Friday, October 31, 2008

NFL 2008 - Week 9

Week 8: 3-10-1

Overall: 53-61-3

The Smartest Thing I Said Last Week:
Sooner or later I might have no choice to admit that these Bills are for real; first let's see how they handle an AFC East foe on the road (lest we forget, they haven't had to do that yet).
[I picked against the Bills, and they lost. Not a stunningly brave or insightful move by me, but beggars can't be choosers]

The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week (and so many to choose from…):
Browns @ JAGUARS -7

I don't get this line at all. I don't know who in the world would take Cleveland here.
[the Browns won the game, so obviously plenty of people knew something I didn't]

A less-than-stellar week, I'm not going to lie. I lost like three or four games by 1/2 a point, but even if I'd gotten all of those I wouldn't have been in great shape.

Onward…

Jets @ BILLS -5.5

I've played a decent amount of blackjack in my day. I like to think I know what I'm doing at a blackjack table, more or less. I also like to think I know when somebody else doesn't know what he's doing. Why do I bring all of this up? Here's what Jets quarterback Brett Favre said about blackjack this week, according to Yahoo!:
I used to always take hits on 16. Does it depend on what the guy next to you has?... I would sit at the table and [have] everyone get up because [they'd say], "that guy takes hits on everything." When you're betting 10 dollars, who cares?
Could Favre have said anything -- anything at all -- that better explained the last ten years of his career? Hitting on 16 is just like forcing a throw into double-or-triple coverage; it might work a small percentage of the time, and when it does it makes you look brilliant and ballsy. The vast majority of the time, though, it not only ends up screwing you, it screws everybody else who's playing right along with you.

But, as Favre says, "who cares?" He's a multi-millionaire, so ten bucks means nothing to him, so screw everybody else at the table. He's an all-time great who has already won a Super Bowl (would a more discerning Brett Favre have won at least three?), so screw everybody else on the field.

I remain not sold on the Bills, especially given their loss at Miami last week, but this Jets team isn't that great either. They've built a 4-3 record on some pretty iffy wins, they're only 1-2 on the road, and I don't think they're ready to wear the big-boy pants quite yet.

JAGUARS @ Bengals +7.5

The Bengals have to win sometime, one would think. But I've picked them two weeks in a row, and they've been pathetic. In fact, in last week's column, I named picking the Bengals two weeks ago The Dumbest Thing I Said [That] Week, and then proceeded to pick the Bengals again.

No more. The Jaguars are gasping for air and they badly need a win. Watch; this will be the week the Bengals finally do it. I don't care. I can't pick them anymore.

RAVENS @ Browns -1.5

The Ravens are good. I'm going to go ahead and say it. And I understand that the Browns have sort of come on strong of late. Still, as my great-grandpappy used to say, "son, any time you've got a team with the NFL's 30th-ranked offense going against a team with the league's 2nd-ranked defense, put your money on the latter." Keep in mind that there were only 28 teams in the NFL when he passed away, and you'll realize just how much he knew about the game.

TEXANS @ Vikings -4.5

Ladies and gentlemen, the end zone celebration bar has been raised considerably. Though touchdown dances have been around for quite a while, the mid-'90s saw the emergence end zone celebration luminaries such as Carolina's Wesley Walls, who would spike the ball and then "shoot" it out of the air with a pretend shotgun, and San Diego's Alfred Pupunu, who, in a nod to his Tongan heritage, would act like the football was a coconut, twist the top off and "drink" of the milk within.

It was the early years of the 21st century, however, during which the likes of Steve Smith, Joe Horn, Chad Johnson and the Mozart of end zone celebrations, Terrell Owens, brought the genre to previously undreamed of heights. One still weeps when one contemplated the beauty of Owens pulling a Sharpie marker out of his sock and autographing the ball immediately following a score.

All of those acts were mere prelude, however, to what we saw last Sunday, when wide receiver David Anderson of the Houston Texans caught a pass from quarterback Matt Schaub, scampered into the end zone, and unleashed upon the world…

The Conan O'Brien string dance.

Video of the incident is readily available to anyone who wishes to Google "David Anderson" and "string dance," and doing so is highly recommended.

It's not as if any team needs help beating the spread against the Vikings, but the good karma that is sure to follow the Texans after David Anderson's revolutionization of the very concept of the end zone celebration makes this game the safest bet of the week.

Lions @ BEARS -13

Ah, hell. You hate to give away 13 points. But it's the 0-7 Lions, on the road. So even though this line of thinking has burned me before, I'll go with the premise that you really just have no choice but to take the Bears.

BUCCANEERS @ Chiefs +8.5

Can the Buccaneers score enough to justify taking them on the road with this big of a spread? Maybe; they're averaging over 21 points a game. And this is a semi-must-win game for them, heading into their bye week. They need to beat the Chiefs if they want to stay near the top of the NFC playoff hopefuls.

CARDINALS @ Rams +3

You know, you get to the middle few weeks of the season, when the thrill of having the NFL back in your life has worn off a bit and the playoff scenarios haven't really quite started to take shape yet, and there are going to be certain games that you just don't really care that much about. Cardinals @ Rams is one of those games.

Packers @ TITANS -5.5

When did we decide that the Packers could hang with what we have no choice to refer to as the best team in the league in Tennessse? Was it those consecutive wins over the lousy Seahawks and the shaky Colts (who should probably just be known officially as the Shaky Colts, like how Anaheim used to be the Mighty Ducks)? I wasn't consulted about that (hard to believe, isn't it, given my record of picking games this season?).

Dolphins @ BRONCOS -3

Are these teams evenly matched? For some reason, and this is going to sound ridiculous, I think the Dolphins are better, but I feel relatively good about taking Denver this week. The Broncos are coming off a bye week and they've beaten some decent teams at home this year. With such a volatile team, I'd rather just assume they'll take care of things at home.

And while we're here, talking about the Broncos, now seems as good a time as any to mention that the end of an era will take place, a torch will be passed, and a new dawn will come to the National Football League. Yes, we've been hearing a lot about change in the last few months, and on Tuesday we will head to the polls and decide who will replace Mike Shanahan of the Broncos as the NFL Head Coach Who Looks Most Like the President. Will we need to hold a runoff between Herm Edwards of the Chiefs and Tony Dungy of the Colts, or will the underdog, Giants coach Tom Coughlin, defy the odds and the pollsters and pull it out in the end?

Either way, it's an excting time to be an American.

COWBOYS @ Giants -9

This line is too high for an NFC East battle the the Cowboys really need to win, so even though the Giants defense should beat up Brad Johnson and whoever replaces him midway through the second quarter when he inevitably gets hurt or yanked from the game, I'm still taking Dallas.

EAGLES @ Seahawks +6.5

If this game were being played during the Taft administration, then Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren would be engaged in an all-time classic Texas death match for the undisputed NFL Head Coach Who Looks Most Like the President title.

But it isn't.

The Eagles are up and down, but so far this year they've handled all of the bad teams they've had to play, well, handily. That should continue.

FALCONS @ Raiders +3

The Falcons might make the playoffs. You heard it here first.

PATRIOTS @ Colts -5.5

It seems like the Colts and Patriots play like eight times a year, doesn't it? Of course, sophisticated football fans know that the real number is much closer to five or six.

Last season's November matchup between these two teams, into which they both entered undefeated, was commonly referred to as "Super Bowl 41 1/2." This year's meeting, however has been unofficially dubbed the "Meineke Car Care Bowl 6 1/2," after the caliber of players we're likely to see taking the field for the two injury plagued clubs.

I'll go with the Patriots, because until they lose a couple of games in a row, I'm going to go on assuming that they're kind of still The Patriots.

Steelers @ REDSKINS -1.5

It used to be if the Redskins won their last home game before a presidential election that meant the incumbent president's party would keep the White House, and if the Redskins lost their last home game before a presidential election then the incumbent party would lose. Believe it or not, this held true for 17 consecutive presidential elections, dating all the way back to 1936.

In fact, in 2000 the Redskins lost by one point in double overtime on a controversial call, and then George W. Bush went on to defeat the incumbent party on his way to a controversial electoral college win. Spooky, huh?

[note: I made almost all of that last paragraph up. First of all, you can't win by one point in overtime. Nor is there such a thing as double overtime in the NFL's regular season. What's wrong with you?]

In 2004 the streak came to an end, with the Redskins losing their last home game before the election and Bush retaining the presidency, breaking a 68-year-old pattern in the process (really, is there anything that man can't accomplish? I mean, other than things he claims via banner to have already done?).

Lucky for me, that frees me up to pick the 'Skins to beat Pittsburgh. If the Redskins' uncanny predictive powers were still in play, we'd all be forced to go with the Steelers on Sunday, since Obama's going to win.

And, in that spirit, let's "hope" that this is the week my luck in picking games will finally "change." Am I right, America?

Choose or Die! (or whatever it is Puffy says)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I Rule

Left to right:

Adam Carolla, me, Bill Simmons.

I rule.

Friday, October 24, 2008

NFL 2008 - Week 8

Week 7: 5-9

Overall: 48-52-2

In my defense, a lot of favorites won their games but failed to cover the spread. Sort of a weird week. Don't worry; we'll bounce back.

The Smartest Thing I Said Last Week:
[You] can say what you want about Pats coach Bill Belichick -- for instance, I want to say that he's a philandering sourpuss who sullied his and his team's legacy by blatantly cheating and then clearly lying about it -- but the last time his Patriots lost back-to-back games was almost two years ago, and the last time they lost back-to-back games prior to that was in December of 2002. The point being that if something is wrong, Bill Belichick usually fixes it but quick.
[The Patriots beat the first-place Broncos 41-7]

The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week:
I'll… pick… the… [sorry, I'm having a tough time actually typing the words]… Bengals.
[you just don't pick the Bengals]

Raiders @ RAVENS -7

Baltimore has played very well at home, their only loss coming by three points to undefeated Tennessee. In fact, they'd be tied for a playoff spot if, to describe things in the laziest way possible, the season ended today.

The Raiders still stink; I don't care what they did last week against the Jets. Every team gets a weird win here or there over the course of a season that they shouldn't have gotten; the Raiders won't get two of those in a row.

While we're talking about the Raiders, by the way, we should bring up the issue of calling a timeout the millisecond before the ball is snapped on a last-second field goal try, something that has become quite the little fad in the NFL these days despite the indisputable fact that it hurts your team's chances to win. What we're seeing is this: a team lines up for a last-second field goal that will either tie or win the game (which sort of goes without saying; a last-second field goal that would do neither of those things would really be pointless to attempt). The ball is snapped and kicked, the field goal made or missed, but wait! The opposing team's coach stood next to the referee, hovering next to him like a creepy guy on the subway, and called for a timeout just before the ball was snapped (one assumes he figured the opponents would snap the ball just as the play clock ticked down to zero, and timed his timeout call appropriately).

The play was whistled dead, but not in time to prevent the kicking team from snapping and kicking the ball. So, now they've got to do it again.

It doesn't take a great deal of mental gymnastics to figure out why this is a bad idea, other than the fact that it's a useless and supremely annoying tactic. Let's imagine that the kicker makes his first kick, which, if you called your timeout, doesn't count. Now he's thinking to himself, "well, there you go. I can make that, no problem. All I've got to do is do it again."

Now, let's imagine the kicker misses his first kick, and your timeout means he gets to kick again. Well, then he'd be thinking, "that God that wasn't the real kick, or we would have lost! Plus, now I know what I did wrong. I can't wait to kick it again, for real this time!"

The point is, what exactly is to be gained from doing this?

In each of the last two weeks, this tactic has resulted in what amounted to a second chance for a team to kick a tying field goal that they basically missed the first time, converting their gift-wrapped second chance. As proof that God has no interest whatsoever in the outcomes of NFL games, the teams that called the Doucebag Timeout (as I insist that it be called from now on) and handed their opponents an extra chance to tie the game -- those two teams being the Raiders and the Cardinals -- went on to win in overtime.

Sometime soon, though, hopefully in a critical game, some coach is going to use this tactic and end up negating a missed field goal that would have won his team the game, and then his team is going to go on to lose. And then maybe public opinion may, for all intents and purposes, ban this ridiculous tactic if the NFL won't get off its collective ass and do something about it..

Cardinals @ PANTHERS -4.5

The Panthers are gangbusters at home, even against good teams, a group that we are now probably forced to admit includes the Cardinals.

Not much else to say about this game, but, as I was watching the highlights of the Panthers-Saints game from last Sunday, it finally hit me: the Panthers uniforms -- which have never looked good but which I don't complain about a lot because thanks to the Broncos, Titans, Bills and Vikings we've got much, much bigger fish to fry in that department -- are officially the most dated looking uniforms in sports. Everything about them screams early-to-mid '90s, and that's just not the look you want for your sports team. Not since Cincinnati Reds finally abandoned their Big Red Machine-era pullovers has a team so needed to make a change. Really, take a look this week at the style of lettering they use to paint the word "PANTHERS" in the end zone; I bet if you walked up to 100 random people on the street, at least half of them would be able to correctly guess the exact month in 1994 during which that end zone font was designed and approved (also, Zogby would have you believe that like 85 of those 100 people are voting for Obama).

[POW! That's right… political humor! Deal with it, bitches!]

[actually, I apologize to my readers for that. Especially to the female ones. But that's what happens when you watch too much "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." That is, if it were possible to watch too much "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"]

BUCCANEERS @ Cowboys -2.5

Can we possibly trust the Cowboys at all, at this point in the season? What does it say about your team when the antics are Terrell Owens are like the sixth of seventh worst thing you're dealing with? Half of their secondary, their quarterback, their electrifying rookie running back… all out. The lackluster Rams defense had little trouble with the Cowboys last week; what are the odds that they'll muster up much offense against a superior Buccaneers unit?

Redskins @ LIONS +7.5

Do I dare pick the Redskins to cover a big spread for a third straight week, after they didn't even come close to getting the job done the last two times?

They're playing the Lions… don't I have to?

No. Fool me once, shame on you...

And, as a wise man once sort of meant to say: can't get fooled again.

Bills @ DOLPHINS +1.5

I'm still not sold on the Bills. That win over the Chargers last week may have been due in part to the fact that, as I pointed out in my previous NFL picks column, "the Chargers are a west coast team playing an early game in the east, and the Bills are nice and rested up after their bye week."

Of course, I then went on to pick the Chargers anyway, which was pretty dumb (although not the dumbest thing I said last week; see above).

And I'm not certain if the Ravens provided the league with a blueprint on how to stop Miami's now-slightly-less-vaunted Wildcat Offense, because I'm not certain that "be as good as the Ravens defense" is necessarily a blueprint that can be followed by everyone.

Sooner or later I might have no choice to admit that these Bills are for real; first let's see how they handle an AFC East foe on the road (lest we forget, they haven't had to do that yet).

Rams @ PATRIOTS -7

The Patriots don't stop the run particularly well, so one might be concerned about another big day from Rams running back Steven Jackson (160 yards and three touchdowns last week against Dallas). Jackson has a strained thigh muscle and missed a couple days of practice this week, though, so odds are he won't be at full strength. And after two big wins, the Rams are bound to fall back to earth soon, seeing as how they stink and all.

The Patriots, meanwhile, with all the trouble they've had, sit there at 4-2, a game behind Buffalo in the AFC East with two shots at the Bills later in the season. If they win a few more games, here, one could be forgiven for suggesting that the Patriots might be in what almost looks, from a certain angle, like the driver's seat.

CHARGERS @ Saints +3 (in London)

As we have seen, I mentioned last week in talking about the Chargers that west coast teams tend to have a little bit of trouble playing on the east coast. Well, this week, the Chargers will be playing on the east coast.. of England! So there's that.

Both of these teams are 3-4, so why do I feel like the Chargers are better? Is it because, as I also discussed last week, one of their losses was very fluky and another was completely illegitimate? Maybe. Let's just pick them, then, and be done with it.

Chiefs @ JETS -13

I suppose you have to take the Jets, don't you? Even though they have as man wins over plus-.500 teams as the Chiefs do (one).

Okay, so... look: we all know Brett Favre is so great that Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie and Burt Reynolds from (m: The Longest Yard) could all have three-way sex, and the messianic super-baby they produced would still not be worthy to gaze directly at Brett Favre's awesomeness without having its face melt off like that Nazi who drank from the wrong Holy Grail in Last Crusade. No one's trying to say that's not the case.

All I'm saying is that maybe the announcers could ease off on the Favre worship during those points in a game in which Favre a) is in the process of losing to the Raiders, and b) just threw what against any other team would probably have been a game-killing interception less than two minutes ago.

That's all I'm saying.

OKay, let's try and power through these last six...

FALCONS @ Eagles -9

Nine points is too much for an Atlanta team that has shown they can hang with a good team on the road.

BENGALS @ Texans -9.5

I was in Vegas in autumn once years ago, and someone at a blackjack table jokingly asked if I wanted to make a certain move that would have been particularly stupid (I forget exactly what it was). I said, "look, if I wanted to just throw my money away, I'd go and bet on the Bengals."

Well, it turned out that the Bengals were playing Houston, and, since no one goes 0-16, and Houston was a brand-new team, I actually did end up betting on the Bengals. And I won.

So I'll take them for nostalgia's sake.

Browns @ JAGUARS -7

I don't get this line at all. I don't know who in the world would take Cleveland here.

Giants @ STEELERS -3

Clearly the game of the week, a matchup of two 5-1 titans (neither of whom, as luck would have it, are the actual Titans, who are in fact 6-0). I still think a person could be slightly worried about the Pittsburgh offense, although that's not much to go on. The Giants have looked very mortal the past couple of weeks, too... I'll just go home team here. Should be a hell of a game.

Seahawks @ 49ERS -5

No one really cares about this game; it will have nothing to do with who makes the playoffs and it's up against the best game of the season so far in Giants-Steelers.

Colts @ TITANS -4

The actual Titans keep the winning streak alive on Monday night.

Friday, October 17, 2008

NFL 2008 - Week 7

Week 6: 6-8

Overall: 43-43-2

The Smartest Thing I Said Last Week:
[T]his Vikings team has no business being favored by more than five or six points against anybody, ever, for any reason.
[The Vikings beat the winless Lions by two points on a last-minute field goal]

The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week:
The Redskins, despite their charge to the top of the NFC pile, have won their games by five points, seven points, two points and six points, respectively. Some might take that as a sign that they're not the sort of team that will blow anybody out. This week, I'm going to choose to take it as a sign that they're just about due to -- in the words of the great WWE announcer Jim Ross -- stomp a mud hole in the Rams' ass and then walk it dry.
[The Redskins lost to the Rams by two. Why I would spend half a paragraph detailing the fact that they don't win games by very many points, and then pick them to cover a 13.5-point spread, is beyond me, but that's what I did]

I don't think it's fair to call Week 6 a disaster, but, neither was it my finest hour. Still, we're sitting right at .500 for the season; here's where we turn it around, my friends.

CHARGERS @ Bills -1

We have to figure that the Chargers are good, don't we? Their first two losses, to Carolina and Denver, were, respectively, very fluky and completely illegitimate. I know that LaDainian Tomlinson has a gimpy toe and Shawne Merriman is out, but overall they've been almost -- not quite, but almost -- the solid team we all thought they were going to be. What they did to the Patriots on Sunday was impressive. Sure, the Patriots are a weak 3-2 and could very well miss the playoffs… still. Blowing out the Patriots is blowing out the Patriots.

And I think we all got a bit too excited about Buffalo. When last we saw them, two weeks ago, they were getting blown out by the Cardinals. Sure, the Cardinals are 4-2 and a virtual lock to make the playoffs… still. Getting blown out by the Cardinals is getting blown out by the Cardinals. The only thing that gives me pause is that the Chargers are a west coast team playing an early game in the east, and the Bills are nice and rested up after their bye week. That's not quite enough to talk me out of the Chargers, though.

Saints @ PANTHERS -3

The four NFC South teams are 4-0 against divisional opponents at home, and 0-4 against divisional opponents on the road. That might not have much to do with the Saints/Panthers game on Sunday, but it's not a trend I feel like bucking.

Vikings @ BEARS -3

The Vikings beat the winless, hapless, hopeless Lions, as I have noted, by two points, on a last-minute field goal. Here's the thing: they could beat the Bears by 24 points. They could lose to the Bears by 24 points. I can't rationally discuss the Vikings anymore, so I'm not going to pretend that I can. But, to repeat, they beat the Lions by two points, on a last-minute field goal. It's extremely easy to believe that they'll lose to be Bears by more than three.

Steelers @ BENGALS +9.5

This line's too high, and the Bengals are due. After all, the Bengals have been sort of almost competitive in most of their games. Under the "No One Goes 0-16" theory, I'll… pick… the… [sorry, I'm having a tough time actually typing the words]… Bengals.

TITANS @ Chiefs +8.5

You hate to give away 8-and-a-half points on the road, but, this boils down to one of the NFL's worst teams hosting one of the NFL's best. Arrowhead Stadium is supposed to be a really tough place to play, and it can be, but not when the upper sections are half-empty and the fans that do show up can hardly be bothered to care.

Ravens @ DOLPHINS -3

It might not have been the single dumbest thing I said last week (or, actually, it might have been), but picking the Ravens on the road against an always-dangerous Colts team wasn't the most spectacular bit of football prognostication the internet has ever seen. Probably not the best idea, as a rule, to back a rookie QB on the road against a team that won the Super Bowl two years ago and still has most of those players.

The Dolphins' Wildcat offense (so named because it was inspired by Sandra Bullock's character in Speed) (not really) is taking the league by storm, and even though they lost to the Texans last week I still think they're good now. The Wildcat offense -- which, to this observer, consists mainly of having two tailbacks on the field, one of whom takes the snap -- is sure to be imitated by other teams around the NFL if it keeps working as well as it has. For starters, maybe it can help the Dolphins rebound from that loss at Houston last Sunday.

49ers @ GIANTS -10.5

We all might have gotten just an eensy bit carried away about the Giants prior to that 35-14 pasting they received at the hands of the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. But can you blame us? They were the undefeated Super Bowl champs; it seemed like they had a good thing going.

But are we going to count on their defense and their quarterback having another off day against another lousy team, this time at home? I sure wish the line was a little lower, because the 49ers seem like they could put up a little bit of a fight, but, let's just assume that the Giants right the ship this week.

COWBOYS @ Rams +7

Speaking of getting an eensy bit carried away, I think we may have gotten an eensy bit carried away about the entire NFC East, what with the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants falling to the Cardinals (4-2, but still), Rams and Browns in Week 6. Maybe it was just a down week for those teams, but maybe the NFC East isn't quite the collection of badasses we assumed it to be.

On to the game at hand; are the Cowboys ready to fall apart? Are things finally coming together for the Rams? I say not quite yet, and no way.

Lions @ TEXANS -9.5

They really, really want people to take the Lions this week, don't they? Well, I, for one, took them last week, and they beat the spread for me, this in a game in which their quarterback basically sprinted out of the back of his own end zone and didn't realize it for at least a solid five-count. This week, I'm not going to press my luck.

COLTS @ Packers +1.5

The Packers are banged up at cornerback, which might not be the best recipe for trying to stop a Colts team that has rediscovered its dominant passing game to the tune of 271 yards and three touchdowns last week Sunday against the #1-ranked Baltimore defense.

I don't have much more to add about the game itself, but when I was checking out the Packers' injury report for the week I noticed that "A. Hawk" was listed as "probable," with a groin injury. This referred, of course, to Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, and I knew that, but it still looked really weird. Can we all just agree that guys who go by initials get their entire initials listed in such a situation, rather than just the first one? Even the millisecond that it takes the brain to asses the situation and recalibrate ("wait; who's 'A. Hawk'? Oh, right; A.J. Hawk") is one millisecond too many; we've all got enough to worry about these days without adding that to the pile. And if you say, "that's not fair; why should A.J. Hawk get to have what amounts to his entire name listed, while other guys only get their first initial?," I'd respond by pointing out that when months are abbreviated to three letters "May" always just gets to be written out in full, and you don't hear the other months bitching about it.

(in completely unrelated news, I'm sort of running out of stuff to say about the NFL)

JETS @ Raiders +3

The last time Brett Favre visited Oakland (to play NFL football, at least; I'm not as up on the travel habits of Brett Favre as I used to be, so he could have visited Oakland for pleasure since then, although people who can help it have generally been known not to), he torched the Raiders for 399 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Packers to a 41-7 victory on "Monday Night Football" just one day after his father died of a heart attack. It was one of the performances that will forever define his career.

I like to make a lot of jokes in this column, but I won't joke about somebody's dad dying of a heart attack. If I did indirectly joke about the situation by saying that I wouldn't put it past Jets fans to try and take out Favre's mom on the eve of Sunday's game just to see if Favre could replicate his performance from five years ago, that would be a joke (barely) about Jets fans, not about Favre or his dad.

Besides, all kidding aside, I don't think that even a Jets fan would stoop that low. Not in October, when they're only playing the Raiders. They'd save something like that for the playoffs.

Browns @ REDSKINS -7

What to do, what to do... tell you what: go up and look at The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week. Let's just pretend that I was talking about this week's Redskins game against the Browns, and not last week's Redskins game against the Rams, okay? Deal? Deal. It has to apply at some point, right?

Seahawks @ BUCCANEERS -10.5

I can only throw raw data at you, at this point. Tampa Bay's record at home this season: 3-0. Tampa Bay's average margin of victory in those games: 16 points. Overall record of the three teams Tampa Bay played in those games: 11-7. Seahawks' record: 1-4.

The numbers speak for themselves, people.

Broncos @ PATRIOTS -3

You might not know it from watching them the last few weeks, but both of these teams have winning records and, if the season ended today, would make the playoffs. After the relatively unimpressive performances both teams delivered last week you don't really want to pick either one one, but I'll take the Patriots, even with their old, slow linebackers and seemingly hopeless quarterback. Why?

Well, you can say what you want about Pats coach Bill Belichick -- for instance, I want to say that he's a philandering sourpuss who sullied his and his team's legacy by blatantly cheating and then clearly lying about it -- but the last time his Patriots lost back-to-back games was almost two years ago, and the last time they lost back-to-back games prior to that was in December of 2002. The point being that if something is wrong, Bill Belichick usually fixes it but quick. These Patriots might prove to be beyond fixing, but for this week at least, Belichick has earned the benefit of the doubt. In that respect if in no other.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Don't Give Up Yet, McCainiacs...

It may not matter if he can't win Virginia, but, John McCain is now, in certain polls (okay, one part of one poll), back to within the margin of error.

Call me audacious if you must, but I still have hope.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Best Show on TV, Part 9

The Best Show on TV

"The Office" (NBC) -- 2/9/2006 - 4/2/2006
"Huff" (Showtime) -- 4/6/2006 - 8/26/2006
"Big Brother" (CBS) -- 8/26/2006 - 10/4/2006
"South Park" (Comedy Central) -- 10/4/2006 - 11/30/2006
"The Office" (NBC) -- 11/30/2006 - 1/14/2007
"24" (FOX) -- 1/14/2007 - 4/5/2007
"30 Rock" (NBC) -- 4/5/2007 - 4/10/2007
"House" (FOX) -- 4/10/2008 - 10/5/2008
"Dexter" (Showtime) -- 10/5/2008 - present

And we return to my favorite ongoing series of articles, The Best Show on TV. For those of you joining us already in progress, this is based on one of my favorite web pages in all of cyperspace, the WWE Title Histories page. If you can't spend countless hours of fun looking at a list of who defeated whom, and when and where, to win the WWE title, then I'm not sure exactly what more there is to say between us.

To clarify, this list chronicles a history not of my favorite show on TV, but of the actualbest show on TV. I'm not deciding what that show is, I'm just reporting the facts. Now, you might think another show is better; that's your business. But you should know that arguing that there was another show on TV that was better than "The Office" on, say, December 12th, 2006 would be essentially the same thing as arguing that Eddie Guerrero was not the WWE champion on May 23rd, 2004. You can argue it if you want, but we've got a list to refer to, and you're just going to end up looking silly in the end.

Anyway, even though you're reading this today, the title officially changed hands, as you can see, back on October 5, with the airing of that evening's episode of "Dexter." I'm writing it up today because last night was as soon as I was able to download a nice copy of the episode off the internet -- er, that is… last night was as soon as I was able to come to an understanding of what Season 3, Episode 2 of "Dexter" contained without resorting to any illegal means whatsoever.

For those who don't know, "Dexter" -- based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (don't worry, I hadn't heard of it either, although I'm sure it's good) -- is the story of a serial killer who only kills other killers. You see, young Dexter's pathology was noticed very early in his life by his foster father, Officer Harry Morgan, and Harry decided, for good or ill, that since Dexter would inevitably become a killer, his urges might be steered in a "constructive" direction via a strict code, producing a Dexter who would arguably aid society instead of injuring it. The end result is Dexter Morgan, crime scene analyst (specializing, naturally, in blood spatter) for the Miami Metro Police Department by day, serial murdering vigilante by night.

It should be noted that "Dexter" is most certainly not for kids, or even for most adults; in Season 1 particularly, the subject matter becomes intensely dark, to the point that those who haven't grown up in a popular culture awash in slasher flicks and torture porn may well be so put off that it would be impossible for them to get anything out of the show. Not that the violence actually depicted onscreen is necessarily all that brutal; your average scene in Hostel or Saw makes the worst of "Dexter" look like some fabric softener commercial where a new mom smells her baby's head while tinkly piano music plays in the background. It's more that psychologically, "Dexter" plunges so far down into the depths of the morass of human depravity that you should really make sure you've got a vine tied around your ankle before you commit to diving in.

So why watch it, one might ask. Well, why watch any entertainment? Usually, we watch TV either for the purposes of pure escapism, or to get a laugh, or, perhaps best of all, to get a vicarious thrill from what we see. "Dexter" provides this in spades, because although we'd never admit, don't we all sort of fantasize that it was up to us to punish the wicked, to decide who gets to live and who gets to die, and to be able to do it with the unambiguous certainty that comes with total belief in our righteousness? We know, of course, that in a practical sense it's not doable because if we tried to do it we'd break a bunch of laws and get caught right away. We also know that in a philosophical sense it's not doable because we're fallible, and in no position to take it upon ourselves to administer justice when there are institutions, however imperfect, set up to take care of that for us.

But Dexter works for the cops, he vets his victims carefully, and he doesn't have a conscience per se, so he's the perfect man to live out our aberrant little fantasies on the screen every week. And, since we know that the people he's killing are fictional characters, we get our dose of fantasy fulfillment without any of those pesky horrific, soul-searing nightmares you or I might get from treating flesh-and-blood human beings like Dexter treats his victims.

But "Dexter" doesn't let Dexter off the hook, either; it would be too easy to depict a character who simply has no conscience, no regular human emotions or attachments. Instead, we're given a character who thinks he has no conscience, no regular human emotions or attachments. His affection for his foster sister, Deb, belies his claims of inhumanity, and the relationship he "acts out" with his girlfriend, Rita, grows steadily into a real relationship as the series progresses. Dexter's nervousness and discomfort during a Season 2 dinner with Rita, Rita's mother and a very attractive young woman from Dexter's life (I won't spoil it by divulging the nature of the relationship) show that, despite his claims to the contrary, he can certainly pick up on the same social cues and behavioral ticks on which the rest of us rely, as long as they're obvious enough. Think of Dexter as a blind man who imagines that he must not have any idea what a "cube" is like; if that man were suddenly given the power of sight, he'd probably discover that his guesses weren't far off at all.

Dexter, though he believes he's "apart from," "different than," is but a few tweaks away from experiencing things just like the rest of us do. And so, if my math checks out, that means we're but a few tweaks away from Dexter. Which is probably why it's such a damn good show.

Friday, October 10, 2008

NFL 2008 - Week 6

Week 5: 7-6-1

Overall: 37-35-2

The Smartest Thing I Said Last Week:
We may have all underestimated the Giants. Which is dumb of all of us, considering that they're the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week:

[you know what? I'm giving myself a pass on this one. Sure, I missed six games, but going back over last week's picks, I didn't say anything particularly stupid. Don't worry; I promise it won't happen again]

BEARS @ Falcons +3

We start things off with a nice matchup of 3-2 teams that not a ton of people thought would be 3-2. And I mean that literally: if you took all of the people in the entire world who honestly thought that the Atlanta Falcons (in particular) would be 3-2 at this point, the total combined weight of those people would not equal 2,000 pounds. But 3-2 they both are.

Although, now that I look at the Falcons' schedule, they hosted the Lions and the Chiefs, so it's not like you wouldn't have given them an excellent chance to be 2-3. The win last week over the Packers at Lambeau Field, though, finally made people think, "hey, are the Falcons kind of good?"

(well, either that, or "hey, are the Packers kind of bad?")

Want to know something kind of interesting? Both the Falcons and the Bears, at 3-2, have lost to the same two teams, the Panthers and the Buccaneers. Not sure what that means, if anything, but, there you go.

Anyway, the Bears have a pretty solid run defense, which could help negate running back Michael Turner, Atlanta's biggest weapon. And Atlanta's near the bottom of the league in passing, so this ought to be another week in which the Bears edge ever closer to the proverbial driver's seat in the wide-open NFC North. And if I'm going pick them to win, I may as well pick them to cover that three point spread, no?

DOLPHINS @ Texans -3

To the folks who set this point spread, and who obviously just emerged from a coma they fell into back in late August, I would like to say the following two things:

1) She's the governor of Alaska. Yeah, I know, she's super-hot for a politician. And for a 44-year-old. Hell, for anybody. And it's not so much that she's dumb, just that she was probably unprepared to play at this level.

And,

2) In their last two games, the Dolphins have defeated the two participants from last year's AFC Championship Game. And the Texans are winless and had part of their stadium wrecked by a hurricane. So I understand that, since you just got out of your coma and had no way of knowing these facts, you figured the Texans should be three point favorites. But the Dolphins are good now, and the Texans turned out not to be.

RAVENS @ Colts -3.5

Is it possible that the Colts actually aren't that good? Their two wins have to rank as two of the all-time garbage wins in garbage-win history, and they came against teams with losing records (although, to be fair, one of those teams, the Vikings, only has a losing record because the Colts beat them). Their two losses came at the hands of the Bears and Jaguars, solid teams perhaps but teams that are by no means setting the league on fire.

The Ravens might be tougher to figure out; they can't really score, but with the league's #1 defense they don't hardly need to. Since their two losses were both by three points, to arguably the AFC's two best teams, I'll go with them. Three-and-a-half might be a little bit high for a Colt's team that you really can't be sure is good.

LIONS @ Vikings -13

Sort of getting an early start on next week's "The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week?" No; I just think this Vikings team has no business being favored my more than five or six points against anybody, ever, for any reason. They needed a blown face mask non-penalty, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery deep in Saints territory to get to 30 points last week; who wants to count on stuff like that happening again? Not this guy!

(you couldn't see it, but after I typed the "this guy" part I pointed both of my thumbs in roughly the direction of my head)

Raiders @ SAINTS -7

The Saints just lost a bad one at home, and really need a win, so you've got to like them this week, even with some banged-up receivers.

Al Davis's Raiders, whom you may have heard just fired their coach over the bye week, were competitive in their last two games, so you know that won't happen again.

And you've got to feel for interim Raiders coach Tom Cable; really, would anybody other than a Make-A-Wish kid who always wanted to be on the sidelines during an NFL game even consider taking the Raiders job now? Al Davis is officially the football version of George Steinbrenner at this point, except Al's teams doesn't win.

(or, to make that analogy more apt to the last several years, Al Davis is officially the football version of George Steinbrenner at this point)

Bengals @ JETS -5.5

Remember how we discussed that the Dolphins' last two wins came against last season's AFC Championship Game participants, the Patriots and the Chargers? Well, the Jets' only two losses have come against those same two teams. And while they aren't quite the same Patriots and Chargers they were last season, they're not chopped liver either. If there's anything to the 2008 Jets, anything at all, they should handle the Bengals.

And isn't it nice to see the Bengals being really bad again? It just sort of seems like that's how it should be. It's comforting. I didn't quite know how to feel a couple of years ago when they went 11-5 and hosted a playoff game; it weirded me out a little bit, made me kind of uncomfortable, like when Jim Carrey did The Number 23; now, this fall, the Bengals stink and Jim Carrey is doing a comedy in which he's required to say "yes" to everything anyone asks him and he licks people's faces. All is as it should be.

PANTHERS @ Buccaneers -1.5

Hey, I remember you, Panthers and Buccaneers. You're the two teams that beat the Bears and the Falcons, right?

If only that helped us here.

The 4-1 Panthers can seize early control of the division with a win here, and I say they do it. They're a darn good team, their only loss -- to the Vikings -- coming in one of those "a mediocre team happens to put absolutely everything together for 60 minutes, and there's not a whole lot you can do" games that seem to happen to the elite teams a couple of times a year. Not that the Panthers are necessarily an elite team. Although I wouldn't rule out the possibility.

Rams @ REDSKINS -13.5

The Rams defense is next-to-last in the league, but the good news is that they just fired their coach and gave their defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, the job. So it's not like he'll have a lot on his plate this week or anything.

The Redskins, despite their charge to the top of the NFC pile, have won their games by five points, seven points, two points and six points, respectively. Some might take that as a sign that they're not the sort of team that will blow anybody out. This week, I'm going to choose to take it as a sign that they're just about due to -- in the words of the great WWE announcer Jim Ross -- stomp a mud hole in the Rams' ass and then walk it dry.

Jaguars @ BRONCOS -3.5

The Jaguars just generally don't score a lot of points, and the Broncos defense, which had been bad, held Tampa Bay to 13 last week.

The Broncos generally score a lot of points, so since I'm getting tired I'm going to go ahead say that's reason enough for me to pick Denver.

COWBOYS @ Cardinals +5

Do you realize that the Cowboys, a 4-1 team that just about everyone thought was the NFL's best a short two weeks ago, are now in third place in the NFC East? There's no way another division has any chance at getting a Wild Card berth, is there?

That said, you absolutely have to figure that the Cardinals are winning the NFC West and going to the playoffs, don't you?

Even so, I figure the Cowboys win this one, and if I'm figuring that they're going to win, I may as well figure that they're going to win by at least six.

EAGLES @ 49ers +5

The Eagles really need a win to stay in it. So do the 49ers, but, the Eagles are better.

PACKERS @ Seahawks -1.5

I realize the bloom might be off of the Packer rose a little bit after that grim home loss to Atlanta, but let's not go crazy, here. Remember how it took like three years and a trip to the Super Bowl for everyone to finally agree on the fact that the Seahawks were good? Let's not let the same thing happen with regard to agreeing that the Seahawks are bad. Which they are. The Packers aren't great, but, the Seahawks are baaaaaaaad.

PATRIOTS @ Chargers -4.5

Well, here we have those two teams that, as has been mentioned, met in last year's AFC Championship Game. I think I just trust the Chargers a little less than I do the Patriots, so let's just go with that.

GIANTS @ Browns +7.5

I sure picked lot of road teams this week, didn't I? Oh, well. What's one more?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

NFL 2008 - Week 5

Falcons @ PACKERS -5.5

Thursday, October 02, 2008

NFL 2008 - Week 5

Week 4: 4-9


Overall: 30-29-1


The Smartest Thing I Said Last Week:

After the Michael Vick saga, and after their coach up and quit before last season even ended, the rebuilding Falcons are an admirable 2-1. That said, they could very well be the most underwhelming 2-1 team we've seen in quite a while. They've won two home games against the Lions and the Chiefs, who are not only two of the worst teams in the league but arguably two of the worst NFL teams in years.

When they had to go on the road against a playoff-caliber team they lost 24-9 to the Buccaneers, with rookie QB Matt Ryan posting no TDs, two picks and a less-than-robust 29.6 passer rating.

And lookie here: this week, the Falcons go on the road against a playoff-caliber team in the Carolina Panthers. Sure, the Panthers only managed ten points against the Vikings last week, but the Vikings defense is really good; I'm not sure the same is true for Atlanta's. Carolina gets an easy win.

The Dumbest Thing I Said Last Week:

CARDINALS @ Jets -1.5

"Hey, we went 4-12 last season; what do you think our problem was?"

"Um... I know! Our quarterback wasn't old enough! He was only in his early 30s!"

"Hey, you're right!"

And then of course that quarterback goes out and throws like 11 touchdown passes.


Titans @ RAVENS +3


The Titans are off to a flying 4-0 start, and there's talk that they may in fact be the class of the AFC. But wait: let's see just who it is that they've beaten, shall we?

  • The Jaguars, who got off to a shaky start before winning two close games over two other teams that got off to shaky starts. And besides, Titans-Jaguars is one of those "throw out the records" games that always has the potential to go either way, no matter how good or how bad either team is.
  • The Bengals… 'nuff said.
  • The winless Houston Texans, and
  • The Vikings, a talented team perhaps but a team in disarray, and a team that, even when in full array, is always a threat to lose any game they play, at home or on the road.

  • So, while the Titans are certainly in the AFC driver's seat and their fans certainly have reason to be pleased, I'm reminded of what Harvey Keitel said in Pulp Fiction: "Let's not start [naughty word]ing each other's [naughty words] just yet."


    I'll take a flier and say that the Ravens, who admittedly have yet to beat a good team, play the Titans really tough this week, in a brutally boring game to watch. It could be a 2-0 game, this one.


    Chiefs @ PANTHERS -9.5


    After I spent half of last week's column making fun of Kansas City Chiefs fans and pointing out that, as a Vikings fan, I could have it a lot worse, the Chiefs beat the undefeated Broncos 33-19 while my Vikings went down rather meekly in Tennessee. This was clearly a case of karma kicking me in the nuts, and, I have to admit, I have half a mind to move into a fleabag hotel in Camden County and spend the next few years atoning for the various wrongs I've committed in my life with the help of my dimwit brother. But both of my brothers are really smart, so I'll probably have to think of some other way to heed karma's warnings.


    I'd love to start by picking the Chiefs to beat that 9 1/2-point spread this week, but, given that the Panthers just got done beating a bad team at home handily, I've got every reason to believe that they'll beat the Chiefs at home handily.


    BEARS @ Lions +3.5


    The Lions finally fired longtime GM Matt Millen this week after a 31-84 run of futility, during which the team and Millen himself became something of a laughingstock. Don't be surprised if, on Sunday, the Lions players walk around with a look of satisfaction and contentment like Andy, Red and the rest of the crew that tarred the Shawshank plate factory roof in the spring of '49 as they sat and sipped their ice cold beer and, for the first time in a while, felt like men.

    But, sort of like how those Shawshank inmates, after the roof was tarred and the beers were drunk, were still prisoners; the Lions players, after the Millen-firing celebrations have died down, still play for the Detroit Lions.


    And I know I said that you can't really know anything until Week 5, and that once we hit Week 5 things should get easier, but, I still don't have any idea what to make of the Bears. Luckily they're playing the Lions this week, or I wouldn't know what to do with them.


    Falcons @ PACKERS


    Nobody has any odds posted for this game, because nobody's sure whether Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going play. If I forget to check back Saturday or early Sunday morning before the games to see if odds have been posted, let's assume that I pick the Packers no matter what the line is. If Rodgers doesn't play then it'll be rookie QB vs. rookie QB, but with one of them playing at home with a better team behind him.


    But I reserve the right to come back and change my mind once the odds are posted; that's only fair.


    COLTS @ Texans +3


    Expectations were high for the Houston Texans this year, but they got off to an uninspired 0-3 start. Expectations are always high for the Colts, but they got off to an uninspired 1-2 start. Coming off of a bye week, I have to think that the Colts will regard this game as a must-win and, having had a week off to heal up, will take care of business against an inferior team.


    Chargers @ DOLPHINS +6.5


    When last we saw the Dolphins, they were throttling the Patriots in New England two weeks ago. They used an almost Boise State-like array of trick plays to throw the Pats off of their game and, for good measure, completely outplayed them as well. Was this just a crazy aberration, or are the Dolphins turning into a half-decent team? We'll see.


    And I just don't trust the Chargers.


    Seahawks @ GIANTS -7


    We may have all underestimated the Giants. Which is dumb of all of us, considering that they're the defending Super Bowl champions.


    REDSKINS @ Eagles -6


    Even after they beat the widely-agreed-upon best team in the NFL on the road last week, I'm still not sold on the Redskins. Still, a six-point line seems a bit high against an Eagles team with a banged-up running back and a banged-up quarterback, especially considering that the Redskins are coming off of three straight wins over three tough NFC teams. Well, two tough NFC teams and the Cardinals.


    BUCCANEERS @ Broncos -3


    I guess the oddsmakers didn't get the memo: the Buccaneers are good! And did you see how the Broncos lost badly to the Chiefs -- the Chiefs! -- last week? To call the Broncos defense "porous" would be an insult… to pores!


    BILLS @ Cardinals -1


    I'll assume the Bills are for real until we see some evidence to the contrary.


    And, after last week, I'll assume that the Cardinals aren't capable of holding an opponent to under 56 points until we see some evidence to the contrary.


    Bengals @ COWBOYS -17


    Who would have thought that Terrell Owens would start running his mouth and prove to be a distraction for the Cowboys, huh? Luckily they're playing the winless Bengals this week, so -- as you can do when you're solving for "x" -- you can just take the ridiculous, distracting wide receivers on the Bengals' roster and cancel out Owens, leaving us only to ponder the question of whether the Cowboys are better than the Bengals.


    Which they certainly are.


    Plus, after a bad loss to the Redskins last week, the Cowboys will be pissed.


    PATRIOTS @ 49ers +3


    Before the season began, could anyone possibly have foreseen a scenario by which the Patriots would only be favored by three points going into San Francisco this week? Well, probably, yeah; that scenario would be that Tom Brady got hurt and couldn't play. Way to ruin the setup to this particular blurb; I hope you're proud of yourself.


    In any case, it's difficult for me to believe that coach Bill Belichick, a man who seems to have embraced Jesse "The Body" Ventura's old wrestling philosophy*, won't have his team more than ready to go, eager to show the world -- or at least the proportionally small percentage of the world's population that pays close attention to NFL football -- that the Dolphins loss was a fluke and that the Patriots are still a team to be reckoned with.


    * "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat."


    Steelers @ JAGUARS -4


    Pittsburgh is a deceiving 3-1, with wins over a couple of bad teams, a couple of key players on injured reserve, and a quarterback whose shoulder is being held together with duct tape and rubber bands, Kevin-McHale's-knees-in-the-late-80s style.


    One could probably be forgiven for calling the Jaguars "iffy," but this is the game where they turn their season around.


    Vikings @ SAINTS -3


    At this point it's just easier to pick against the Vikings, unless it's blatantly obvious that you shouldn't. At least then when they lose I get a check mark in my own personal "win" column for the week.


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