impressive than the seven-point margin.

NY Giants (+9) at Detroit
Things are pretty grim for the Lions, but not nearly so grim that I expect them to fall to the truly inept Giants. The only question here, to my mind, is whether Eli Manning will move closer to overtaking his brother for the lead among active players in highest single-season interception total. Eli, who comes into this game with 25, needs three to tie Peyton‘s mark from 1998, four to pass it. And there are only two games to go. Should be interesting to watch. (Not the game, mind you. Just the pick total.) Detroit by 12.

Oakland (+10) at San Diego
The Chargers aren’t going to qualify for the post-season (they need too much help). But they’re going to go down fighting. San Diego by 14.

Pittsburgh (off) at Green Bay
Now that we know Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing, it won’t be long before there’s a line set on this game. But I’m not waiting for it. Packers by a field goal.

New England (+2.5) at Baltimore
As the injuries have piled up for the Patriots this season, the question has been, when does it all become too much? I think we got the answer last weekend. I suspect we’ll hear more of the same on Sunday afternoon. The Pats will still win the AFC East, and maybe they’ll somehow manage to hold onto their first round bye, but they’ll have to do it all with a win over Buffalo in week 17. Ravens by four.

Chicago (+3) at Philadelphia
With just 222 passing yards in this game (or, really, the next two), Jay Cutler will overtake Sid Luckman as the Bears’ all-time leading passer. That’s a mark that has stood since 1950. So it’s not a minor accomplishment. And, you know, it’ll give Cutler something to feel good about after the Bears season ends next weekend. Philadelphia by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+12.5) at San Francisco
Um, yeah. Niners by 20.

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Week Fifteen Picks

December 15th, 2013 Comments off

Well, Thursday night didn’t go as expected. I guess Peyton must have thought the playoffs had started. Let’s see what else I can get wrong t his week. Here’s what not to expect.

Washington (+6.5) at Atlanta
The loser here will be on track for the second overall pick in the 2014 draft. Well, that’s the case if the loser is Atlanta, anyhow. A Washington loss would also go a long way to determining draft order — but with the advantage going to St. Louis, the team that owns the Racists’ first round pick. The Rams have to be feeling pretty good right now. Atlanta by a touchdown.

San Francisco (-5.5) at Tampa Bay
It’s entirely understandable that it has become popular to pick the Bucs in the upset. Tampa is one of several home underdogs, and any week that features a overlarge number of home dogs is going to give rise to a few upsets. The Buccaneers also have won four of their last five, a run that includes victories over the Dolphins and Lions, neither of which is a great team but both of which are in the post-season hunt. Moreover, San Francisco is coming off an exhausting win over a Seattle and may well be due for a letdown game. But, you know, I’m just not seeing it. The Niners are a better team than the Fins or the Lions, especially on defense. Plus, San Francisco’s has hardly locked up the NFC six seed; the 49ers know they need to win games like this one in order to ensure themselves a place in the tournament. They’ll get the job done and, more than that, win handily. San Francisco by 13.

Seattle (-7) at NY Giants
The Seahawks need two more wins (max) to sew up home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. A victory over the Giants, who are 100 percent done and looking toward the off-season, should prove a pretty solid first step. But this is Seattle’s second straight road game, and the trip east is never easy, so let’s look for the difference to be more like four.

Chicago (pick ’em) at Cleveland
It became clear to me several weeks ago that no one wants to win the NFC North. Browns by six.

Houston (+5.5) at Indianapolis
The Colts may be fading, but no one’s fading fast enough to lose to the truly awful Texans. Indy by a touchdown.

Buffalo (-2) at Jacksonville
There’s nothing on the line but a better spot in the draft. The Bills come out ahead in that regard. Jaguars by a field goal.

New England (-2.5) at Miami
The Broncos’ loss to San Diego Thursday night opened the door for the Patriots to steal the AFC one seed. That’s nice and all, but it’s rather unlikely. New England’s going to drop one of their last three. Might be this one. Might be next week in Baltimore. (Might be both, frankly, given the Patriots’ increasingly insane injury situation, not to mention their inability to get the offense going in the first half.) Ultimately, though, until I see different I have to pick the better team to win. And that’s New England. Another close one. Patriots by a point.

Philadelphia (-4.5) at Minnesota
The better part of the Vikings offense is sidelined. That should just about do it. Eagles by 14.

NY Jets (+11) at Carolina
The Jets have won one in a row. That’s usually enough to get the fans in New Jersey thinking their team’s going to the Super Bowl. And that’s got to be a nice little world to live in. Panthers by 20.

Kansas City (-4.5) at Oakland
The Chiefs have an outside chance to grab the AFC West crown. You know, if the Broncos completely fall apart. That’s not happening, which makes this game almost entirely irrelevant. But the Chiefs will win it anyhow. By a touchdown.

Arizona (-2.5) at Tennessee
The Cardinals still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs if they can win out. That won’t matter much when they get to Seattle next weekend. But it might help propel them to a win here. Along with, you know, being the better team. Arizona by six.

New Orleans (-6) at St. Louis
Road schmode, it’s an indoor game. Saints by 17.

Green Bay (+7) at Dallas
Neither of these teams is going anywhere. But Dallas will still be able to pretend it’s going somewhere when it’s all over. Cowboys by seven.

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Pittsburgh
There’s no question about which of these is the better team. Cincy’s headed for a divisional title and may well yet take the AFC two seed away from battered New England. But that doesn’t mean anyone should expect the Steelers to roll over as they host a hated divisional rival. Pittsburgh will make it a game, even if they don’t succeed in spoiling the Bengals chances to improve their post-season berth. Cincinnati by three.

Baltimore (+6) at Detroit
The Ravens probably have the toughest path of all the teams playing for the AFC six seed over the final weeks of the season. From here, Baltimore hosts New England, then travels to Cincinnati. They need to win at least two of those three if they’re going to hold off Miami and San Diego. The Lions are the weakest of the three opponents, which means the Ravens absolutely have to win this game. Fortunately for them, there’s that thing where no one wants to win the NFC North. Baltimore by four.

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Week Fifteen, Thursday Night

December 12th, 2013 Comments off

Yup. My last chance to get all my picks done before the Thursday night game and it just isn’t happening. Here’s what not to expect.

San Diego (+10.5) at Denver
The Chargers’ backs are up against the wall. They absolutely have to win out if they’re going to have any shot at sneaking into the post-season as the AFC six seed. So maybe they’ll come out swinging and manage to give the Broncos a run for their money. Even if they do, though, it won’t matter. The Broncos took care of the Chargers easily in San Diego back in week 10. They’ll have an even easier time of it here. Denver by 17.

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Week Fourteen Picks

December 8th, 2013 Comments off

Here we are in the home stretch, a time when every game either means something or it doesn’t. All of which helps me not one damned bit. Here’s what not to expect.

Kansas City (-3) at Washington
The Chiefs need desperately to get off the schneid and get their feet back under them as the regular season moved into the home stretch. The Racists need desperately to get this season over with and get out of the way. (Or maybe it’s just that I need desperately for the Racists to do that.) It’ll all happen just as everyone needs it to. Kansas City by 14.

Minnesota (+6.5) at Baltimore
The Ravens are in the hunt (and, for the moment, on the inside track in the race for the final AFC wild card spot). They’ll remain their for one more week before starting the three-game skid that will leave them on the outside looking in come December 30. Baltimore by nine.

Cleveland (+10) at New England
The Patriots have scored a total of 10 first half points in their last three games. They should have 10 on the board by midway through the first quarter of this one. On defense, the Patriots should come out of this game looking like they’ve solved their inability to stop the run and rediscovered the takeaway (even though the former, at least, will be an illusion). New England by no less than (and possibly rather more than) 17.

Atlanta (+3) at Green Bay
The How The Mighty Have Fallen Bowl. Three months ago, this game looked like it could potentially decide the NFC one seed. And here we are, with the Falcons just trying to get through the rest of the season and the Packers holding on to the futile hope that they’ll be able to keep their post-season hopes alive long enough to get their star QB back on the field. For whatever little it’s worth (and it’s very little indeed; they’re going nowhere), Green Bay wins the game. It’s a push with the points.

Oakland (+3) at NY Jets
Both of these teams are done. But the Jets, only because they’re the Jets, apparently don’t know it yet. This game won’t do anything to change that. New Jersey stumbles to a one-point win.

Indianapolis (+6.5) at Cincinnati
The Colts very simply cannot afford to lose this game. These two teams come into this matchup at 8-4. After this, the Bengals are winning at least two of their last three, while the Colts are winning exactly two of their last three. That means a loss would effectively lock the Colts into the four seed (barring some kind of precipitous drop by the Bengals or Patriots) and a first-round matchup against the Chiefs. The Colts don’t want to catch the Chiefs on wild card weekend. (You’ll see why two weeks from now when Indianapolis visits Kansas City.) Trouble is, the Colts have very little chance of winning this game. In fact, I can see exactly one way for Indy to get the upset here: They need to come out ahead in the turnover battle by at least +2. That’s a possibility when you’re facing Andy Dalton, whose 16 picks are the fourth most in the NFL this season. But it’s a hell of a tough thing to have to tie your hopes to. And I strongly suspect it won’t be nearly enough. Bengals by four.

Detroit (+3) at Philadelphia
The NFC North officially overtakes the NFC East for weakest division in the NFL this season. Eagles by 13.

Miami (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
In which the Steelers commence the seemingly unlikely four-game winning streak that will net them the AFC six seed and the right to play exactly one extra game in January. Pittsburgh by four.

Buffalo (+2.5) at Tampa Bay
Neither of these teams has anything real to play for, so I’ll take the one that’s fooled itself in to believing it’s playing for pride. Tampa by three.

Tennessee (+12) at Denver
“See,” Peyton Manning fans will say after this one is over. “Peyton can so play well in cold weather.” And the rest of the top AFC teams will tremble, knowing that the great Manning can indeed play well enough in the latter part of the season to help his team get past struggling competition. Never mind the pair of picks he threw on the way. Those don’t matter. Denver by 10.

St. Louis (+5) at Arizona
In the end, 9-7 isn’t going to quite get it done for the Cardinals. And unless the Seahawks have the one seed completely sewn up by week 16 and choose to open the door for Arizona as a result, 9-7 is where the Cards are headed. But Arizona’s an improving team and they’re going to fight all the way to the finish. That should be enough to get them a win today, though I wouldn’t give more than three.

NY Giants (+3.5) at San Diego
When the Giants return to the visitors locker room following the game, they’ll find a banner reading, “Forget you, too, Eli. Enjoy your off-season.” San Diego by a touchdown.

Seattle (+2.5) at San Francisco
The Seahawks were a better team than the defending NFC champions back in week two, and they’re still a better team now. But a short week, a desperate opponent, and the difficulty of beating a good division rival on the road will conspire to neutralize Seattle’s quality advantage, if only just. San Francisco by a point.

Carolina (+3) at New Orleans
Six days ago, the Saints were playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. New Orleans lost any hope of that early on. Now, one has to wonder whether the Saints can hold off the Pass Interferences, who are challenging for the NFC South crown. Recent evidence suggests they cannot. Carolina by a field goal.

Dallas (+1) at Chicago
I don’t believe in either of these teams. Well, that’s not true. I believe that each of these teams has a good shot to qualify for the playoffs as the winner of a weak division, only to be bounced in the wild card round by Carolina, New Orleans or San Francisco. These are both wholly mediocre squads, and I’m going with the one playing at home. Bears by a field goal.

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Week Fourteen, Thursday Night

December 5th, 2013 Comments off

Damned near forgot there was a game tonight. Because, yeah, it’s exactly that compelling. Here’s what not not even anyone in Jacksonville or Houston cares whether they should or shouldn’t expect. (Ugh.)

Houston (-3) at Jacksonville
The Texans are supposed to be a better team than the Jaguars. Statistically speaking, the Texans mostly are a better team than the Jaguars (except that they’re way worse at taking the ball away from opponents, which is largely because they’re worse at that than every team in the league other than the Jets). But in reality, the Texans aren’t a better team than the Jaguars. Not at all. Here’s how I know. And I’m taking the home team that should be worse to beat the road team that should be better. But I won’t find out whether I got it right until Friday morning, because, really, I have much better things to do tonight. Don’t you? Jacksonville by a field goal.

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Week Thirteen, Post Thanksgiving, Picks

December 1st, 2013 Comments off

It’s a

Tennessee (+3.5) at Indianapolis
If you can’t beat a team in your own building even after jumping out to a two-touchdown lead, you’re probably not going to bounce back 17 days later and beat them at their place. The Colts effectively wrap up the NFC South title by putting a three-game gap and the tie breaker between themselves and their only competition. Indianapolis by a touchdown.

Jacksonville (+7) at Cleveland
I suspect two wins in a single season is about all anyone can expect from the Jaguars. Browns by a field goal.

Tampa Bay (+7.5) at Carolina
Maybe it’s just that I still haven’t bought into the notion that the Pass Interferences are actually a good football team, but I suspect this game is going to be a good bit closer than expected. Carolina wins, but they do it with a late comeback and they only come out ahead by a point.

Chicago (+1) at Minnesota
On the road and with no hope of Jay Cutler leading them to a comeback victory, the Bears will be forced to sit back and watch Adrian Peterson run their already fading post-season hopes into the ground. Vikings by seven.

Arizona (+3) at Philadelphia
The winner of this game stays alive in the real NFC playoff hunt. The loser stays alive in the absurd race for first place in the horrible NFC East. Arizona by a field goal.

Miami (+2) at NY Jets
The loser of this game gets to start preparing for the NFL Draft. The winner has to keep pretending to be in the mix for the final AFC wild card spot. So, you know, that’s pretty exciting stuff. Here’s something real: The Jets not only have the worst giveaway/takeaway differential in the NFL (-16), but are tied with the other New Jersey squad for most interceptions surrendered (18). The Dolphins defense has logged the sixth most interceptions in the league, second most in the AFC (14). That should make for some interesting plays. Miami by four.

New England (-7.5) at Houston
The Patriots are pretty banged up. They’re also due for a letdown after last week’s huge comeback victory over the Broncos. So while they’re the better team by far in this matchup, don’t be shocked if the Pats need the full 60 minutes to win this thing and only come out ahead by a narrow margin. New England by four.

Atlanta (+3) vs Buffalo at the Rogers Centre, Toronto
OK, then. Um, Bills. By, oh, I don’t know, let’s go with six. That sound good?

St. Louis (+8) at San Francisco
Back in week four, when the Rams still had their starting quarterback, the 49ers traveled to St. Louis and came away with a 35-11 win. So what do you think happens here? I’m just going with Niners by 24 again, because that way I don’t have to think too much about it.

Cincinnati (+1) at San Diego
Heading into this game, the Chargers are in a tight race with the Ravens for the AFC’s final wild card spot. Coming out of it, the Bengals may find themselves in a tight race with the Ravens for the AFC North title. Chargers by a field goal.

Denver (-5.5) at Kansas City
The Broncos face a second straight road game against tough competition. The Chiefs have a chance to even the score against the Broncos, end a two-game skid, and retake the lead in the AFC West. The Chiefs also have to know that losing this game would effectively end their hopes of capturing the division and the conference one seed. And it’s beyond difficult to beat a talented division opponent twice in the same season. So, yeah, all signs point to a Kansas City victory. So, of course, I’m picking the Broncos to win this game. (Don’t worry, Chiefs fans. Your team will take the important one, when these teams meet again in the divisional round of the playoffs.) Denver by a field goal.

NY Giants (-1) at Washington
The Giants keep their fake post-season hopes alive for one more week before starting a three-game skid. New Jersey by six.

New Orleans (+5) at Seattle
Winner gets to host the rematch in seven weeks. And that winner is … Seattle, by a point.

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