Sunday, November 30, 2008


(I'm going to assume that if you are reading this blog, you've heard that Plaxico Burress shot himself by accident in a nightclub vestibule last night. If this is news to you, I know, amazing, isn't it? Positively Vickian.)

With the obvious felon and stupidity moment of one Plaxico Burress, there's the small but telling point... are the Giants better off without him, not just for the off the field stuff, but just from a talent standpoint?

Let's go to the numbers.

Without his nominal #1 weapon today, on the road for an important division game in Washington, Eli Manning... went 21 of 34 for 305 yards, the first time he had broke the 300-yard mark in a long, long time. The 'Skins stacked the line (the Giants ran it 31 times for 101 yards, which is as close to stopping them as anyone gets, really), so Eli just roasted them in the first half, finding the dessicated remains of Amani Toomer for 5-85-1, Domenik Hixson for 5 for 71, and Derrick Ward for 75 yards on screens and check downs.

If they really did miss a deep threat, there was no way of knowing it.

Burress is 31 years old, in his ninth season, and hasn't been healthy for well over a year. He's had all of 35 catches for 454 yards this year and 4 touchdowns. His 12.4 yards per catch is the lowest number in his career. He had one very good game this year, in the opener against Washington. Otherwise, he never get more than 5 balls, and usually just gets to three a game. The history of 31 year old wideouts who can't control their personal lives really isn't good; this is the kind of nonsense that you can get away with in your 20s (see Irving Fryar, Joey Galloway, or Terry Glenn). Making these kind of mistakes on the downside of your career is usually professionally fatal.

Here's the thing about your New York Giants; they have become a personnel machine. And they are better off right now, especially since they seem to be using the Plax Mess as just one more motivational tool, seeing what Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, Hixson and Steve Smith has to bring to the table, rather than a broken-down felon and head case.

This isn't like the Eagles when Terrible Owens went off the reservation, and they had no better ideas from the back-ups. Smith and Hixson may be better than Burress even before he went NRA on his leg, and certainly after. This may be a mild embarrassment now, but the simple fact of the matter is that the idiot just did his team a favor.

Like they needed it.

Epic Drop: Top 11 continuing NFL telecast mysteries

Today's list is more than open to your addition, and was written while watching the surprising Broncos win over the Jets. Feel free to add yours in the comments, as always.

In today's game, the Jets went 0 for 3 on fourth down, and in every case, it was short yardage and the play was a Brett Favre incompletion where, despite Thomas Jones running for 138 yards on 16 carries. There really is something wrong with Eric Mangini in games like this one, honestly. I thought they had gotten away from this after putting together a long winning streak from running the ball well; at the very least, it's hard to imagine how a coach would become completely one dimensional on a day where your star back is having a big day. But the price of genius isn't very big these days, and with the Steelers eviscerating the Patriots today, it's not even going to hurt them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Small Note To Everyone Who Lives Exclusively In The Future

Last night at the casino, I sit myself down to a guy in a McNabb jersey. He had been to the game the previous night. I asked him, as part of the usual talk you'd have with a total stranger, whether he thought the team had a chance against the Giants next week in New York. And his response was a classic Philly Fan moment.

"Yeah, I think they'll win, but I don't think they'll make the playoffs. They are going to win just so enough games to really screw our draft position."

He was one of two people at the table who I took a lot of chips from, of course.

This Horrible Cassandra-Esque Power of Knowing the Grim Future is also common among NBA fans, writers and commentators, who are all a-twitter about the 2010 NBA free agent class. And I have only one wish for these people.

Please put yourself into a medical facility now, so that we can be saved from your nonsensical blatherings for the next 500-odd days. Especially the part about how speculation in this fashion is good for the game and the fans, since it gives us all something wonderful to talk about (LeBron to the Knicks! LeBron to the Nets! LeBron to the Pistons! LeBron to Europe! Oooh, aaahhh, I'm all a tingle!) while we are not, you know, ACTUALLY PAYING ATTENTION TO THE FREAKING GAMES THAT ARE IN FRONT OF US.

There is a disease among sports telecasters, commentators, and to a far lesser extent, bloggers, but only if you consider Bill Simmons to be a blogger. That disease involves being so wrapped up in being a Sharp (in the wrestling lingo), instead of a mark.

Marks, you see, ACTUALLY WATCH THE GAMES. We care about whether our team is winning in the here and now, because we don't really care to think about the future; we care to exist in the actual moment, where LeBron James is the best player on a top 5 NBA team, instead of later, where he might be the best player on a *different* top 5 NBA team.

Sharps, on the other hands, know about the salary cap. They're certain that they would be better at running a franchise than the people who do this for a living. (One suspects they are also the same people who know best about how to run the government.)

Look, I *get* the temptation to think ahead, especially if you are a fan of a team without anything too spectacular to think about right now. I've made my bones that the Eagles need to move on from the Reid Era, and I'm not changing that tune just because they finally won a night game. I'm not even going to change that tune if they beat New York next week. Hell, I'm prepared to call for Reid's resignation this year into February if I have to.

But this whole wankery of wanting to be Virtual GM and run trade simulations and speculate endlessly about what's going to happen in the far future... well, that way lies madness, people. That way lies three-year Presidential election campaigns and fan bases that can't be happy with anything but a championship, rather than the simple and elegant pleasure of a team wining more than you thought they would, or developing young talent.

So if you're feeling a backlash against the We're Always Doomed People, or the This Season is Meaningless People... well, good. Feel free. Call me on it when I do it, even.

Because if you live your entire life waiting for something great to happen, you'll have wasted an awful lot of your life missing all of the things that are actually really good.

And that's all I've got to say about that. (At least until the next time that someone brings up their mock draft and free agent boards...)

The Poker Tournament Story

So hey. I've got a little time off from the Thanksgiving holidays. And I've been good, too, with a ton of work done at the day job. For the year, I'm up in my house game, and down only a few hundred in casinos. Clearly, it's time to try my hand at a small money hold'em tournament, especially seeing as one of my regulars in the home game has won big at them. And it's off to Atlantic City we go!

The scene was the Showboat, home to a cautionary tale bus terminal, low ceiling garages, somewhat attentive wait staff and big dang poker room where I had harpooned a few whales in cash games before. The regular and I make the drive down and get there around 5ish on Black Friday, and the streets are choked with shoppers. The plan is to play a 1/2 no limit cash game until the tournament, then see what we can do in that. Cost should be $100 for the tourney, and whatever the night holds for us in the cash games.

There's a private tournament happening for a $250 buy-in, and they wind up not having enough people for it. Since that's way too rich for my blood, we choose to stay with our lower money one... but this also means that there's a huge line for the window to get in. There's also, and here's the fun part, one person working, despite the presence of three windows. Outstanding work, Showboat!

I head over to get in line at 6:25. I ask a pit boss about buy-in conditions, but she doesn't know anything about the window. Again, outstanding work, Showboat!

Twenty minutes later, I call my friend on our cell phones, so that he can buy in without taking the line wait. As I get to the window, I'm told by the cashier that -- ha ha! -- I need to be a Total Rewards Cardholder to enter! And no, they don't do that here, they do that down the hall at check-in! Well, what the hell, there's nothing quite like dashing through a crowded casino when you are furious, so I go and get my card and get back to the window, jumping the line... only to be told that registration for said tournament is over. But I can be an alternate! Yay, Showboat!

Forty minutes later, they call for alternates and seat me, along with a whopping three other people; they also deduct $500 from my stack for all of the blinds that I missed thanks to all that fun at the window. We can't wait until the table fills up, you see, we have to go now... and so my pocket queens out of the box don't make nearly as much money as you'd hope, really. I get crap cards for 30 hands, have my blind stolen repeatedly from a guy who's got a big stack and re-raises everything, then get Ace-Jack suited for an Ace-King-8 flop. I push everyone off except a woman who hasn't played a hand all night next to me. On the turn, there's another king, and she's all in. I think it over for a minute and fold, she nicely shows me her Ace-King, and we go to break down 4K chips and short-stacked. Fun!

After the break, I get A-10 suited. The guy to my left goes in for 2K, and the whale goes for 3K. I figure it's now or never, especially considering the cards I've been getting, so I go all-in. The non-whale folds, the whale calls, and his jacks stand up. And thus ends that fun 90 minutes.

My buddy and ride is still live in the tournament, so it's back to the cash games for me... and it's one of those nights where you feel like you're broadcasting your cards on your forehead, along with the flashing DONKEY sign. I get about 10 good hands in the next four hours, win on three of them, lose on the rest, lose a little more than I was really prepared to lose, and become more or less convinced that, like golf, poker is something I enjoy but probably need to stop playing, if only for the sake of my sanity and bank account.

My buddy craps out of the tournament in 16th place, which is to say, after a lot of play, but no payday. He also gets hammered in the cash game, and we drive home knowing that the Bus Terminal of Broken Dreams exists not just for people without cars, but also for all of us, really.

(Translation: I'll go back in January, assuming that the house game doesn't wreck me. .. and, um, not to Showboat. Seats open for next Friday night, folks!)

"I'll decide what's right for me"

The words of Stephon Marbury, a non-playing NBA player who is going to make more in this single year of refusing to provide service than anyone reading this blog will make in their entire life.

The NY Times reports that the Knicks' refusal to waive Marbury outright, seeing how he won't play and they are on the hook for his $21.9 million this year, is "costing them in the court of public opinion." You see, the fact that there are only two healthy guards on the roster (Nate Robinson, the third, is banged up, and Cuttino Mobley, the fourth, hasn't reported since their salary dump move of Zach Randolph to the Clips since the Knicks have subsequently discovered that he's got a heart problem -- shocking, isn't it, that there is a player on the Clippers with a heart problem)... well, the public blames the Knicks for this whole thing.

If only they had treated a coach killer, team cancer, bad shooter and defensive liability better, he might be willing to deign the court with his presence right now. And if they only had decided to eat his entire contract so that he could go play for some other franchise (presumably while actually caring, at least in games where he could wreak his terrible vengeance on the Knicks), they could have some replacement level scrub to run around and provide bench minutes until they can get their roster straightened out.

Left out in this remarkable state of affairs -- seriously, have you ever heard of a situation in which the highest paid player in a league might also be its worst actual asset -- is any lingering bitterness or distaste for the people who are really to blame for this.

That'd be Stephon Marbury, who is personally destroying whatever positive public image the NBA might be hoping to generate during a remarkably competitive year with exceptional teams. It'd also be Isiah Thomas, the worst general manager in the history of sports, who traded for and paid out the nose for this waste of sperm and dignity. And it would be Knicks owner James Dolan, who cuts the checks for all of this, and gave Thomas the keys to the vault.

How bad has it gotten? Even Starbury's teammates (Quentin Richardson, for the record) are calling him out now. Funny, but leaving everyone else in the lurch while you make more money than all of them isn't exactly appreciated by the other folks who are, you know, actually attempting to win games. Who would have thunk it?

Oh, and one last thing... Dolan makes his money from Cablevision, the service provider here in the Shooter Space. So I'm to blame, too, and some part of my monthly bill is going to Starbury's coffers. Hell, maybe that's why they raised my bill last month. Damn you, Starbury!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beat Your Wife Over Bad Coffee

Or, failing that, make perform degrading hand signals over her head. IT'S A CRIME, YOU WHORE! I'LL KILL YOU IF YOUR COFFEE DOESN'T IMPROVE!

Epic Drop: Top 11 Reasons why the Lions have a Thanksgiving game

Hey, you're reading the site on Black Friday? You communist. You need to be out there, fighting in the malls, keeping our economy from utter collapse. It's all on you, part-time Mets owner, and I will not cotton to your disinterest in pulling your fair share.

Well, OK, maybe that's too hasty on my part. You could still be buying something online, perhaps from one of FTT's fine stable of advertisers? They also represent the Christmas spirit, in that nothing quite says Christmas like whatever the site's ad feed is pulling in today. Ho ho ho!

Oh, and here's your link for the day. It manages to connect cankles and oral sex with the Detroit Lions in a way that I think will surprise you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Eagles 48, Cardinals 20

So the mean fat man that makes Mommy and all of us kids cry came back over tonight, and I have to say, it was surprisingly nice. He brought great presents for all of the kids, told funny jokes, didn't touch us when no one was looking, didn't eat all of the food of our plates and didn't make us sit in the corner and cry.

I think he even washed himself so he didn't smell so much like failure and stale Krispy Kreme.

I have no idea what made him clean up his act, but Mommy was very happy. It was almost like the old days, when he used to take us to nice places and everything seemed so much better. You know, back when those neighbor kids wearing the stars, Indian heads and letters on their clothes seemed real jealous of us.

Some of the kids want to think it's all going to be all right, and that the fat man won't touch us anymore, now that Mommy told him to stop. But I don't trust the fat man. I think he's still going to do bad things to us later, and that he's just trying to fool us into thinking it's all OK.

I mean, I *hope* he's not going to do that anymore...

The only moment of Lions-Titans that needs to be remembered

At 3:46 pm, with a minute left in what turns out to be the Lions' worst-ever Thanksgiving loss -- and man, that takes some work, really -- Phil Simms told the national television audience that coming to Detroit every year on the holiday was "still fun."

Um, for who?

Honestly, NFL, this is a tradition that needs to be stopped. There is no reason to subject the world to the Lions as the only pro football game that can be viewed at this time. They are horrible. They have nearly always been horrible. They will continue to be horrible. They should never be shown to anyone but their fans and the fans of the opposing team.

And if they have to continue to be on the holiday, at least put them on NFLN at night, which is where terrible games belong.

Epic Drop: Top 10 things to be thankful for in sports

Today's link is good and thankful, and I'd say more about this, but I'm fading fast here. More over the weekend when we can get to it, and probably some significant about of TNF coverage...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We Now Own The Mets

Congratulations, Fellow Taxpayer! Thanks to the continuing bailout efforts of people who really, truly believe in capitalism until it fails to make them money, we're going to give Citibank some free money, under the theory that they are too big to fail.

Let's see... some Saudis who act as the de facto mob in a legal vig racket have actually *failed* at this, basically because they couldn't leave well enough alone and just limit themselves to the wildly profitable business of predatory credit cards, and had to move into predatory mortgages as well. (Full disclosure: Citi has had their claws on my mortgage checks in the past few years, and the entire collapse of the credit markets can be traced entirely to their acceptance of my radioactive dollars. Citi, Countrywide, American, Washington Mutual... I have brought you all low with my timely payments. You're next, Bank of America and Chase.)

Now, here's the fun part. Back when times were good (oh, two years ago), Citi bought the naming rights to the new Shea Stadium for 20 years and $400 million. At least, this is the number I remember, and just like Henry Paulson at the Treasury asking for $700 billion, I'm sticking with the number because it sounds good. We're all making it up as it goes along, folks!

(A quick side note: Five Tool Tool is undergoing a severe financial crisis of its own, which is in no way due to the exorbitant salary that we pay its lead writer. As I'm sure you will agree, this blog, like Citi, is too big to fail, and merits a full multi-million dollar bailout of our toxic debt from Uncle Sucker. I'll be testifying in Congress in a week, with my somber suit, eyedrops for Real Tears, and utter lack of personal shame. Wish me luck!)

The Mets, of course, aren't going to give back that money; that would be Crazy Talk, especially now that in this economy, paying for the naming rights to a stadium, which was never a defensible idea on the merits (witness the parade of failed company names that have been attached to stadia in the last decade), has become Wildly Irresponsible. And Wildly Irresponsible is just a wee bit grating when you've moved into the Free Money From You Rubes section of the program.

Now, personally, I don't want the Mets to give the money back. What the hell, it'll just go to people whose idea of a good investment is to mail me balance transfer checks and new credit card offers on a twice a day basis until I die.

I just want a commensurate say in the day to day operations of the Mets.

After all, we have the technology to make this happen. If the Citipay is, let's say 10% of the club's income for 2009 (a reasonable bet, given their high gate revenue and television ad dollars), we should be able to control 10% of the roster via Web voting. And after the Mets got rick-rolled last year, I'm sure they'll be thrilled to open themselves up to this again.

Or not. Screw 'em. They're getting paid.

10% of the roster is 2.5 active players. I'll settle for their late inning relief situation. Let's face it, they're probably going to do something big and dumb there by chasing after a K-Rod or Huston Street. However, given that the majority of the voting bloc will come from outside the NY metropolitan area, and that we don't want Our Investment to be too expensive, I'm sure that the majority of us will agree that they need someone with more big-game experience, but at a reasonable price.

So, ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the latest Met to take the ball in the ninth, brought to you by the American taxpayer... Joe Mesa! (Buck up, Mets Fan. He can't be any worse than what you had last year, right?)

Since we also have access to another player under the terms, we should also get ourselves a lefty. Here, I'm going to be merciful, and pay to bring back fan favorite John Franco. All of your old uniform purchases are good again, Mets Fan! You're welcome! And don't bitch, or we're going for Jesse Orosco.

So, Joe and John, go and make us proud. Or, at the very least, happy for our investment.

We Hate Expensive

Does this make you want to buy some piece of consumer electronics? It might to the Germans, but then again, they also probably got into that creepy Heineken Keg Girl thing from a year ago. (The blog title is their tag line, translated.) Perhaps if Futuristic Borgish Chick is available. There's always things around the house to do...

Epic Drop: Top 10 Unfortunate NFL Endings

Today's link is a nice piece of research that owes a firm debt to site contributor Original Mookie, who has a particularly good memory for the personnel mistakes of the Miami Dolphins. Without him, this wouldn't have been nearly as good. Go click and thank him in the comments.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Because You Need Tom Cable Coming Right At You

The NFL will experiment by offering a game next month in 3D in theaters, but the technology may be eventually ticketed for in-home viewing. The Dec. 4 presentation will air a live feed of the Thursday night San Diego vs. Oakland game, available only to "invited guests."
I hear LaDanian Tomlinson is still quick in 3-D. Reality, not so much.

Week 13 NFL Picks: Use Your Illusion

Here's a Mr. Science moment from this here blog that you can actually use in your daily life. I'll try not to make it a habit.

Quick quiz. You are out somewhere in a noisy setting, and get a call that you have to take on your cell phone. Being unable to go somewhere quiet and unwilling to let it go to voicemail, what do you do?

Well, if you are like most people, you curl up into a ball, stick a finger in the ear that you aren't taking the call with, and have a thoroughly unsatisfying experience of not hearing the person who called you.

Believe it or not, there's a better way.

You see, our brains work differently than what we're trying to compensate for here. We do have the ability to focus on a single voice in a hubbub of other sounds; we do it for just about all of the speech that we hear, in natural stereo.

The phone companies know this, and have engineered the phone calls you get to not just be about the call. Both ends receive background noise, both from their own phone and the person they are talking to. It generally makes for a better call. Sticking a finger in one ear just means that you are going from stereo to mono, and makes the call worse.

So, if you are having trouble hearing the person you are speaking to, try this instead: cover the receiver. That will cut down on the background noise without losing the stereo effect, and give you more of what you are trying to hear.

A similar effect happens in this week's NFL picks. The short week requires focus and a distressing amount of thinking about the Lions. You can also add the sheer thankful knowledge that this is the last Thanksgiving you'll have to watch Andy Reid waddle his way around the field. Or, at least, so we all pray.

And with that, on to the ever-faster and faster picks!

* * * * *

TENNESSEE at Detroit (+11)

We're really starting to get close to Perfection here, folks. Last week saw the Lions grab a big early lead against a mostly punchless Bucs team on the road. But displaying the true heart of an anti-champion, they seized the toilet bowl ring and flushed it with both hands. This week, they get the no longer perfect Titans at home, in their annual tradition of making everyone who watches NFL games wonder why in hell the Lions have to be on our television every year like this. It'll be as bad as always, but on the bright side, you won't have to watch very much of it at all.

Oh, and bonus points to LemDale White for freely admitting that if he's not getting carries, he's pretty much not paying attention to the game. Way to go, LemDale! With that attitude and your ever-increasing Fat Loadedness, you won't have to worry about watching many NFL games after, say, 2010. In Seattle, TJ Duckett is nodding with slow approval, content to know that his role as Last Fat Useless RB is secure.

Titans 24, Lions 6

Seattle at DALLAS (-13)

Everything is all better now in Big D! At least until they have to go on the road for a playoff game, completely crap the bed, then have Adam "That's Mister Spectacular Waste of Sperm and Dignity To You" Jones get into a slap fight for the ages with Terrible Owens. Tony Romo will attempt to play peacekeeper and bruise a hangnail, causing him to miss the entire 2009 season, leading to the complete and utter collapse of Jerry Jones' vast criminal enterprise.

But that's all *later*. This week, they'll pound the Seabags at home, because the Seabags never travel well even when they aren't horrible, and because the NFL always gives the Cowboys a bye on Thanksgiving. Them, and whoever plays the Lions.

Dallas 31, Seahawks 16

ARIZONA at Philadelphia (-3)

Is there a number I would not take the Cardinals at in this game? Well, it is a bad match-up for them, what with the long travel, short week, and opponent that is "best" at stopping the passing game. They also have a secondary that frequently gives up big plays, and a defense that's best at rushing the passer -- the one thing that the Eagles have been more or less good at preventing on a consistent basis all season long. And with Cap'n Andy "If There Is A Wrong Decision To Make, I'm Going To Make It" Reid going back to Donovan McNabb for the start in this one, maybe Number Five has one big final Last Hurrah And Screw You Fat Man game in him.

In talking about The Benching in IM the other day, site contributor Dirty Davey talked about the theory that Bloatboy Reid had to make the move because McNabb had permanently lost the locker room after the Chunky Super Bowl, and after Terrible Owens left town with his balls in one of those little Chinese hand exercise cases. Even if this *were* the case, however, didn't the Fatso GM do the Bloated Sack Coach a terrible, terrible disservice by keeping him around after that? Wouldn't it have been far, far better to move him on immediately afterwards, keeping the star WR and getting us to the next QB while Brian Westbrook was still, you know, a football player?

There is no way to spin the events of the last month to be anything but this: Andy Reid is trying to get fired. Asking for it. Begging for it. Expect him to show up in Week 14 wearing a tutu with diapers, under the theory that it makes his players feel young and pretty. Or that he's going to an All Wildcat offense, with AJ Feeley as his new star #1 WR. We're through the looking glass here, people.

Oh, and Tim Hightower vultures three touchdowns, and Boldin and Fitzgerald combine for 250 yards by being Big And Damned Strong; if you hated seeing what Plex Burress did to this team, you're really not going to like either of the the Cardinals' monsters. Perhaps a shootout, and maybe we'll see Andy finally eat his challenge flag. You know he wants to.

Cardinals 38, Eagles 27

San Francisco at BUFFALO (-7)

Great googly moogly, who saw 50-plus points coming out of the Bills on the road? Those I-AA Chiefs don't want anyone to forget that but for one slip-up against the Broncos, they'd be right there in the mix for Historically Awful Team, despite Tyler Thigpen getting twiggy with it for roto players. That's what you get when your defense consists of 11 guys trying to get a turnover, rather than, you know, play defense. Oh, and it also doesn't hurt that Herm Edwards is also attempting to see what he needs to go to get fired. Herm, I suggest some good pro-Nazi sentiments. It's extreme, but it'll get the job done.

For the Bills. Trent Edwards woke up just enough to make Lee Evans' roto owners put down the needle. Meanwhile, the Niners wasted early chances on the road in Dallas, then got torched on big plays en route to the big loss. Count on way too much attention from Chris Berman on this one, because the game meant something 15 years ago. For him, that's positively recent.

(Oh, and give me the home team, just because the West Coast Team is going to the East Coast time zone for a 1pm EST game, which makes them lucky just to put on their uniforms correctly, never mind play a football game. Honestly, NFL players on all West coast teams? You suck.)

Bills 24, Niners 16

INDIANAPOLIS at Cleveland (+4.5)

Oh, NFL, you so had your chance to evade the Manning Menace. Now here they are, 7-4 and with three very beatable teams in the next three weeks. They might not even be out of the division yet, if the Titans decide to gag up the Thanksgiving game. And they play the Browns in a game that's plainly shocking, seeing as it's not in prime time, with the home team flip-flopping between the not-ready Brady Quinn and the not-good Derek Anderson.

Can the Browns win this game by simply putting the ball on the ground 30 to 40 times with Jerome Harrison, rather than Jamal Lewis? Of course. Are the Colts really all that good yet, just because they squeaked out another last-minute win on the road last week in San Diego? Of course not. But what I wrote last week still holds; they are doing it with mirrors, and that's all you need when the opposing coach is highly susceptible. (For the record, I think Romeo Crennel is more of your classic backwoods rube, while Norv Turner is more of a paste-eating toddler. However, this is one of those things on which men of good conscience can disagree.)

Colts 27, Browns 17

Carolina at GREEN BAY (NL)

I heard that some honk over at the World Wide Lemur, as part of some dubious site betting game, would up losing out on a million dollar payday thanks to the Panthers spitting the bit against the Falcons last week. Now, far be it for me to laugh at another man's misfortune, but, um...


Seriously, dude? You put yourself in large jeopardy on the right arm of Jake Delhomme, a man that threw four picks against Oakland and had back to back games where he didn't break 100 yards, in a road dome? What's next, finding out what Chris Weinke is doing with his life and throwing some big dollars behind that? Heck, I'm sure Rich Kotite is just a shot of confidence away from turning things around at the Circuit City, too. (Don't tell him. He's really counting on this for the holidays.)

This week, the Panthers continue their Fraud Exposure road tour in Green Bay, where the Packers are coming off a turnover-fest loss in New Orleans that ruined all of their good momentum after a Bear crushing. I'm looking for the home team to immolate the weak road 'Cats with Mssrs. Rodgers, Grant and Jennings.

And by the way, screw all those people who want to see Giants-Jets in the Super Bowl. Give me Packers-Jets instead, if only so we can destroy any notion that Packer Fan really has much lingering good feelings over Saint Brett. Two weeks of effigy burnings and grilled pork products might provoke a spectacular arterioscleretic killing spree, but you don't break a media meme without breaking a few fatality records. (Of course, this also assumes the Packers actually make the playoffs, which is far from an even bet.)

Packers 31, Panthers 9

MIAMI at St. Loius (NL)

Back to the punk beating grind for the Dolphins, who didn't much like it when they had to step up in class for the Patriots last week in Miami. They've still got a puncher's chance for a low wild-card, which would honestly be a fine outcome after last year, thanks to their kitten-soft schedule.

As for the Rams, it's not like they are offering much up in the way of resistance these days. Could we see an interim coach firing this year? C'mon, Rams Management, give us something memorable for your NFL Films retrospective. I can just hear Harry Kalas now. "2008 was a season of transition... and transition... for the St. Louis Rams."

Dolphins 26, Rams 17

New Orleans at TAMPA BAY (NL)

If the NFC South has taught us anything -- and you can be excused from my season-long record here into thinking that it hasn't -- it's that home field matters a lot. If you could combine the Saints' offense with the Bucs' defense, you'd have the other top seed in the conference opposite the Giants, and a much more interesting conference championship opponent. Instead, you see what the relative value of offense versus defense, at least for the real world.

In this game, count on Jeff Garcia to dink and dunk his way to around 20 points, and for the Bucs to put the Saints into enough long third downs to force a mistake or two. Because as good as Drew Brees is, he's still a bit pick-prone. He'd have to be, considering that he throws the ball something like 50 times a game, isn't very tall, and relies on a million receivers to all run the right route.

Finally, there's this. If you think the Saints are on a roll now and going to rattle off a bunch of wins, consider that tonight's win over the Pack was the first time all year that they've won two games in a row. Time for Ugly to beat up on Fun. (Multiple jokes about my first marriage deleted here, in that ex-wife jokes say more about you than the ex.)

Bucs 24, Saints 16

NY GIANTS at Washington (+3.5)

One has to wonder, really, what it's like in Giant Land these days. Dallas is deluding themselves into thinking that a mini winning streak and a reinstated Adam Jones won't somehow combust in the playoffs. Philadelphia self-destructed with more drama than any sane man can stand. And here's the Redskins, suddenly looking gritty but ordinary again, starting mediocre wideouts and riding Clinton Portis too hard, because they have to for any kind of shot at the playoffs.

This game is another one of those lines that I don't quite get; this Giants team has done nothing but win, and more or less control every game they've played, with the exception of the increasingly inexplicable Browns loss. In this division game, they'll do what they always do; grind the opponent into a fine paste, and hear the lamentations of their women. You've got to respect that sort of thing.

Oh, and Jeff Lurie? Steve Spagnuolo would make for a fine next coach. Let's take a chunk out of this organization.

Giants 27, Redskins 20

Atlanta at SAN DIEGO (-5)

Here's one of those games that the Chargers win just to fool people into thinking they are some kind of sleeping giant of goodness. In reality, what they are is a team that is struggling with a terrible coach, an overrated running back, and a quarterback that seems to throw footballs laced with helium.

The Falcons are 7-4 and on the periphery of the playoffs; a road win here would be immense for them, and maybe I'm not giving them enough credit as road warriors yet. But in a Vengeance Game against his old team, I don't see Michael Turner getting it done, and the big Charger wideouts are a bad matchup for them. They've had a wonderful year, but they aren't ready to make it all the way to the playoffs in their first year.

Chargers 27, Falcons 21

Pittsburgh at NEW ENGLAND (-1)

After two straight 400-yard passing games, with a good mess of running yards added in, extremely stupid people are wondering if the Patriots would dare to choose Matt Cassel over Tom Brady.

Cassel is younger, cheaper and healthier, and if he somehow takes the Patriots all the way to the Super Bowl, maybe it's defensible. Besides, it's not like the Patriots aren't good and heartless. After this week's game, where the Steelers will fail to protect the quarterback, feel exposed on running back depth, and play close but lose, that dumbness will only grow. (Don't worry, Dreamboat fans. It'll stop when Cassel loses a home playoff game against a hot wild-card. I'm thinking that'll be the Colts, just to really make you hurt.)

Patriots 20, Steelers 16

'enver at NY JETS (-7.5)

The very worst division leader ever lost at home to Oakland last week, and no, it wasn't even close. Color me shocked, really, considering how bad the Raiders have been and how much the White Rat enjoys pounding them, but perhaps JeMarcus Russell isn't completely hopeless after all, especially when Darren McFadden has a spark. Or maybe I'm calling 'enver that for, well, a reason.

Feel free, if you want, to seriously reconsider those whole Jay Culter to Brandon Marshall is the new Tom Brady to Randy Moss meme that dumb people were pushing in the first month of the season. I have no idea what happened to Eddie Royal in this game, but from the little that I watched, the Broncos' offense consists of a quick hitting running play that doesn't get enough and two plays of Cutler throwing the ball all over the place.

The Jets are in rarefied air here, with a big home number to deal with, a growing amount of wildly premature Jets-Giants Super Bowl hype, and a tremendous running game in Thomas Jones and Leon Washington behind Faneca, Woody and other desperate men who are trying to make sure Saint Brett can't chuck his way out of a win. I don't think this will end well; Favre has, after all, ended his last 216 playoff appearances with back-breaking picks that people have somehow talked themselves out of remembering. But for this week, they're going to roll in a shootout (assuming the weather isn't crappy).

Jets 38, Broncos 24

Kansas City at OAKLAND (Now with an O!) (-3)

Somewhere out there, I am sure, there exists a sports gambler with a firm sense of conviction as to who to take in this dogfest. Clearly it's the home team, coming off the big road win in Denver, as opposed to the I-AA Chiefs, who somehow gave up 50+ points to a Bills team that looked like they were on their way to playing the third quarterback, just from having no better ideas.

But before you get too happy, Raider Fan, keep in mind that you are coached by a person that had no idea how to actually react to offensive touchdowns last week, and that the game is at home, in front of people who might not know how to act in the presence of an actual positive offensive performance.

Also, the Chiefs can score. They just can't defend anyone.

So, yes, I'm going with Oakland, but if you are putting real money down on this one, Seek Help. Quickly.

Raiders 27, Chiefs 20

CHICAGO at Minnesota (-3.5)

Both teams coming off good wins here, with the Vikes getting it done in Jacksonville while the Bears enjoyed their de facto bye in St. Louis. How hard was it for the men from Chi-town? There fans were called out for not making enough noise. In St. Louis. Yes, Rams Fan is not putting up much of a fight at this point.

As for the Vikes, they scored 30 points in a game where quarterback Gus Frerotte was 12 for 20 for 120 yards, a pick and no touchdowns. That's what you get when your defense scores early, and the home team gives you two turnovers on their first two plays. They held the Jags to 14 carries for 35 yards, got two touchdowns on the ground, and more or less just ground them into paste. But I don't like their chances of doing it to the Bears, if only because the Bears look like they can throw the ball enough to score 20 points... and the Bears are going to make Frerotte beat them.

Bears 23, Vikings 16

Jacksonville at HOUSTON (-3.5)

One of those MNF games that didn't even look good on paper when it was announced. Both teams are surprisingly poor this year, with the Jaguars' losing all semblance of predictability due to their banged-up offensive line, and the Texans' from the failure of the defense to develop the way they were expected to. It all adds up to more points than you might expect, especially since David Garrard is going to score like a top 10 quarterback this week... but it won't be enough. Too much Steve Slaton, and, more importantly, Andre Johnson.

Texans 34, Jaguars 27

Last week: 9-7

Year to date: 93-75-4

Monday, November 24, 2008

MNF Thoughts: Packers-Saints

I'd have more of these, but once Brees hit Colston with the 70-yarder, followed by the Packers falling apart and giving up the long run to Pierre Freaking Thomas, I was toast in a league where, despite having a ton of points, I'm nearly out of the playoff race.


Anyway, shootout in New Orleans, and the home crowd and the Saints' secondary made Aaron Rodgers blink first. I can't see either of these teams now making the playoffs, but if they do, either could scare the bejeezus out of a limited, defensive team.

Oh, and save us from the Favre Worship, media. At least until he actually wins a playoff game, ok?

Epic Drop: Top 12 reasons why Andy Reid is starting Donovan McNabb on Thursday

Your list is here, and the discerning reader will note how I'm going to just let loose on the fat jokes at Reid's expense.

This might be unfair and uncaring, given that obesity is a disease, and we're certainly not going to help this man's obvious self-hatred issues with mockery.

This, of course, assumes that I want to help the man. I don't. I want him away from my football team.

Anyway, go, click, chortle, drool. Mmmm, bacon donuts...

The Greatest Gift Of All

Just when I was going to be all bitter about the Eagles ending their season before every other team in their division and all but a half dozen or so teams in the entire NFL, Stephen Colbert saves me from despair with his Christmas special.

Great Christmas special, or greatest Christmas special ever? Put me down for Greatest, at least until he makes another one. The man is a genius. Go buy a copy of the DVD for someone you love. (I've been ever so good, really.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

“That’s a very well-coached football team. They’re going to continue to win a lot of games.”

That's Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh, standing up for the guy that used to employ him.

It's not nice when you lie, Jim, even if you have good intentions.

* * * * *

So, just because there's no escaping the discussion of this... well, no, Donovan McNabb wasn't playing very well today. He was far from alone in that. He also had turned the ball over seven times in his last seven quarters, which I guess was one time too many for Eagles coach Andy Reid.

Did he deserve a benching? The points for it.

1) If the quarterback in a West Coast system doesn't play well, you're pretty much out of luck. (Also, that guys that run West Coast systems think they can do it with any QB, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

2) It's not like McNabb has shown enough mobility so far this year as to make that part of his game a clear edge over Kolb.

3) If it works, you've got a spark for the rest of the year.

4) It's highly unlikely that the Ravens had much game-planned for Kolb.

5) There might be something else going on in the locker room, in practice, and behind the scenes. As outsiders, we'll never know.

The points against.

1) If you honestly wanted Kevin Kolb to succeed, giving him his first taste on the road in Baltimore, without any semblance of a running game, is a funny way to show it.

2) When McNabb hit the bench, the team was down three points on the road against what we can all pretty much assume is a better team. No matter how you might fall on this decision, we can all agree on one thing: it didn't work.

3) Yet again, the more effective running back (Correll Buckhalter) got almost no work, while the sad remains of Brian Westbrook did little with more touches. The play calling was also as ridiculous as usual, with 41 passes called against 17 runs. So, um, if you're arguing for Reid's judgment as being a good thing, you've got plenty of legroom on that bus.

(Updated: Buck seemingly got dinged up in the game. He was also one of, um, two running backs available for the game. I have no words for this personnel work, really.)

4) Reports have it that McNabb wasn't even informed of the change at halftime; Reid had the quarterback coach tell his starter. Nice to know the past ten years of service doesn't extend to, well, being a goddamned man about it. Why not text him the message, Andy?

5) There is absolutely no defense for the playcall that led to the 108-yard TAInt that sealed the game and season. (It was second and goal from the two-inch line. They threw. Words fail.)

Cris Collingsworth made the point tonight that while he wouldn't have made the move to McNabb in this game, he also wouldn't go back to him for the rest of the year, so that the team can sees what they have. I'm fairly sure that will be the case, but honestly, in the circle of thoughtful Eagle fandom that I run in, there's less interest in bringing back Reid than there is in bringing back McNabb (and if you want to clean sweep the entire roster, we're not going to complain).

You see, unlike McNabb, I'm pretty sure that Reid hasn't really helped his team win a game in years. Unlike McNabb, Reid does things like franchise LJ Smith, trade for Lo Booker, continues to employ players that cost the team games, can't be trusted with a challenge flag, etc., etc., etc.

Donovan McNabb, if cut loose today, would be employed in the NFL with a similar level of job within a week. Andy Reid, if said the same, would not.

So if you're an Eagle Fan, and you want Reid back next year, you're rooting for them to close the year with Kolb and win.

And if you're an Eagle Fan, and you want McNabb back, you're rooting for them to lose every game with Kolb.

And if you're just hoping for the best thing for the franchise moving forward... hell, I don't know, maybe five more ties.

But as for me, I'll boil this down to its simplest essence. In my points league, I own Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin. They'll be starting next week. And I'll be rooting for them.


Epic Drop: Top 10 entertainment alternatives for Eagles Fan

Today's link was not, believe it or not, written before the game was viewed. But if you don't believe me, I'll understand.


Dear Andy,

It's time to resign.

For the merits of the decision to go to an inexperienced back up quarterback on the road in a three point game.

For the play call of having the inexperienced back up quarterback throwing on second and inches at the opposing 1 yard line, leading to the inevitable 108 yard TAInt.

For the fact that there are two running backs on the entire roster, neither of them healthy, durable, or very good.

For the fact that there isn't a single person in Philadelphia that sees this team doing anything but dropping the rest of its games this year.

For an offensive line that can't convert any short yardage situation.

For the inability to win any close game.

For the inability to win any game at night.

For the fact that when I did an image search for this post, I found tons of pages saying the exact same thing from, well, years ago.

For the fact that I could have, for the most part, written this a week ago.

For your own health, since you seem to react to failure by eating.

For your family, who probably can't be any worse off.

For sports talk radio, so they can find something else to talk about.

For the five to ten players who still seem to give a damn. (Please don't ask me who they are. I'm mostly guessing at this point.)

For the fans of the franchise, who would like to have any lingering good memory of your time.

And for the sake of the nation, who really shouldn't have to look at you on Thanksgiving.

Quit. Like your team, like your brain, like this season.

We won't think any less of you at this point, because it's just not possible.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

They Pelted Us With Ice After Garbage

Far be it for this writer to go into great detail over college football -- only so many hours in the day, really -- but when my alma mater (Syracuse) defeats the Bullet's favored team (Notre Dame), causing site contributor Dirty Davey to chortle with joy because the Irish are his favorite (if more than a little outdated) CFB Hate Object... well, it gets a mention.

Then, after the game was over, Irish Fan decided to note their displeasure by pelting their own team with snowballs. Including several players who were playing their final game there. That's a nice final memory to go off with, isn't it?

This is far from an original note, but there really is no difference for College Fan towards his team's mercenaries than Pro Fan for his. It's their job to win games, and if they don't, you as the fan just get to scorch the earth, really... even though the strong majority of people playing the game at the college level are going no further.

Now, it may very well be that only the presence of snow is the notable thing here; if unhappy home fan has ammo, he's probably flinging it. But still... you stay classy, Irish Fan. A few more dozen moments like this, and you get to be CFB's Philly Fan.


To left is frequent blog hero Stephon Marbury, owner of the largest contract in the NBA this year. He's also someone who, honestly, is authoring one of the greatest thefts in the history of American labor this year.

You see, Stephon isn't a very good basketball player, but he makes up for it by being a much worse human being. While the rest of his teammates have embraced new coach Mike D'Antoni and his up-tempo style to a 7-6 record and an outside shot at the playoffs a year after being unspeakably awful, Stephon's decided it's Time To Be Elsewhere. Mostly because, well, D'Antoni decided first, and didn't give him any minutes.

This week, the Knicks have decided to lose the high-priced parts of their team that had any market value at all (Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford). With the new members of their team not yet present, D'Antoni went to Starbury and more or less gave him the opportunity for meaningful minutes, for the first time this year. It's obvious that there is no real role for him in New York, but what the hey, he's playing for his next contract. Best to show that he's still got something to offer here.

Instead, Marbury refused to play.

Yeah, let me repeat that. He's getting paid THE MOST MONEY IN THE NBA, but refused to play.

And to think, I thought that NBA didn't have a great union, given how badly they got played in the 50-game lockout year.

Now, a small question for the rest of the Knicks roster... is there some reason why you aren't, for starters, setting his clothes on fire in the locker room? Here you are, playing your guts out, and here's this morose sack of garbage just *sitting* there. How do you not, you know, go to work on that?

Friday, November 21, 2008

"I'm sure there will be some criticism..."

Um, yeah. But not from me, dear lady. Not from me.

Oh, and kudos to the local reporter for spooling out more rope for the self-hanging with phrases like "chopping block."

The Sissiest Pipe Wrench Fight Ever

Just because, well, what's the end of the work week without a sissy pipe wrench fight?

Epic Drop: Top 11 reasons we need to make us some Neanderthals

There's really no rhyme or reason to this one, which means it just needs to be seen, really. (And who wouldn't say yes to a semi-intelligent subservient proto-human that may also go really well with a good red?)

Such thinga are inevitable, folks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This week's subtle reminder to the people who trail me in roto leagues

DMt is the ODB. (Since, well, last week's Tupac moment didn't hurt the standings any...)

Now, will he pull the Clemens?

Mike Mussina announces his retirement, despite being just 30 wins away from 300, and he's the first guy to retire after a 20 win season since Sandy Koufax.

Well, congrats to him, I guess. But will he still stay away in mid-May, when NYY offers him $10 million for a few months of work after the injuries hit?

(Oh, and if anyone really wants to have the serious argument that he isn't a HOFer, go soak your head. 270 wins in a 'roid era, with his best year lost due to the strike, with playoff success and a ton of strikeouts... if you're really arguing against him, you've got some personal vendetta. If he's not a HOFer, neither are the majority of pitchers who are already there.)

Epic Drop: Top 10 awful things that might happen any minute now in sports

Engaged in some darker poerty here, kids. Worth it only to see the X-Game fall again, which might be the best/worst rubbernecking moment in recent sports history, and the single biggest reason why I'm happy to have had relatively earthbound girls...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Week 12 NFL Picks: Compartmentalizing

Last Sunday afternoon as I waited for the Inevitable Death Flu that was a dead-solid lock for me once I saw the Shooter Kids and Wife go down, I took stock of my Sunday.

The points keeper auction league, my most important roto moment, was ringing up pinball points on Warner to Boldin, locking up the Worst to First recovery from Week One.

The work head to head league turned around as soon as Steve Slaton took a long one to the house; I'm very likely to make the playoffs there.

The friends head to head league was locked up as soon as Tony Romo rescued Marion Barber from 12 in the box purgatory. In that league, I'm on target for a first round bye.

The picks were trending on the positive side of .500 for another week, as I continued to do the Lord's work and pay the rent, like Joey Knish.

And then, there were my Eagles, gagging worse than I would a few hours later, looking positively stricken by anything as daunting as a 3rd and 1 against a terrible 1-8 team, in a Disgust Game for the Ages.

As a parent (and, heh heh, someone who has poor souls that report to me at the day job), I am frequently struck by the need to compartmentalize. Many (mostly younger) people don't get this; they react with full ferver and bomb-throwing fury to stuff that pisses them off, even if the rest of their day is going reasonably well. Hell, I did this myself, and can do it again at any moment, especially if I want to think about Andy Reid.

But you just can't do it. You've got to compartmentalize, limit the damage or irritation that you are going to feel from a certain negative stimulus. In short, delude yourself that it's no big deal.

Because, well, most of the time, it isn't.

As I write this, I'm on the train next to some Unbearable Douchebag of a guy who is having some major life moment on his cell phone. It's impossible not to hear his conversation, even as I focus on the writing; his train wreck of a relationship is on display for all to see. If my daughters ever get involved with someone like him, I'm not going to be very good about it. He just strikes me as a world-class manipulative prick. (And yes, yes, yes, I was this guy, I'm sure, in my teens, and so were you, too. Youth is wasted on the young, but crotchety is something we can all enjoy.)

This picks column also comes to you during a week where I'm swamped with work that's got to all get done before the Thanksgiving break despite being short-staffed, during a time when FTT really hasn't gotten the kind of site traffic that I've been hoping for, when the prospect of a performance bonus from the day job seems laughable not from my own effort or effectiveness but from the greater economic nightmare that's going on, and when I'm probably not going to be able to swing a vacation due to a lack of the green stuff.

It also comes with the full knowledge that, win or lose on Sunday, I'm losing with my Eagles. If they win, I feel stupid for throwing them under the bus, but only a little, because it's impossible to imagine that they're going to win with an effective running game, an effective run defense, and superior coaching.

If they lose, I'll have probably watched every snap, deluded myself into thinking that they might just be a play or two away from pulling it out (because, well, every NFL team is always just a play or two from pulling it out) and just generally wallowed in it, like a homeless man in his own sick. (Yes, last Sunday was quite memorable.)

On the other hand... if I win a roto league, it's worth significant coin to me. If the Eagles win the Super Bowl, it isn't.

No amount of money that I spend can make the Eagles win.

No amount of anger that I feel with their performance will make them get any better.

Hell, given the waiting list for Eagles seasons tickets and the NFL ratings, there's nothing that *any* Eagles Fan can do, unless their last name is Lurie.

And things could be worse, of course; we could root for the Raiders.

So screw 'em. I'm going to enjoy this season anyway.

So let's fire up something that RAWKS...

and let's dim the house lights and light the flash pots. It's time for the business of show.

(Because, well, I'm in my compartment. And Douchebag Guy just got up and left.)

And with that, on to the picks!

* * * * *

Cincinnati at PITTSBURGH (-10.5)

The game you won't see (because it's on the odious NFLN) is a game you won't want to see. Pittsburgh got the hard-fought win it needed in the snow against the Chargers -- and didn't you know that game was going the Steel City's way as soon as you saw the precip? -- while the Bengals missed the upset win on a missed long field goal, the first missed long field goal against the Eagles in the last 45 years. (I exaggerate, but only just.)

The Bengals tend to play well in this inter-divisional matchup, but they don't have the defensive line to cause the Steelers real problems, and since this is one of the five games a year that Willie Parker is healthy, expect the home team to be early and often.

Finally, there's this. Do you really want to trust Ryan Fitzpatrick to cover any number on the road?

Steelers 31, Bengals 10

Houston at CLEVELAND (-3.0)

Houston actually led in the second half against the still-not-great Colts, but squandered the opportunity as Peyton Manning picked them apart en route to 33 points. It tells you just how good Manning was that the Texans could only get the ball to Steve Slaton 14 times; it also tells you how good he is that he turned that into 156 yards and a second half lead.

I really wanted to take the Texans in this game, especially since the Browns have the short week and an unfortunate loyalty to the old and slow Jamal Lewis. But Sage Rosenfels on the road is just not something I can do. Deluded Browns Fans will realize that, no, everything would not have been better had they only started Brady Quinn all year, but it won't happen this week. (I'd be a lot more impressed with him if he didn't look ready to soil himself whenever the defense brings pressure in the red zone.)

Cleveland 26, Texans 20

San Francisco at DALLAS (-10.0)

Look, the only way the Cowboys aren't winning this game is if they spend the entire game throwing just to Owens, so he can be all happy with a Vengeance Game against his original team, with lots of spikes on the 50-yard star. And... as painful as it is for me to admit this... even Wade Phillips isn't that stupid.

(Besides, Jerry Jones is going to insist on throwing some balls to Roy Williams, too, so that the announcers can talk about how smart he is. Jerry is an absolute regular season genius.)

For the Niners, expect turnovers from Shaun Hill, frustration for Frank Gore, and lots of reaction shots and thinly veiled hopes from the announcers for a Singletary meltdown and de-pantsing. The final score will be embarrassment enough.

Cowboys 38, Niners 13

Tampa Bay at DETROIT (+8.5)

You've got to admire the Lions; they aren't losing every game by the same way. Last week, they took another early lead, and considering how badly the Panthers' Jake Delhomnme have played in the last few games, many suicide pool players were probably gripping hard. But they decided to fold like a wet noodle against the run game, and soon, everything was back to normal.

Meanwhile, the Bucs rode Jeff Garcia's Mario-esque Scamper Power to a grindy little 19-13 win over the Vikings at home. At 7-3, they are right in the thick of things in the NFC South, and a very good bet for a wild-card spot.

So why am I taking the Lions to cover again?

Call it a hunch. Or consider the fact that the Bucs are going to have to rely on an odd committee of running backs, with nominal starter Earnest Graham done for the year, Warrick Dunn about to show the world why he doesn't get starter carries any more and Cadillac Williams always broken-down. Garcia never goes downfield, which allows even this bad defense to look a little better at home, since they don't have to defend more than fifteen yards down the field. Add that up to the occasional flash of competence from the Lions' running game (Kevin Smith will survive 2008, which isn't something you will say of too many of his teammates), and the fact that Daunte Culpepper now has had three weeks of practice to throw the ball up high to Calvin Johnson...

Well, it's hard for any team to go winless.

They might still, but this is smelling like another heartbreaking cover to me.

Bucs 17, Lions 16

NY Jets at TENNESSEE (-4.5)

Not only are the Titans 10-0, they've also covered the spread in nine out of their ten wins. And yet, here they are again, with a low number at home against an overrated opponent, just providing the same kind of borderline guaranteed payoff that you were getting last year from the Perfectriots. Meanwhile, all they've done in the last two weeks is win with an air show, as Kerry Collins resuscitated Justin Gage from all of those Deep Sleeper lists that he was on during the preseason. If we had only been more patient.

The Jets, of course, had their best win of the year on the road in New England, where Saint Brett triumphed over age, adversity, his tragic flaws and nay, even Death Itself. In the long run, always put your money on the Reaper. Or, at least, on Favre throwing road picks against teams that provide pressure with their front four.

Titans 20, Jets 13

Buffalo at KANSAS CITY (+3.0)

Anyone who watched the MNF game and honestly thinks that Trent Edwards has a future in football with anything but a clipboard... please take off your underwear, and wear it on your head. Your personal PR needs the upgrade.

The Chiefs have become sneaky, thanks to the pulse that Tyler Thigpen has given them, and despite their 1-4 road record (and 1-9 overall), just might be ready to escape 1-AA status. Either that, or Edwards is shoving the Bills in. Either way, I'm taking the home team, who also have the benefit of the full week.

Chiefs 27, Bills 20

BEARS at St. Louis (+8.5)

Ah, over-reaction... your key to NFL gambling goodness. On the heels of a thorough crushing from the Packers on the road last week, your betting dollar actually finds less than a double-digit cover number against a Rams team that, after a brief mid-season wake-up call under interim coach Jim Haslett, have gone back to that historically awful team that was giving us such hope for the 0-16 perfect stink job earlier in the year.

But hey, no worries, Rams Fan... Marc Bulger says he wants Haslett to return next year. Leaving one to wonder only this: who exactly wants Bulger to return next year?

Here's why you want the Bears here. Kyle Orton will shake the rust off. The Bears will get a big play out of the special teams. Bulger can't help from turning the ball over. Orlando Pace has decided it's better not to play again. Stephen Jackson won't be back this week. The Bears are actually pretty good, at least in comparison to NFC West swill. Matt Forte is going to run for 150 yards. Brandon Lloyd will get back involved.

Oh, and the Rams have spent the last two weeks being down 30 points at the half. Let's just say I'm comfy with the number here.

Bears 34, Rams 17

NEW ENGLAND at Miami (+2.0)

Oh, this one hurts. Miami's got everything lined up -- the schedule of de facto byes, the home field, the vengeance, the running game, and the trickiness that opened the floodgates on the Patriots' Season Of Relative Woe. (Their season of woe is, of course, going to involve a playoff berth and more positive moments than 20 other NFL teams. But far be it for me to make light of Their Pain.)

Now, I'd *love* for the Dolphins to win this game. It would more or less stick a fork in the Patriots' season, and it would also do a very large amount of damage to the Soup Err Gene Yuss reputation of Bill Belichick. Remember, the last time he saw this laundry, a snap from center to Ronnie Brown caused him and his defense to soil themselves repeatedly. If it happens again, it means his ability to scheme for teams left along with the videotape. I'll leave the rest of this as an exercise to the reader.

But anyway... it's just not going to happen. Miami's talent level just isn't there yet, as the last two weeks of narrow escapes against bad teams (seriously, they were a fourth and seven away from a home loss to Oakland last week) has shown. And finally, this -- Matt Cassel has gotten his sea legs, and is no longer an active liability. Sigh.

Patriots 24, Dolphins 16

* * * * *

Time for this week's halftime commercial. (What, you haven't noticed this kind of thing in the picks column all along? You miss a lot.)

This week's picks are brought to you by the newest Shooter business venture. Coming as soon as we can find venture capital and backers that are only slightly more loose than the people who've funded my previous companies. We call it

Let's Shoot Your Kids
Photo Studio

Unlike other mall studios that make you want to embrace your inner Unabomber, we offer:

> Beer

> Disturbingly hot photographers that won't make you feel defensive about their skills at pointing a camera and pressing a button

> A downright militaristic adherence to scheduling, complete with 24-second clock style countdowns when time is up

> Shots to go with the beer

> Active mockery of anyone who wants to purchase any kind of membership plan

> The guarantee that if any of our employees ever try to sell you a membership plan, you have the legal right to pelt them with stones and rotted vegetables (stone availability may vary from location to location)

> Your choice of Sled, Giant Small Prime Numbers, And Not Any Other Damn Fool Prop

> Messenger Goons for your relatives that are always sending more pictures than you; if they have to come twice, their kids won't be pretty no more

> And on Fridays, it's Wet T-Shirt Night (photographer staff only)

> Have we mentioned the beer? Oh, right, we have.

Hit the PayPal deposit button for your shares. The more you give, the more I get!

And we now return you to the picks...

* * * * *

Minnesota at JACKSONVILLE (-2.5)

OK, so which Jags' team shows up this week -- the one that took the early lead against the undefeated Titans, who handled Detroit without breaking a sweat... or the team that folded the tents against Kerry Collins at home, and who lost to the Bengals?

Normally, you'd really hate the match-up for them, since the Vikings can take away the run and will just ride Adrian Peterson to a big day. But these aren't the Vikings we've been expecting all year; you can run against them more than you think, and they might lose both of their big Williams tackles to Nutritional Dubiousness any minute now, really. That kind of thing tends to wear on a man, even if you're still active.

Oh, and, um, Gus Frerotte on the road will make more mistakes than David Garrard at home.

Jaguars 20, Vikings 16

Philadelphia at BALTIMORE (-1.0)

Boy, do I have some legroom on the Donovan McNabb bandwagon! No one to question my choice of music, I can stop to pee whenever I want -- hell, I can pee in the damn thing, it kind of smells like that anyway. Sure, it's looking really old, tired and dumb this week, and the driver just admitted last week that he didn't know what glove compartments were, since he never had to use one before... but you've got to love the privacy. I think I'll light me up a big 'ol victory cigar that smells surprisingly like ass!

This bus isn't stopping for anything, much like the Ravens' running game at home, or the 60-plus passing attempts that Andy Reid will dial up this week in a cunning game plan that ex-Eagles coach Jim Harbaugh didn't have diagrammed in, well, 2002. It might even work, provided the Ravens somehow don't score for the first 20 minutes of game time, at which point this good 'ol bus actually stops stripping the clutch and grinding the gears.

But, um, don't bet on it. This will probably be one of those games that Willis McGahee decides he's healthy for.

Oh, and a small note to the dozens of men who might handle the ball for the Eagles in this game? If it's second down, and you are running for the sticks, but you're not sure you can make it, just fall down. Do not, for the love of God, get close. That way lies madness.

Ravens 24, Eagles 13

'akland at 'ENVER (-9.5)

The Resistable Force Meets The Movable Object! Here's what's on the line for both teams this week: the winner gets their first letter back. Major stakes!

'enver is well on their way to winning the Worst Division Ever, thanks to back to back wins over Cleveland and Atlanta on the road, and given how good the Falcons have been this year, you've got to respect that. As an Eddie Royal owner, I'm loving this game, because Jay Cutler will spend his evening avoiding Brandon Marshall (who will magically disappear thanks to the work of Nnemdi Allah Akbar Ademanjiad) and feeding my guy.

Oh, and if you're actually betting this game and thinking the Raiders can cover the number given their recent friskiness in Miami, please remember:

> Mike Shanahan's vengeance is eternal

> The Raiders will have 4,000 more feet of suck than usual, and

> Darren McFadden will not save them or your fantasy team this year.

Finally for the Raiders, um, I hear someone else is calling the plays now. We are well into the part of the movie in which Al Davis is inspecting 12-year-old boys in Raider jerseys inside his bunker, and preparing the suicide pistols. Now, if he could only find his Eva, though given his age and eye for talent, I'm sure anyone will do, really...

Broncos 38, Raiders 19

Carolina at ATLANTA (-1.0)

My favorite line of the week. You've got a Panther team that is never all that trustworthy on the road, a Falcon team that's smarting from their first home loss, and a game that the Falcons need a lot more than the Panthers. Add in the Delhomme Malaise (that's what you get for having a Frenchy name, Jake), the continuing value of Michel Turner, and a motivated Rowdy Roddy White (from spending a week watching the catch he didn't make that could have won the game for them), and I just couldn't like the home team any more.

Of course, since this is the NFC South, my pick will be horribly wrong. So, um, good luck with this.

Falcons 26, Panthers 21

NY GIANTS at Arizona (+3.0)

The marquee game of the week, and I'm not getting fooled again. All hail our Giant Overlords! You are foolish to pick against them! Eli Manning is the best Manning in the history of Mannings! They rush the passer better now that all of their star pass rushers are gone! They are Road Beasts to End All Road Beasts! And I am so not taking this pick as a twisted reverse jinx in a futile hope to extend rooting interest in the NFC East for another week!

(Um, seriously? The Cardinals don't run the ball well enough to keep Kurt Warner from facing big pressure in this game. When Jebus's QB faces big pressure, he turns the ball over. The Cardinals' secondary is not good, and if Frank Gore doesn't trip on the 2 yard line two weeks ago, they would have lost to a horrible team at home. The Giants aren't horrible. This line is a serious value; you may not get the Giants with this few points again this year. Do not fear Eli's pattern of late-season suckery; everything is changed now that he's a Super Bowl God. Go nuts.)

Giants 34, Cardinals 24

Washington at SEATTLE (+3.5)

The wheels of the Redskins' bus came off last week, and while this looks like an obvious get-well present for the homecoming Jim Zorn, the Seabags' showed a little friskiness at home last week with the return of Matt Hasselbeck. I like the home 'dog here, as they've got a defense that's a little better than you might think at home.

Besides, the Ghost of Sean Taylor is still in this building, and, um, he kinda sucks.

Seahawks 24, Redskins 21

INDIANAPOLIS at San Diego (-2.5)

Bill Parcells is fond of saying that you are your record; by the end of the year, all of the good and bad bounces have worked out, and there just isn't anything more to say about it. So let us consider, slowly and carefully, your 4-6 Chargers. They are 1-5 on the road. They are 1-1 after the bye, when LaDanian Tomlinson was supposed to be all healthy again. They've lost to the Bills and Saints, Broncos and Panthers, Steelers and Dolphins. They have played two good games this year, against the Patriots and Jets. They can't rush the passer, are on their second defensive coordinator, and are two games back in the Worst Division Ever.

Now, are the Colts really ready to put a beat down on them? No. Not when the Colts actually had to work and sweat to beat the Texans, and it's not as if Indy doesn't have a host of issues of their own. But while the Colts have found ways to win for the last three weeks, that really doesn't describe the 'Bolts. Give me the road team, under the theory that in a close game, I'd rather have Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy, rather than Philip Rivers and Norv Turner. They may be doing it with mirrors, but you can fool infants with mirrors, and Norv is prone to eating paste.

Colts 24, Chargers 21

GREEN BAY at New Orleans (-2.5)

You know the really awful thing about MNF this year? The games have, for the most part, been too good to ignore. This will be another, with the road Packers needing to shed their usual dome jitters against the usually raucous N'Awlins crowd. I like the Pack here, if only because Ryan Grant is looking like the best back in football right about now, and the fast Superdome track and slow home team linebackers really aren't going to bother him. Besides, the Saints keep trying to get Jeremy Shockey involved, when they really need to just realize that it's not working, everyone hates him, and the team is better off throwing to Billy Miller. Yeah, that's just not something they were expecting to see this year.

Last week: 10-6

Year to date: 84-68-4

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What we've learned so far, or why the NBA regular season matters

One of the disparaging things that you hear, as an NBA fan (and yes, I know that many of you just grabbed the scroll bar -- hear me out anyway) is that the regular season doesn't matter. You hear this from people who just don't like pro hoop and don't want to just flatly admit it.

This is, of course, bull. The regular season matters a ton, because home court in the playoffs is a big deal, and the record of higher seeds every year proves it. By the time 82 games is up, unless there is some mitigating injury factor, we usually know who the best teams are. They are the ones with the best record.

So in the East, what the first 8 to 12 games have shown is the following:

> Washington has lost any margin for error. Basically, there are two very good teams in the East (Boston and Cleveland), followed by a middle tier that's going to be .500 or better (which describes, gulp, 8 teams right now). By being six under .500 two weeks before Thanksgiving, they've got to play the rest of the year at least 41-33, and probably more like 45-29 to be truly safe. Considering that they aren't likely to get better until the return of Gilbert Arenas (and given how badly Gilbert played last year when attempting to come back from injury, not even then)... well, if you want to stick a fork in them after only eight games, I won't disagree with you. You need bigs to win in this league, and they've got, in the words of Jack Black, squadouche.

> People who think that LeBron James is going to bolt Cleveland to be with a winner need to realize... he's already with a winner. The Cavs are 9-2 after a convincing road win tonight in New Jersey, with their only losses coming on the road in Boston and New Orleans -- and both of those games were in single digits. Beyond 'Bron, they are getting serious production out of their garbagemen (combine Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao, and you get 13 boards and 2 blocks a game in 48 useful minutes), and a clear second option in Mo Williams (15.9 points a game). They still aren't a work of art to watch outside of King James, but they defend well, rebound better, and work people under the table.

It also, of course, doesn't hurt that James is throwing down 30, 8 and 7 every night. Ye gads.

> Orlando's just fine, thanks. When they dropped the first two games, there was the temptation to think that Dwight Howard's bad Olympics and Hedo Turkoglu's ill health was going to take these guys down a peg or three. Eight wins in their last nine fixed that problem, including a three-game road sweep. They still look vulnerable to me for as long as they want to fool themselves with Jameer Nelson at the point, and I'm not sold on them as road warriors. But they're still the best team in the Southeast, even if Atlanta and Miami are better.

> Your Philadelphia 76ers are 5-5 and looking much better than they did a week ago, thanks to a three win in four night streak in Toronto, Indiana, and the lay-up at home over the Cursed Thunder at home. The most intriguing thing is how they are doing it. Your leading scorer is second-year man Thaddeus Young, not Elton Brand or Andre Iguodala. Seven men are in striking range of double figures per game in points per game. They out-rebound the opponents by 8 boards a game while shooting a higher percentage from the field -- and that's a pretty rare combo right there.

There are flaws, of course, and it's a pretty glaring one, in that they don't take care of the ball. But given the turnover in the roster, that's more than understandable. My guess is that we won't really know anything about this team until the usual monster West Coast trip (this year, it's six games from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3), but getting back to .500 fast is a major relief.

In the West...

> Punch the lottery tickets for the Wolves, Cursed Thunder and Clippers already. They are a combined 3-27 (hard to do, Harry), and if you combined the rosters for all of them, you might have a playoff team. But only if you can get Baron Davis to show up and give a damn, and I'm not thinking you will, really.

Honestly, I'd like to find the people who talked about how the Wolves got a good deal in the Garnett trade and hook them up to lie detectors, just to see if they are idiots or morons. Basketball is not baseball; numbers do not exist in a vacuum, and you don't replace a high plus defensive player with a defensive sieve and have it be a zero-sum game. The bigger question is, really... what exactly does Kevin McHale have to do to lose his job? Now that Isiah Thomas is (presumably) being kept in a room with safety scissors and non-effective glue, he's Top Choice for the Guy Who Shouldn't Be Employed...

> The West will regret not burying the Spurs when they had the chance. The old robots are a one-legged stool right now, with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili both out with injuries, but a motivated Tim Duncan is a monstrous thing, and after three wins in five nights (over Houston, then on the road in Sacramento and in Clipland), they are back to .500, with four out of the next six at home. Assuming they'll be .500 or better at the end of that, they'll welcome back Manu and Parker, spend December getting everything settled, and be the team that no one wants to play in May -- especially because everyone but Duncan will have fresh legs, and he's still young enough to handle the minutes.

Remember, if Ginobili's healthy, they really could have stretched the Lakers much more in last year's playoffs, and it's not like they don't have the pedigree. And to think, they were 2-6 just a week ago, and looking like the Warriors '07 choice for the team to be hurt most by a slow start.

> This is a very top-heavy conference -- which is why the Nuggets are still relevant. Only four teams (Utah, Lakers, Suns and Rockets) look all that good to me, though you expect that the Hornets will turn it around any day now. After that, you've got the Blazers, Nuggets and Suns... and your nine-hole team, which last year was a 48-win Warrior club that was wildly entertaining, is going to be a sad-sack Maverick team that just needs to be euthanized.

> George Karl didn't take long to throw Allen Iverson under the bus, did he? I guess the poor boy is just giddy over a road win in Boston, the night after losing in Cleveland. This has left many to follow the logic that Chaunce must be better than AI, and well, OK, what the hell, it's not like the Nugs were doing anything before the trade.

But honestly, just how magical of a creature is AI, to make a very highly paid coach in Karl tolerate so many bad moments? I'm thinking The Answer has hidden Anti-Jedi powers and just enjoys losing. Either that, or George Karl quit on his team like a bitch last year, which, given that there was a whole Internet movement trying to get him pink-slipped last year, strikes me as just a *little* more likely.

(And yes, of course I am defensive about AI, who is, of course, a defensive hole and no one's idea of a great point guard... but for heaven's sake, the man killed himself for you for a year and a half, and didn't say a negative word to anyone. And you just pretty much took a dump on him in public. In the words of the great Ricky Watters, for who? For What?)

Oh, and George? I know you work for a team that won't ever spend money again, and you're probably going to spend maybe one more year twiddling your junk around .500 while collecting your paycheck in a weak division in a watered-down conference. But you might not want to poison the well so much for your successor. He might actually want to attract a free agent that's worth a damn some day, especially when you realize that Chaunce is old, getting older, and wears down very badly by the end of the year...

Ads In This Size Rule