Sunday, September 30, 2012

Top 10 NFL Week 4 Takeaways

One of only two unbeaten QBs
10) The Bills took a big lead on the Patriots, just to show that they could still give up 52 points and get blown out anyway

9) Greg Zuerlein is the Rams' kicker, he connected from 58 and 60 yards, and honestly, it might be time to start taking the air out of the kicking balls

8) You can not stop Dwayne Bowe from providing fantasy goodness in a blowout

7) In games with real refs, when Russell Wilson throws a last-minute interception, it's not ruled as a touchdown in a Seahawks comeback win

6) Santonio Holmes blew out a knee without contact, fumbled, and gave up a touchdown... and it might not have been the worst play of the day for the Jets

5) The Falcons remained undefeated with a 76-yard drive from their own 1 with no timeouts and 60 seconds left to set up the game-winning field goal... after forcing a punt on a third down carry by Cam Newton where he had the first down, but forced a fumble to make him lose the yardage... and no, I'm not making any of that up

4) The Vikings did not score a touchdown on offense while beating the Lions, 20-13, because the Lion kickers could not avoid Percy Harvin

3) I'm not sure what the Packers did to the fake and real refs, but man alive, it must have been really, really bad

2) Peyton Manning has your weak arm issue right here, but he's still two behind Kevin Kolb in the win column, along with the number of fourth quarter comebacks in 2012

1) By going 1 for 4, but hitting the game winner, Billy Cundiff "won" the game for Washington, and was allowed on the plane back from Tampa

Top 10 NFL Week 4 Ad Questions

Let's Make A Dirty Deal
10) When you touch a Chevy car salesman with your hand coated in mud, does it make his hand more or less slimy?

9) If Domino's does not use frozen dough, why do they have so much of it at hand?

8) Will technology allow us all to avoid our children's elementary school musical performances?

7) Isn't there any safeguards in place to stop homophobic illiterate cows from operating window-washing equipment?

6) What recreational drugs are required to make Internet Explorer as exciting as it seems in their ad?

5) Has anyone told Sir Patrick Stewart that the Star Trek residual money isn't going to stop coming, and he really doesn't need to do car rental voiceover work?

4) Given that the Apple people on line are tools, and the Samsung people interacting with them are smug pieces of crap, does this make Blackberry the winner by default?

3) If you actually are a Packers fan, why would you want Greg Jennings on your lap when you are not at the game?

2) Has Troy Polamalu gotten hurt while playing the piano yet?

1) How does driving a Cadillac way too quickly on a ridiculously dangerous road sell cars?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What? Is? Next?

We Do Things Different Here
When you are down 4-1 going into the 8th inning at home, coming back to win doesn't seem like that impossible of a trick... but the simple fact of the matter is that it doesn't happen all that often. When your eighth inning rally ends with a man being thrown out at the plate, so that you'll go into the bottom of the ninth no better than two runs down to a competent closer, it really doesn't seem like your day. And when the leadoff man whiffs, because these are the Oakland A's, the team that has struck out more often than any team in baseball history before them -- seriously, consider that for a second, then move on -- the odds are really not in your favor.

But these are the A's, the best team in baseball since the All-Star Break. Again, seriously, consider that, especially in light of the fact that they've had pitchers drop like flies and run a baseball team for about twice as much as the Yankees pay their second-best third baseman. So the story continues with their best hitter (Josh Reddick), having recently broken out of an 0-for-30 slump, drawing a walk against Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen. (By the way, Wilhelmsen's actually quite good -- 2.41 ERA now, 29 for 33 in save chances, good WHIP and secondary numbers.) And then Josh Donaldson, who had a .395 OPS before the break with a stint in the minors, and an .871 OPS after, sent one to straightaway center, which is a pretty ridiculous place to hit a home run anywhere, let alone the Coliseum. Tie game, and the 10th saw a walk-off 3-run HR from scrap heap first baseman Brandon Moss, and hey presto. The A's are 2.5 games out of first place in the division with the Rangers, and 2.5 ahead of the Angels. (Those teams rained out on each other today, and will play a double-header in Texas tomorrow.)

The A's will host the Rangers for the final three games at the Coliseum this week. One more day of happy moments, and it could be not just for the clinching wild-card game against the Orioles or Yankees against the second-string Texas starters, but for the actual old-school way to get into the playoffs -- the way that doesn't involve a single-game playoff to reach the real round. Adding to the fun is the fact that, as I write this, the Orioles are leading the Red Sox, and the Yankees have already somehow lost to the Blue Jays... and Oakland has Tommy Milone, who has been great at home, going tomorrow in the series finale with the Mariners.

In other words, the Littlest Team That Might... is rapidly becoming the Weirdest Team That Did. And if you think they aren't going to go anywhere in the playoffs, answer me one question: Why not, since there's absolutely no reason to have expected them to get this far?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from Browns - Ravens

In Baltimore, God Is Always Crying
10) Trent Richardson has some skills and all, but this is probably another year in which PK Phil Dawson is the Browns' best offensive player

9) Shockingly, Ray Lewis obliged the media's request to have his likeness on video, and his voice on audio

8) From the relative lack of WR puling and after the whistle shoving, this actually resembled an NFL game, and probably made many jackholes miss the scabs

7) Torrey Smith caught another touchdown despite a relative lack of profound grief, and Greg Little continued to create more of it

6) Baltimore bloodied up Browns QB Brandon Weeden, which is to say, Weeden played in the game

5) Only the NFL Network could describe a 9-7 game in the rain before a fairly quiet crowd as "good", but then again, after three weeks of scab refs, a half completed in 90 minutes is freaking bliss

4) Watching Ray Rice get stuffed at the goal line, then having Joe Flacco cuckold his touchdown, was all kinds of good times for those of us who don't own Rice in fantasy

3) No one's ever really going to know this, and it will have no impact on anything, but the Browns' defense really isn't that bad

2) Weeden showed us all his TaINT at the end of the third quarter, which should have let everyone who wasn't sweating the spread get out of the rain and off to bed early... but

1) The Beavis God seriously considered having the Browns tie it with a controversial Hail Mary at the buzzer, but Weeden couldn't hit the end zone from 20 yards away -- no, seriously

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from the NFL ending the referee lockout

The Last Scab Play Ever
10) It will take at least five, maybe ten minutes for fans to start booing the regular guys

9) Ed Hochuli can more or less name his price for commercial endorsements

8) Sadly, even the Browns-Bengals game on Thursday night will get the real refs

7) The Green Bay Packers will take your thanks for being the sacrificial lamb that got this settled

6) Golden Tate's feelings have been hurt so,so much over being insulted for something that, well, every NFL WR would do

5) Now that we have real refs, the league is sure to lose ratings, at least according to free market morons

4) The countdown to one of the scabs selling a tell-all book begins now, and everyone can now slag the scabs without pretending to feel bad about it

3) 110 highly skilled part-time workers in America will have a pension, which is just so offensive to so many people, somehow

2) You have the green light to continue to lose money on NFL bets while only being angry at yourself or individual teams, rather than the entire league infrastructure

1) If you'd like to remember this entire sad episode as when Roger Goodell jumped the shark, Saints Fan would beg to differ on the timing

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NFL Picks Week Four: Your Sin Stinks To High Heaven

I Got A Problem With You People
If you made my picks last week, you had the following things happen to you. Among many, many other problems. But these were the worst.

1) The Jags completing one pass of consequence in 60 minutes of road football... and having it go for 80 yards and the game and cover-winning score

2) The Ravens trying for the covering touchdown where the Patriots were eager to concede the score, then hitting the brakes and going for the non-covering figgie despite last year's playoff loss, then *barely* making that for the win

3) And, well, the Monday Night Screwjob.

That first loss cost me $70, the second cost NBC a probable FCC fine from the loudest "manure" chant ever heard on broadcast television, and the third cost America several days of work as everyone freaked out over the NFL turning into an object of exceptional ridicule.

But if you'd like to ridicule the picks, I understand. There are clearly bigger targets to ridicule -- the integrity-free scabs who took the ref gigs, the commissioner that perpetrated this fraud, and the owners that enabled it -- but honestly, that kind of week opens itself up to abuse. And not just any kind; I'm looking for holy penance. So this week, after each pick, I've punctuated the selection with an insult from Martin Luther, the original Angry Man, from the wonderful Web site that doles out the punishment. (Thank you, West Coast Mookie, for hyping me to this. It's going to save me many, many hours, and provide untold joy.)

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

CLEVELAND at Baltimore (-13)

This is one of those games where you have to look at the history more than the particulars, and the history is this: Baltimore never blows out Cleveland at home. On the road, sure. But at home, the Browns button down the game plan and run it, the Ravens sleepwalk for a while, and the game is close enough for those ref shenanigans that have bedeviled the Ravens for years to crop up. Count on more of the same here. Besides, how many times do you have to see the big favorite lose this year to know that laying this much wood isn't good for your bankroll?

For new Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam: Dear God, what an utterly shameless, blasphemous lying-mouth you are!

From Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil, pg. 300 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Ravens 20, Browns 10

Carolina at ATLANTA (-7.5)

Normally I'd like the Panthers to cover this number, since the Falcons have fewer days to prepare, and a big trip back from SoCal. At 3-0, they are also ripe for letdown in the parity swamp that is this year's NFL. But man alive, that Panther defense looked helpless against the G-Men last Thursday night, and this Falcons team, at least in the regular season, is a bigger a and better version of that. How are you supposed to stop Julio Jones and Roddy White, when Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden roasted you? And after watching many quarters of QB Cam Newton last week... well, something isn't right here. At all.

For Carolina owner Jerry Richardson: You vulgar boor, blockhead, and lout, you ass to cap all asses, screaming your heehaws.

From Against Hanswurst, pg. 212 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Falcons 31, Panthers 17

NEW ENGLAND at Buffalo (+4.5)

High confidence game here, as the Patriots are not going to fall to 1-3, and the Bills are not going to go to 3-1. Even if the teams' talent was really going that way, even if the scab refs aren't going to airmail this one to the Patriots with Goodell not even making them sign for it (what, you don't think these games are fixed when the scabs make a whopping $3K a game? Single bettors alone can triple that take in a heartbeat). Independent of conspiracy theories, the Patriots aren't blowing this game, and QB Ryan Fitpatrick isn't good enough to steal it. Especially without RB C.J. Spiller.

For Bills owner Ralph Wilson: Is not what I said before true, that you have eaten and drunk yourself full of devils, and so spew vainglorious devils out of your hellish gorge?

From Against Hanswurst, pg. 244 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Patriots 30, Bills 21

Minnesota at DETROIT (-4.5)

Have we underestimated the Vikings? Well, more likely, you: I've been making money on betting them to cover much of the year, though the out and out beatdown of the Niners came as something of a surprise. And with a road test against the pliable Lions on tap, with QB Matthew Stafford looking iffy due to injury, it seems like a fine time to keep riding the Purple Train. But, well, road games in a dome against a team with a clear talent edge are another matter entirely, and the Lions found something last week in RB Mikel LeShoure. It won't be a supremely comfortable cover, but it'll be one at the gun.

For Vikings owner Ziggy Wilf: You stink like devilish filth flung into Germany.

From Against Hanswurst, pg. 242 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Lions 31, Vikings 24

SAN DIEGO at Kansas City (+1)

A true toss-up game between two teams that can certainly make you want to toss, well, something. I like the road Chargers here because I just can't see the Chiefs having a running game that shows up in consecutive weeks, and the Chargers are due for a bounce-back after last week's de-pantsing at the claws of the Falcons. Arrowhead also holds no terror to me, especially when it's early in the year and cold weather can't make SoCal people contract with dread. And doesn't RB Ryan Mathews have to have a decent game to suck people back into believing in him here?

For Chiefs owner Clark Hunt: We leave you to your own devices, for nothing properly suits you except hypocrisy, flattery, and lies.

From Against Latomus, pg. 143 of Luther's Works, Vol. 32

Chargers 24, Chiefs 17

SEATTLE at St. Louis (+3)

I would have been impressed by the Seahawks even if they didn't receive the officiating gift of the millennium; 8 sacks in a half is good against Lingerie League competition, let alone a playoff caliber team with a young and spry QB. But as long as HC Pete Carroll refuses to let QB Russell Wilson actually earn the job by, say, throwing it more than 4 times a quarter, you set yourself open to losing games that you have no business losing, because winning games with such a vanilla offensive plan isn't happening. But I get why he did it, seeing how the first 3 Seahawk games were against reasonable defenses at home.

This week against a Rams team that has only one pass rusher and a secondary that loses people more often than a discount hospice, look for the blinders to come off his pony a bit. And the Hawks to roll, hard, with more than a little vengeance as to how they've been painted as America's Big Cheaters for the past six days. Strong confidence pick here.

For Seahawks owner Paul Allen: I can with good conscience consider you a fart-ass and an enemy of God.

From Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil, pg. 344 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Seahawks 27, Rams 16

SAN FRANCISCO at NY Jets (+4.5)

Can't bet this one fast enough, assuming that the scab ref situation actually gets settled and I ever regain the taste for gambling on NFL games. With CB Darelle Revis done for the year, if not career, reserve RB Joe McKnight being shifted against his will to CB, and the usual QB Circus... well, just how this team is 2-1, I have no idea. And if PK Dan Carpenter had done his job in Miami last weekend, they wouldn't be.

Look for the Niners to come in angry, to dominate on defense after giving up too much to the Vikings last week, and for Jets Fan to stop spelling and start booing before the end of the first half. I have a hard time seeing the Jet offense scoring an offensive touchdown in this game.

For NY Jets owner Woody Johnson: You curse, blaspheme, shriek, struggle, bellow, and spit, so that, if people really heard you utter words, they would gather with chains and bars, just as if you were possessed by a legion of devils and had to be seized and bound.

From Against Hanswurst, pg. 185 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Niners 24, Jets 9

TENNESSEE at Houston (-13)

Too big of a number again for a division game, and the Titans have started to figure out the passing game a bit. This will be one of those classic never-in-it backdoor covers that are all the rage in the NFL this year, and the first good ROI for the Kenny Britt gamblers. Besides, I still don't trust Texans HC Gary Kubiak to willingly accept prosperity.

For Titans owner Bud Adams: You have set out to rub your scabby, scurvy head against honor.

From Against Hanswurst, pg. 185 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Texans 30, Titans 20

OAKLAND at Denver (-7)

This Broncos team just looks like they are going to fall behind every game and keep it close all the way, and I like what the Raiders did last week in Oakland against the Steelers. (Frankly, I really didn't think they had it in them, but RB Darren McFadden finally hit a big play, which made everything all better for them.) Oakland won't win -- they aren't smart enough for that or error-free enough for that on offense, and QB Peyton Manning will sneak this one past them with his brain more than his increasingly exposed arm -- but they will cover, and be right there late.

For Raiders owner Mark Davis: You are like a magician who conjures gulden into the mouths of silly people, but when they open their mouths they have horse dirt in them.

From Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil, pg. 264 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Broncos 27, Raiders 24

Miami at ARIZONA (-7.5)

Not in love with laying this much wood with a team that looks like it won't handle 3-0 well, but at some point you have to look at the exceptional speed and power of the Arizona defense, and the startlingly good won-loss record since the second half of last year, and cry uncle. Especially when facing a terrible team like the Dolphins, who will also be flying through three time zones to play in the desert. Not fun.

For Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell: You are in all you do the very opposite of Christ as befits a true Antichrist.

From Defense and Explanation of All the Articles, pg. 61 of Luther's Works, Vol. 32

Cardinals 24, Dolphins 13

CINCINNATI at Jacksonville (+3)

I don't get this line at all. The Bengals have just gone into Washington and won a shootout game with the home Redskins; the Jaguars ground out a road win on the strength of two big offensive plays against the home Colts. The Bengals have what might be the best WR in the AFC in AJ Green; the Jags have a whole lot of small college guys who have not worked out. I'd lay the wood with the Bengals at +6.5, so the +3 looks positively welcome.

For Jaguars owner Shahid Khan: You hellish scum.

From Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil, pg. 329 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Bengals 31, Jaguars 17

New Orleans at GREEN BAY (-8)

Vengeance Pinball Time in Green Bay, who I would gladly take at +20.5 after last weekend's festivities. The Saints can't stop anyone on defense, don't make adjustments well after the half with HC Sean Payton gone, and lack a credible deep threat without WRs Robert Mecham and Devery Henderson. The Packers started to figure out their protection issues in the second half against the Seahawks, and the Saints don't rush anyone well. This won't take long.

For Saints owner Tom Benson: You teach the disorderly masses to break into this field in disorder like pigs.

From Against the Heavenly Prophets, pg. 89 of Luther's Works, Vol. 40

Packers 45, Saints 20

WASHINGTON at Tampa Bay (-3)

Curious game between two never-rans. The Bucs could have been relevant (i.e., 2-1)  had they held that huge lead in New York before committing KneelGate. The Skins have had the bloom come off the rose after that shocking Week One win in New Orleans, and have had serious injury issues to a defense that wasn't that great to start with. It's pretty much a coin flip game, so give me Robert Griffin And His Majestically Long Name That Really Doesn't Need To Be Mentioned On Every Snap From Center The Third to will his team to victory, thus setting Redskins Fan up for crushing depression later this year when he gets hurt.

For Redskins owner Daniel Snyder: You are desperate, thorough arch-rascals, murderers, traitors, liars, the very scum of all the most evil people on earth. You are full of all the worst devils in hell - full, full, and so full that you can do nothing but vomit, throw, and blow out devils!

From Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil, pg. 277 of Luther's Works, Vol. 41

Redskins 24, Bucs 20

NEW YORK at Philadelphia (-1)

So many ways to go here. The Eagles have won 7 of their last 8 against the Giants, with Andy Reid more or less de-pantsing Tom Coughlin on multiple occasions. The DL usually does increasingly nasty things to QB Eli Manning, and the Giants haven't been able to gash them with the running game the way you think they should. They'll have WR Jeremy Maclin back, and they are immensely better with him in the lineup. The game is at home, with the team primed for a bounceback, and maybe even a clean game in turnovers, against a team that might be feeling too good about itself after crushing the Panthers in Carolina last Thursday.

But there's what your eyes tell you, and that is that the Eagles will not adjust protection to make the game manageable for QB Michael Vick, and that DE Jason Pierre-Paul might have a 4 sack game against this scheme and situation. Vick has shown an utterly absurd lack of pocket awareness this year, to the point of making me wonder if he's operating with some sort of concussion. The Giants have the best WRs in the league, and CB Nnamdi Asomugha might be the NFL's most overrated player.

So... it's Blue, in one of those dispiriting night games where your team is shown to be finesse frauds and fools, under the white-hot spotlight of a national television audience. Oh, and maybe we'll see Reid bench Vick, or Vick get hurt, and Eagle Fan to turn on his team with a vengeance. Good times!

For Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: You reek of nothing but Lucian, and you breathe out on me the vast drunken folly of Epicurus.

From The Bondage of the Will, pg. 29 of Luther's Works, Vol. 33

Giants 24, Eagles 16

CHICAGO at Dallas (-3.5)

My Bear Fan friends, like my Steeler Fan friends, hate when I pick their team, because they are unable to look at the slightly above .500 lifetime record and somehow believe that my picks spell doom for their laundry. Last week, this wasn't the case, as my top confidence pick manhandled the Rams despite continuing offensive struggles. On the road in Dallas, they will need more of the same and get it, because this Cowboys team hasn't looked good on offense for several weeks now, and that's especially telling against the moribund Bucs.  I also think that one of these weeks, QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall will remember that they are talented and capable of putting up some numbers.

For Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: Even if the Antichrist appears, what greater evil can he do than what you have done and do daily?

From Why the Books of Pope Were Burned, pg. 393 of Luther's Works, Vol. 31

Bears 24, Cowboys 17

Last week: 4-11-1

Year to date: 23-24-1

Career: 565-548-27

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

If You Are Entertained By Scabs, You Are An Asshat

Replacement Engineers, No Doubt
Hey, you know what would be more enter- taining than a properly officiated pro football game?

A knife fight. To the death. Pick one lucky so and so from each NFL team, and the survivor is the Super Bowl winner. Get your Hunger Games on.

Or, perhaps less illegal and bloody, but no less disgusting, a contest where each team tries to make the other vomit.

You're right, too dark. Perhaps competitive pooping. Length, symmetry, delivery time. We can educate a lot of people on what they should be looking for there.

Or a food fight between the cheer leading squads. Or mud wrestling. I'm kind of amazed this one hasn't happened yet.

Maybe you'd prefer head-up hooliganism, where each team's biggest (by weight) fans go at the other's car with a baseball bat and an oxygen tank. Oh, and for each penalty against a player, they have to remove one item of clothing.

Wait, you say that would make a travesty of the game?

Yes, but wouldn't it be Entertaining?

Game is so *boring*, you see. It can be watched without betting. It rewards people who actually measure and attain talent, rather than just get lucky with injuries, or be better at thuggery. It requires competent officiating, and commonly understood rules and punishments. It's aided by decades of rivalries and development, traditions and history, and meaningfulness based on statistically understandable results.

So, if you are the kind of contrarian asshat who wants to defend the scabs, or talk about how much fun you've been having at the BBQ as Roger Goodell Nero fiddles...

Well, can you please go, you know, watch the channels that routinely show Trainwreck Entertainment, and leave us this single functioning meritocracy?

Caring Less About The NFL

The Ball Of Diminishing Returns
Well, folks, I'm breaking no news by calling tonight's MNF game an epic turdburger where the Packers got jobbed like nobody's business: all you need to have learned that is a pair of functioning eyes and an IQ that's above room temperature.

And I also know that I'm not going to stop watching the games. I didn't stop watching the Eagles during the Bobby Hoying Era, and while the current team is even more maddening, I watch every snap. I'm in my 40s, I've been doing this for 35+ years, it's like breathing to me now.

Once a year I take my mom to a road game, and we always have a great time, win or lose. That's not stopping.

I run a fantasy football league with keepers, and I like my team even though they are in last place.

I've written a picks column for the lifetime of this blog, with every game getting a blurb.

I watch nearly a half dozen games a week, and have ponied up for the NFL Network to make sure I get the Thursday games.

I own, and wear, a jersey on game days.

I am, in short, a lifer, an addict, and bad refs aren't going to change that.

Also, as badly as they were done by the refs tonight, the Pack still put themselves in a position to get jobbed. They had a fourth down chance to stop Marshawn Lynch to salt the game away and failed. They missed on a 2-point conversion that would have gotten them overtime after the abomination call. They nearly fumbled the game away with old friend Cedric Benson deep in their own territory, and had they not spent the first half neglecting the running game and short passes, this game isn't close enough to get stolen.

But, well, winning road games is tough under the best of circumstances, and it's a lot harder when the refs blow the call live and on replay, after multiple phantom calls that got them to this point. And it's just not something I want to care this much about any more.

So I'll still pick, and track, but won't bet. At least, not until the real refs come back. And maybe that leads itself to less devotion on other matters.

Besides, the NBA season starts in a month.

And my NFL fantasy team is already 100 points in the hole, and my Eagles are their usual fraud...

Top 10 reasons why Andy Reid is considering benching Michael Vick

That's One Angry Mustache
10) Has started to get the idea that turnovers are bad

9) Vick just isn't getting hurt fast enough on his own

8) As soon as he benches Vick, he can avoid all of those running plays where the QB runs past the line of scrimmage

7) If Nick Foles can show any sign of promise, this will be the way that Reid can survive another 8-8 year

6) The sooner he benches Vick, the faster he can get to Trent "Captain Checkdown" Edwards and prove that he's a True QB Genius

5) Game-winning drives don't matter that much when it's your actions that require the game to be won in the last minute in the first place

4) Has a super-secret partial ownership in WIP, so any press conference that spurs ratings is money for donuts

3) Given that his team turns the ball over once a quarter, you have to think that anyone on the offense can be benched

2) Didn't like the way Vick refused to step up in the pocket on those ridiculous Get Killed Auto Passing Plays when down 18 with 2 minutes left

1) Was told by the NFL to give them something to distract from the upcoming MNF debacle

Monday, September 24, 2012

Top 10 Packers - Seahawks Takeaways

Someone Please Just Kill Him
10) It looks like the Seahawks are going to win this Bruce Irvin bet

9) Shockingly, a running game with Cedric Benson has failed to be electric

8) If you know someone who went all-in for Aaron Rodgers or Greg Jennings in his fantasy draft, please make sure the gas line to their oven isn't connected

7) In case you haven't been informed of this previously, Russell Wilson Is Shorter Than Other NFL Quarterbacks

6) By going with the running game and the no-huddle in the third quarter, Green Bay was able to move away from the Drop Back And Get Sacked play that wasn't working so good for them

5) At some point, it really doesn't matter that much who the Seattle QB is if you are only going to throw 10 passes in 3 quarters

4) Seattle Fan is good at making noise, but there were far too many people with cheese on their heads to call this a really big home-field advantage

3) If you didn't watch any Packers 2011 football, you'd have no idea this was a team with a deep passing game

2) Golden Tate is the hero for the Seahawks for the most blatant OPI call ever, and then not catching a touchdown

1) If this game does not get you to stop watching the NFL until the scab refs are gone, I don't know what will

Baltimore Fan Tells You About Scab Refs

National television, for many minutes. Good job, Goodell.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Top 10 NFL Week 3 Takeaways

The Last 3-0 Cardinals QB, From 1974
10) Tim Tebow made a play to get a first down on a fake punt, which the NFL is required by federal law to show you

9) Detroit beat the Titans 25-21, but as that was just in the fourth quarter, they didn't actually win the game

8) Jets-Dolphins was so riveting, we needed more than four quarters of it (along with three different channels where I live showing it)

7) If you had the 0-2 Saints in your Survivor Pool, you kind of deserved what you got

6) Blaine Gabbert completed one pass of any importance today in a road game, and somehow won

5) San Francisco proved, yet again, that being the best team in the NFL in early September is not that big of a deal

4) Cincy beat the Redskins despite spending most of the second half forgetting how to tackle

3) Houston became the new best team in the NFL with their dismantling of the Broncos

2) Arizona and Kevin Kolb are now 3-0 and alone in first place in the NFC West, just like everyone predicted

1) There are now three undefeated teams left in the league, and as one of them starts Kevin Kolb at QB, you can safely ignore the league until the playoffs starts

Ray Rice Has Limited Powers Of Invisibility

This is a small point, but it needs to be made, in that it gets made in just about every NFL telecast, and has been made since John Madden fell in manlove with David Meggett.

This is Ray Rice. He is, according to the roster, 5 feet and 8 inches tall, and 212 pounds.

The average NFL is 5 feet and 11 inches tall, and 215 pounds.

This means that Ray Rice is, by the numbers, a little less than 5% shorter than the average NFL running back, and 1.5% lighter.

He is, as far as we can know, human in nature. Therefore he has no Romulan cloaking device, or Gallifryean ability to travel in time and shift outside of the temporal plane.

Claiming, as Cris Collingsworth did in the SNF telecast, that part of the problem in stopping Rice is that he just disappears behind the massive Ravens' offensive line... is just plain silly.

Any defensive player that can not see the running back, or doesn't have an idea of where he is at the start of every offensive play, is a defensive player that will not make the NFL.

And if I am somehow wrong in this, or if there really is some edge in camouflage...

Why doesn't it work in every game?

So, please. For the sake of the few remaining brain cells that I have after watching the 2012 Eagles...

Can we please, please, pretty please stop this utter stupidity?

Eagles - Cardinals Takeaways

We've Seen This Before
> Shockingly, Andy Reid came out with three passes despite the makeshift offensive line, and the fact that everyone who has watched the last 14 years of Eagles football knew this was coming

> Anyone who thought that Larry Fitzgerald wasn't going to do well in this game hasn't watched him play the Eagles before

> Thanks to watching this game, I now know that Brian Billick mows his own lawn

> On Michael Floyd's first career touchdown, the Eagles had multiple opportunities for a pick, and the fact that they didn't get it more or less ended the game

> On the first play of the second quarter, the Eagles took a timeout, which might be a new low in wasted timeouts in the Reid Era

> On a simple matter of a hold during a sack, the scab refs took five minutes to spot the ball. No, seriously

> The next instance of Vick having pocket awareness of the rush in 2012 might be the first

> DeSean Jackson lobbied for DPI for several seconds while the play was still going on, which is always, unm, fun

> If you only watched this game, you'd have a hard time imagining why Kolb has struggled in Arizona, or was only starting this game due to injury

> At some point, it's OK to wonder what Nnamdi Asomugha has to do to get benched or cut

> The Eagles actually walked off the field on a 3rd and 20 play, because they didn't know the down; sadly, they came back on the field after that

> You can count on the Eagle defense celebrating sacks no matter what the game situation

> Maybe a wide variety of screen passes isn't the best option for a team with a makeshift offensive line

> If you are looking for a comment about the wisdom of going for a touchdown with 6 seconds left in the half, down 17-0, then giving up the sack, fumble and touchdown... well, I'm sorry, but I have no words that come anywhere close to describing that level of utter and complete incompetence

> I watched the whole game, but I'm not sure why anyone else did

> It was nice to see the defense come back to 2011's form of missed tackling

> As an Eagles fan, I no longer get excited by first downs or drives, since they end in turnovers much more than points

> You have to be impressed how, while down 24 with 24 minutes to play, the offense was still more than willing to huddle up

> As Alex Henery's fantasy owner, I appreciated the multiple third quarter field goals that didn't really make the comeback manageable

> DeMecco Ryans stopping the third and one with 14 minutes left made for slightly less garbage time

> Just in case you thought Reid had learned something in his 14 years about clock management, the second half more or less cured that notion

> Jon Dorenbos limped off with 10:26 left, which means we might need a new long snapper / magician soon

> On 3rd and 17 with 8:20 left, I called "This will be a shotgun draw to run the clock" five seconds before the ball was snapped -- and Castillo's defense still gave up 20+ yards and the first down on it, because Juan Castillo has no business being in the same zip code as an NFL team, let alone a coaching position

> Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie took a 15-yard penalty because he didn't like being blocked

> There were a sizable number of Eagles fans in the stadium, which couldn't have been a very happy purchase for them

> For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Cardinals, they don't actually run the ball well, or score a lot of points

> Kevin Kolb is now 2-0 against his old team

> For some reason that no one can fathom, the Eagles called timeouts while down 18 with 4 minutes left

> If you are looking for bright spots, the Eagles outgained the Cardinals, had more first downs and fewer penalties, and all of that does not matter at all

> The fact that Reid called four straight pass plays with minimal protection with three minutes left tells you that perhaps the coach does want to see Nick Foles

> If the Giants' defensive players don't look at this tape with an excessive amount of saliva, that speaks well to their team discipline

> Somehow, my laundry is still tied for first in their division with 12 turnovers in 3 games, and if they aren't a 7.5 point home underdog to the Giants next week on SNF, Vegas is just giving away money

Top 10 NFL Week 3 Ad Questions

BJ Raji Will Dance For You
10) If I use E*Trade, will my baby be molested by some speed-dating toddler?

9) How did Scotts hire Grounds Keeper Willie when he's, well, a cartoon?

8) When Appke's Steve Jobs died, did he take all of the good commercial ideas to the grave with him?

7) Was anyone else creeped out by the tribute to Steve Sabol?

6) Does B.J. Raji carry around a monstrous '80s boom box with him everywhere he goes?

5) If I use UPS to aid my small business, will I become ridiculously self-involved?

4) Does using a Droid turn your hand into a screen, and if so, isn't there all kinds of background radiation issues?

3) Can you have a thriller / horror movie now without a woman being dragged face-down from under a bed?

2) Can the little girl on the Visa ad ask Ray Lewis how to get away with murder?

1) Doesn't the Domino's CEO have something better to do than drive around with his pimply stoner delivery personnel?

Top 10 takeaways from Kevin McClatchy coming out of the closet

The ex-owner and CEO of the Pirates during one of the worst periods in their history (1996 to 2007) has admitted his orientation. As always, FTT has The Rest Of The Story...

10) McClatchy decided to come out upon turning 50, since, regardless of orientation, sex after 50 just ain't happening for anybody

9) Pirate Fan will be thrilled to learn that the decade of soul-crushing ineptitude broke boundaries

8) Despite all appearances and the geographic commonalities, this has nothing to do with Steely McBeam

7) Finally, it's understood how PNC Park is so appealing from a pure design standpoint

 6) As with all things, revealing something like this is a lot easier when you have a great deal of money already

 5) Since it was an ex-owner rather than an ex-player, baseball's 100% Hetero mark is still intact, and if you believe that, I've got an electric-blue PT Cruiser to sell you

4) This is the first time that anything gay has ever been associated with piracy

3) McClatchy's family made their original fortune in newspapers, which must also have been some kind of homosexual conspiracy

2) The frequent homophobic slurs in baseball circles kept McClatchy from coming out earlier, which you can safely interpret as George Steinbrenner having all kinds of issues

1) Just because I have Pirate Fan's attention with this list and I have an innate sense of cruelty, Sid Bream Sid Bream Sid Bream

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Poker Diaries: Every Single Night

Feel free to play the music clip while you read this. And yes, finding common concern with the brilliant, spooky, troubled, fantastic Fiona Apple is all kinds of wrong and pretentious, but so is the idea that writing about poker is of interest to anyone. Sing it, Fiona!

This is going to be even more experimental and annoying than the average Poker Diary, so bail if you like. But it might also give you that little shiver of recognition. And if it does, I'm sorry.

So I have a couple of winning NFL parleys in my hands, so clearly I need to cash those in before Week 3's games go live, seeing how hitting on NFL parleys is better than puppies. Maybe I can go on Saturday night and do the same routine as last week, where I got deep in the tournament and then added margin at the $1/$2 table? Well, sure, but the wingman is out of pocket this weekend. No worries; I'm sure one of the regulars will want to take the ride with me. Just put it in the status email and...

Crickets. Or "Sorry but I can't" emails. Gahhh. Never walk into a casino alone! That's just asking for bad vibes and killer beats, since every part of you is wondering DO I HAVE A GAMBLING PROBLEM? (Answer: Yes. Especially when I lose. But the amount I gamble hasn't really risen in five years, and I generally break even or better. So it's manageable. Besides, poker feels way too much like work after a while, and it's work with unhappy coworkers. Not something I can sign on for too much.)You walk into a casino alone, you are just asking for bad cards, worse beats, and even if you hit, you'll have the Lone Wildebeest On The Serengeti experience of getting back to your car with your cash. I'm quick and in shape and all, but that only counts for so much against someone who's prepared and determined. And the place I'm going to has the biggest and most unguarded outdoor parking lot in creation, really.

So... let's go Saturday. With a wingman. But no wingman presents themself, and the weather is going to turn bad on Saturday night. Why drive in the rain when you can avoid it? Hmm. Sportsbook is open until 10pm on Friday. The place is 80 minutes away with limited traffic. So... I get the work done, the laundry managed, have dinner with the family and my picks done and mailed to my smart phone, and it's only 8pm. The Shooter Wife, my greatest enabler for good or ill, waves me out. It's go time.

I've been to Delaware Park a half dozen times. So I don't have directions. And I've got a GPS. WHICH ISN'T WHERE I LEFT IT. GAHHHH. Well, I'm sure I can remember how to get there. And speed enough to make time, but not so much as to get a ticket. I get to the bridge into Delaware, pay my toll, and confirm with the attendant that Delaware Park is off Exit 4... and suddenly I don't recognize the road and it's exit 5 already and I must have missed exit 4 and oh crap and oh crap I'm going to miss the 10pm window when the sportsbook closes and this whole 3 hours of driving will be for NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING and where the hell is the GPS unit why can't anyone ever leave anything where I leave it I get to murder them all one day in their sleep for this and no jury will convict because seriously they kept moving your stuff and

Exit 4. And a sign for Delaware Park. They count down here. Of course.

I park in outer Maryland and get my distance miles in. By the time I get to the sportsbook, it's 9:30 -- damn, I made great time -- and the board is in front of me. The smartphone has eaten the picks, but I've memorized them anyway, and 10 minutes later I've gotten my cash and the Week 3 picks in. Poker? Poker.

Well, the tournament isn't really an option, since the big prize is an entry into a noon $400 event tomorrow... which is to say, I'd play until 4am (with luck), somehow drive home to sleep, then come back and do it all again after 4-5 hours of sleep, on a day when plans have already been made that require the car. Screw That. No, I'll just take my modest little sports bet free roll and go play $1/$2 with it, because the place is jumping and the Orioles are winning (Delaware Park cares about that a lot, it's south enough for it) and I'm shown to a table where, before I'm even in a hand, I watch a woman at the end of the table bet $25 and get raised on a K-J-6 rainbow board, then do the same and fold on the raiser's all-in after a J hits on the turn. She says she folded aces, and he says he had K-J... but the card flash when he mucked next to me looked more like Q-6.

So it's *that* kind of table. Yeesh.

OK, just be patient, play premium hands, fold a lot and work up a book on your opponents; the standard I'm Tight Until I'm Not play. And with a breathtaking succession of unplayable (2-8 off, 2-6 off, 4-9 off, Ace-Rag off out of position against big raises) hands and good folds, I've had my usual nitty effect on the table, which is to say that people are bringing their bets down a little. It happens a lot at cash tables; play tight and/or be card-dead while looking like you know what you are doing, and you can will the pre-flop raises down. Or maybe I've just got table-wide card-dead powers. That seems likely too.

Of course, the downside of being obviously tight is that the aggro guys are raising your blind and c-betting every time around, but as soon as I catch a flop, that will end, right? Um, maybe. With Ace-2 suited (spades) in the small blind, I'm the fourth caller on an $11 raise, and hey presto, $55 pot. Flop comes down 3-5-J, and the 3 and 5 are spades. Yes, that's the straight draw, the nut flush draw, and the freaking straight flush draw... and the same guy betting $11 into it, scattering everyone but me. Turn is a brick; the bet is $25, which I call. River is another brick (no straights, no flushes, no pairs) and he bets another $25. I resist the urge to come over the top and kamikaze myself on his spiked jack, but he's got the stack to call an all-in bluff, and he'd be getting pot odds on his call. Besides, I've given him no possible read other than On A Draw. PATIENCE. I muck. And wonder for the next 15 minutes it any of that was good poker, and why I can't ever hit a straight flush draw.

The game goes on for another two cycles, and I slowly start to get the occasional approaching playable cards... but always out of position, and against a double-digit raise. I throw away Ace-Rag unsuited on two occasions against middle pair size raises, and try to congratulate myself when the flop misses me entirely, until I realize that of the 30+ hands dealt so far, the flop has missed me... every time. Kind of amazing, really. I'm able to play 4s for the limp in late position, and maybe I should have shoved with those, but my stack isn't big enough to strike fold equity in the minds of my opponents. Yet.

So after 40 or so minutes, I'm down to half of my starting stack, haven't won a hand, and have the table image of Super Nit going on. I'm able to see King-Queen off for a relatively bargain $6, and a small raise goes to a guy who make it $30 to go after the flop leaves me open-ended with a Jack and 10 on the board. Putting him on a pot-sized steal comes pretty quickly to my mind, and there's only two plays to make now: fold or shove. I do the latter, and everyone scatters like I've dropped a bomb. Everyone, that is, except the raiser, who only needs $25 more to call me down. He does with Ace-Jack, and I miss my 14 outs on the turn and river, and that is that.

The drive home is 80 minutes of internal conversations about what I could have done differently, as if you aren't going to lose your chips after an hour of 100% flop-missing poker. with the final takeaway being this: never go to the casino alone. And that's when the pain comes in.

Sing me out, Fiona...

Friday, September 21, 2012

What If You Make The Playoffs... Without Any Starting Pitchers?

Who are those guys?
With 13 games left in the American League regular season, here are your up to date wild-card standings.

Oakland 85-64
Baltimore 85-64
LA Angels 81-68 - 4 GB
Tampa 80-70 - 5.5 GB
Detroit 79-70 - 6 GB

Oakland's remaining games are seven games in New York and Texas, then six games in Seattle and Texas, so there are all chances of collapse, especially with starting pitchers dropping like flies... but it's highly likely that the Rangers aren't going to have anything to play for. Also, four games is a lot with 13 to play, and expecting the Angels to get very hot against the White Sox, Rangers and a home and home against the Mariners isn't too big of a bet. I think they get in.

So realistically, we're looking at something like an 80 to 85% chance of two teams that had a better chance of losing 100 games at the start of the year winning 90, and going to the play-in game. The winner of that is likely to get an all-expense paid beatdown at the hands of the rested and ready Rangers.

The only problem is that I have no idea which A's pitcher would actually get the assignment.

Now, I'm not supposed to look gift playoffs in the mouth, and random chance and the nature of baseball means that just getting a seat at the table is everything. But with Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon all done for the year, Tommy Milone an Oakland-only soft tossing option, Jarrod Parker at more innings than he's ever been... well, it's really looking like one and done with speed. There's only so much you can ask from utterly untested guys like A.J. Griffin, Travis Blackley and Dan Straily.( And yes, it's just pure snark to note that if the Nationals were managing this team, they'd shut down all of these guys.)

Baltimore, at least, while ace-less, has a huge number of tolerable options. You can go with Jason Hammel (dominant until hurt), Wei-Yin Chen (probably the staff's most valuable pitcher), Chris Tillman (pedigree and recent results), Miguel Gonzalez (pretty good in the second half surge)... or maybe even Dylan Bundy (do you try a 19-year-old on the national stage?). They'll be fun. They've got options.

My laundry? We'll dream of 4-5 tolerable innings from Stranger Du Jour, then turn it over to the bullpen as soon as sanity allows, and hope that Pat Neshek, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Grant Balfour and more can keep things manageable.

And if it works -- for an organization that went into playoffs with aces many, many times for absolutely no impact -- well, we'll all get a good long giggle. Especially if it happens against guys making tens of millions of dollars...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from Giants - Panthers

Martellus Bennett Is Your TD Bitch
10) Maybe Cam Newton isn't ready to play a night game after all

9) It only took about three minutes for me to realize that betting the Panthers was a terrible mistake

8) There really is no surer bet than the NFL Network game will stink to high heaven

7) For everyone who had Ramses Barden as a sleeper pick in 2008, this game was pure vindication

6) The people who went all-in for Martellus Bennett and Andre Brown are looking like geniuses, rather than desperate players

5) Down 20 with 47 seconds and three timeouts, Carolina sat on the ball to end the first half, just to make sure their fans knew that the effort shown by the players was going to be equaled by the coaches

4) I hesitate to call the second half of this game garbage time, only because it denotes far too much importance to the second quarter

3) Regardless of his production for the night, you have to love how Panthers WR Steve Smith will fight any defensive player regardless of size

2) If you want to just call Jason Pierre-Paul the best DE in the NFL, it's not like there's really much of an argument any more

1) Doug Wilson is well on his way to being the all-new DJ Ware

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NFL Week 3 Picks: Almost A Very Great Thing

Oakland, Where Dreams Go To Die
Last Saturday, I went to Delaware Park and bought $50 worth of NFL silly bets, which is to say, about as much as I'll ever buy. One of those was a prop bet for my Eagles to win the Super Bowl (I feel like this is a rite of yearly passage at this point), and the other four were $10 parlay bets. Now, three of those were realistic 3-team variety, and the last wa a pie in the sky 8-team monster.  I had a really good week picking games, and two of those tickets hit to make for a $100 profit; good times.

And that 8-team ticket? It went... gulp, 7-1.

So if you want to get well and truly bent about things, the Oakland Raiders cost me $1,610 this last weekend. (I don't count the other 3-team parlay which also had the Raiders, as that was also compromised by the Bengals not covering the 1/2 point in their game against the Browns.)

And the scary thing was imagining just how hard I would have been gripping if the last game on that ticket, along with the last game on one of the other parley bets, was Atlanta to cover. Which they really looked like they were going to fail to do, as the Falcons more or less played the fourth quarter with their hands wrapped around their throats. Had that been $1680 on the line, rather than $70...

Well, I'd like to think that I would have held my crap together. But seriously, I'm not sure.

But on the other hand, I could be this guy. (NSFW, in that you'll be laughing too hard to remain employed.)


And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

New York at CAROLINA (+1.5)

In a battle of 1-1 teams with outsized expectations, give me the home Panthers on the short week. The Giants' secondary has been shamblesy in the first two games, and their offense is way too injured and imbalanced for comfort. I could also see Big Blue really missing WR Hakeem Nicks in this one, which will also make WR Victor Cruz less effective, and not quite getting the same production they would from RB Ahmad Bradshaw. On a quasi-national stage, I'm looking for a big game from Panthers QB Cam Newton and the Carolina running game.

Panthers 24, Giants 20

St. Louis at CHICAGO (-7)

Love, love, love the Bears here. They get the home field, the extra time, a dome team on the road and a bounce-back game for the ages for QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall, who have much to answer for after last week's TNF turdburger in Green Bay. In the long run, RB Matt Forte's absence will be a problem, but in the short, RB Michael Bush will carry the mail and salt this away late. The Rams are a lot more game than in previous years, but they aren't ready for a game like this.

Bears 31, Rams 17

Buffalo at CLEVELAND (+3)

Do you feel confident about either of these teams yet? I sure as hell don't. The Bills looked helpless against the Jets and dominant against the Chiefs, and honestly, there isn't *that* much difference between those clubs. The only thing I can think of is that they are a strong home team with road issues, and that the Browns, who looked a lot better against the Bengals than they did against the Eagles, might be able to sneak one of their few wins here. If you are really betting this game hard, you may have a gambling problem.

Browns 20, Bills 17

Tampa at DALLAS (-7)

I hate the number here, but the Bucs' defensive issues has road blowout written all over this one unless they can get some turnovers, and betting on those happening is a bad idea. On the fast home track with QB Tony Romo having one of his better Septembers -- and the man is not to be underestimated in this month -- I think they cover the number with relative ease, and get freshly deluded by their potential. Oh, Cowboy Fan, will you ever learn? DON'T GET (takes hit of helium) COCKY!

As for the Bucs, if they can keep this in the hands of RB Doug "Muscle Hamster" Martin, they'll have a shot to keep this in the range of a cheap shot during kneeldowns. Hey, it's an identity.

Dallas 31, Bucs 17

DETROIT (-3.5) at Tennessee

Not much going right for the Titans this year, who have to be wondering if QB Matt Hasselbeck might be a better idea by now, but QB Jake Locker is a long-term project. Speaking of unsatisfying, RB Chris Johnson isn't in danger of losing the job despite his second year of being flat-out terrible. Against a Lions team that's looking to bounce from a never really in it SNF game in San Francisco, I like QB Matthew Stafford -- and potentially serious fantasy RB Mikel LeShoure -- to salt away the number late. Also, lots of people seem to think that WR Kenny Britt is going to bust out in this game, but that assumes Locker has production, or time to throw. (Note: I also own LeShoure and Britt in my fantasy league, so if both go down with crippling injuries, you'll know who to thank.)

Lions 30, Titans 20

Jacksonville at INDIANAPOLIS (-3)

Second straight week where the Colts take advantage of the home field and an easy schedule to feel good about the QB Andrew Luck Era. Unlike previous games, this one is going to see some more room for RB  "Dammit" Donald Brown, because the Colts are going to (a) have a lead, and (b) have an opponent that's got enough tape to be scared of Luck. It also really doesn't hurt that they might have DE Dwight Freeney back for this one. As for the Jags, if you think they are winning this game, you are betting a road dome game with QB Blaine Gabbert or QB Matt Moore at the helm. Frankly, I'm a little surprised this line isn't higher; I'd be comfortable with 6.5.

Colts 23, Jaguars 13

NY JETS at Miami (+3)

Another of those no-confidence games; I went a couple of different ways before finally getting to the place where I just couldn't bet QB Ryan Tannehill against CB Darelle Revis, against a defense that's good enough to make someone other than RB Reggie Bush beat them. And while this flies in the face of the Ryan Jets being 2-4 against the Fish, so be it. Both teams need the game something fierce for their delusional AFC East championship hopes, and the Jets should just have a little more ceiling. The fact that this game will be available to be in HD will not make me watch it.

Jets 20, Dolphins 16

San Francisco at MINNESOTA (+7.5)

Lots of reasons to like the Vikings to cover the number here. San Francisco has all kinds of letdown potential here with the travel and road dome, and while the Niner defense is all that, it's not like the Vikings are out of weapons, especially at home. Also, QB Alex Smith is *wildly* overdue for a high INT game, and the Vikings special teams are also highly capable of making a big play or two here. I still like the Niners to win, but it'll be tight and late and with all kinds of worry for them.

Niners 24, Vikings 23

KANSAS CITY (+9) at New Orleans

Have you seen the Saints try to tackle anyone this year -- or even show any interest in the attempt? I haven't either. And while they are certainly due for a home laugher that makes everyone think they'll get back on track, and will be well and truly desperate after the 0-2 start, it's just too many points against a team with a running game, some offensive weapons, and a few hitters on defense. The Chiefs aren't very good either, but after this game, the word will finally be out that neither are the Saints. Despite the win.

Saints 31, Chiefs 24

CINCINNATI (+3.5) at Washington

The Skins lose LR Brian Orakpo and DE Carriker, which means that a unit that wasn't good enough to win last week in St, Louis is now clearly weaker against a borderline playoff team. The home turf hasn't been a very good thing for the Skins ever since the move, and while I love QB Robert Griffin's gifts, he looks like a guy who is going to struggle after there is a little bit of tape on him. (Oh, and a small aside to the media -- am I contractually obligated to say The Third every time I say this guy's name? I got things to do, I don't need to say two extra syllables, and I really don't give a rat's ass about his father or grandfather. And if you keep making everyone say this, I'm going to have to start calling him Thurston Howell THE THIRD in irritation. Moving on.) Anyway, this will be a solid game that the Skins lose late, especially on defense.

Bengals 27, Redskins 20

PHILADELPHIA (-4) at Arizona

I hate picking my team as a road favorite; they've done almost nothing to deserve it, and have serious health issues on an offensive line that really wasn't good enough to start with. Arizona's got a good defense and solid home-field advantage. They have won a ton of games recently, and might have the best special teams in the league. They also took this game last year, in Philadelphia, and QB Mike Vick has been a turnover machine for two games.

But my laundry has also been a lockdown defense -- perhaps the best in the league so far, though the Niners and Seahawks will have much to say about that -- and the law of averages says the offense won't turn it over four times this week. Two, perhaps. Or about as many as the Cardinals, and prone to pressure QB Kevin Kolb. This is the week that gets all kinds of people on the bandwagon, but don't worry: they'll be gone by the bye.

Eagles 30, Cardinals 17

Atlanta at SAN DIEGO (-3)

Man alive, did the Falcons make the world sweat a MNF game that had no reason to be close. When you pick the QB three times in the first quarter and are only up by 10 points, that's just begging for the soul-crushing comeback, let alone when you start to manage the play-calling by force-feeding a fat old drunk (RB Michael Turner). On the road against his old team, I think they try to establish the ground game long enough to fall behind, then give up a couple of picks against a surprisingly competent Chargers secondary. The Chargers have also been surprisingly good at keeping QB Philip Rivers clean, and Rivers has been exceptional at making second-tier receivers look good.

So while one of these teams is going to be 3-0 and we on their way to winning a surprisingly easy division, don't count on either actually, you know, winning a playoff game. But that's got nothing to do with this week.

Chargers 30, Falcons 24

Houston at DENVER (+1)

Big boy pants time for the Texans, who have advantages all over the ball... but not on the road, at altitude, and against a wily old coach (John Fox) who will take advantage of a team that's probably a little too full of themselves after two easy wins to start the year. Denver looked like the better team when QB Peyton Manning wasn't throwing it to the wrong laundry, and while this Houston team is going to cruise for much of the year, that's not the case this week. There's a reason why this Texans team hasn't ever really entered the public consciousness as an elite team. Gary Kubiak, don't betray my lack of trust.

Broncos 24, Texans 20

PITTSBURGH (+5) at Oakland

Bit of a trap game for Pittsburgh, but I don't particularly believe in trap games, or the Raiders at this point. The big problem has been that the running game has gone nowhere, with no holes at all for RB Darren McFadden, leaving QB Carson Palmer and his coterie of injured and not-ready WRs to convert way too many long third downs. On defense, they can rush the passer but can't cover, which isn't exactly a good mix against a QB that extends plays. It also doesn't hurt that this game is early in the year, when the older members of the Steeler defense aren't run down. Expect Steeler Fan to outnumber Raider Fan by the end of this one; they have a road fan base, the Bay Area's a nice place to visit, and bad seats at the Coliseum are easy to get.

Steelers 24, Raiders 16

New England at BALTIMORE (-3)

The marquee SNF game, and a great opportunity for the Ravens to step up and take the mantle of Best Team In The AFC, even if that doesn't look all that strong right now, or particularly accurate, given that Houston or San Diego is going to be 3-0 at the end of the day. But that's the way it goes for established powers under the lights.

Look for the Ravens to do more with the running game, which they foolishly got away from in last week's loss in Philly, and to take advantage of the suspect Patriot LBs with brand new toy TE Dennis Pitta. QB Joe Flacco's history is usually on-again off-again, and he's going to have opportunities at home. On defense, the Patriots have had problems historically keeping QB Tom Brady clean against these guys, and that's not going to get better with the current state of his line. I also don't like the way the Pats are executing in the red zone these days; without TE Aaron Hernandez to balance things out, the offense becomes a binary play between RB Stephen Ridley and TE Rob Gronkowski, and that's not enough to get it done in Baltimore.

Finally, of course, this is a Vengeance Game for the Ravens after last year's drop and choke job in the playoffs in Foxboro. It's far from equivalent, but it will be satisfying nonetheless for the home team.

Ravens 24, Patriots 19

GREEN BAY (-3.5) at Seattle

Call me crazy, but I'm looking forward to this game more than the SNF one for once. Green Bay showed flashes of who they are in last week's dismantling of the Bears, and they also have the extra two days of rest to help make the trip to the Pacific Northwest a little less onerous. Seattle really should be 2-0, and looked positively manly against the Cowboys; they also don't lose at home very often, and have some of the best unknown CBs around. I'm also really looking forward to seeing what rookie QB Russell Wilson can do in a game where his defense needs him to do more than manage, because while the Seahawks defense is elite, they aren't keeping QB Aaron Rodgers that locked down. I see this being won late, with Rodgers wearing the Seahawks down with his relentless precision. Should be a great one, and a surprise playoff preview.

Packers 31, Seahawks 24

Last Week: 12-4

2012: 19-13

Career: 561-537-26

The 5 Entities That Could End The NFL Ref Lockout

Are You Feeling Used?
So it's clear by now that the NFL isn't going to fix this referee lockout issue -- unless forced. And guess what, folks? There are groups that could do it. Let's take them in order.

5) The broadcast networks. You started to see this turn in the ESPN MNF game, when Mike Tirico and Steve Young spoke truth to power over the travesty that was the work in the Broncos-Falcons game. If even the people who pay the NFL to televise this stuff, who have a vested commercial interest in hyping the league beyond all endurance, start to relentlessly bad mouth the league... well, maybe that exerts a certain amount of pressure. Probably not enough, but to assume that the people who operate the cameras have no power is a bad assumption.

4) The local and federal governments. Congress lives for grandstanding moments like this, and as soon as a town with a sports-mad Congresscritter suffers the unambiguous wrath of scab refs costing their team a win, predictable saber-rattling about anti-trust exemptions and public land use will be brought to the fore. And if you think that Congress has no power over the NFL, well, just imagine how much fun the league's officials will have in front of an inquiry about concussions.

As for the locals, many stadiums are public financed, and subject to the same kind of easy fun-time harassment that any bar knows as Licenses and Inspection. Or proper fire code violations. Or a check of the kitchens, sewer pipes, and so on, and so on. Oh, and if you'd like to reach out to your local municipal Teamsters with those jolly giant scabby rats, that's also a nice and fun visual...

3) The owners. Despite all recent expectations to the contrary, Roger Goodell actually works for the owners... and if they decide this has gone on too long, they might, you know, actually grow a pair and tell him to end it. At some point, you have to think that the younger and more PR-savvy among them will say enough is enough. Particularly if their fan base starts to turn up the heat locally. Which brings us to...

2) The fans. Can you imagine what would happen if a stadium of people just up and left in disgust over a boneheaded call? Or, perhaps more realistically, just stood and turned their backs on the mess?

The fact that people forget about the NFL is that it does *not* require your attention, or your money, and if you take either of these away, even for a brief period of time, it will be noticed. So the next time you are in the stadium, steer clear of the merch shop. Tweet to the team your disgust with the refs, and how you'll be spending less because of it. Turn off the game during the interminable delays. And so on, and so on. (And no, I won't be joining you in this. My addiction is far, far, far too deep.)

1) The players. Guys, you have a union. You could take some small and lovely steps to turn the game into something very, very peculiar and exert your power. Imagine, for just a second, if both the kickoff and return teams just sat down on the kick, making no effort to pick up the ball or cover the kick. Consider the impact if, after a particularly awful call, the other side just allowed the offense or defense to walk the ball up to a yard line and kneel, without opposition. Imagine a hilarious game of keep-away in a blowout where the offense and the defense conspire to not give the game ball back to the refs. De-pants one of these guys during their peep show review. Use your imaginations.

And enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the resulting shock and awe from the networks and league.

(Oh, and if you then act on this new found solidarity to push for other changes, like, say, the fact that Roger Goodell is able to unilaterally ruin your livelihood? Go for it. I'm begging you...)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top 10 reasons why the NFL isn't negotiating with the refs

Will Ref Games, Badly, For Food
10) Believe in the moral stand that no worker in America should have a pension and/or retirement

9) When you spot the ball on the wrong line of scrimmage, you give television design professionals work to show you happy color bars about the errors

8) Longer games with more waiting for the scabs to figure out what to do means more commercials and venue concession sales

7) Sports radio is secretly paying Roger Goodell for the easy programming grist

6) It's the only way to bring back some of the physicality -- OK, all of the physicality -- that was taken out of the game by last year's rule changes

5) Convinced that if the scab refs just keep the jobs, they'll be as good as the real guys by 2025

4) It's part of the league's attempt to add to the in-stadium experience by making sure that everyone stays in the stadium a lot longer

3) The league feels really badly about the low salaries paid at the nation's Wal-Marts and 7-11's. and wants to keep supplementing the income of those workers

2) Once more with feeling: the world's most prosperous sports league, with billions in advertising and broadcast revenue, will not pay a pittance to make their game better or safer, because they just don't give a crap

1) They aren't exactly seeing any lower ratings from this

Monday, September 17, 2012

Top 10 NFL Week Two Takeaways

10) The Patriots were the best team in the AFC until an injury to their second-best TE

9) Tony Romo now has all-new unhappy memories from going to Seattle

8) The Niners are clearly the best team in the NFL in September, which means they have no chance of winning the Super Bowl

7) Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill all got their first wins today, which makes them just as good as Robert Griffin III

6) The fact that Billy Cundiff's tying field goal attempt would not have been good from anywhere doesn't mean that Josh Morgan is any less of an idiot than previously imagined

5) Trent Richardson, Andrew Hawkins and Reggie Bush all made the play of the day

4) Good and Bad Eli Manning both showed up for the Giants today, but the only thing anyone seems to care about is how he took a hit on a kneel down

3) The Eagles are alone in first place in the NFC East with a 2-0 record, 9 turnovers, two 1-point wins, two last-minute game-winning drives, and a half-dozen offensive starters hurt

2) San Diego and Houston are undefeated and looking like the class of their divisions, but since they don't have big media markets or a lot of big fantasy football star power, no one cares

1) If the scab refs keep doing these jobs long enough, we're going to see full-scale team brawls by mid-season, which is to say, we're going to see bigger ratings

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Top Ten NFL Week 2 Ad Questions

Really, They Are Just Pants
10) If your office can be stopped cold by crappy KFC sandwiches, isn't that a terrible sign for the vitality of your business?

9) If FedEx/Kinko's is used by sleazy politicians, why are they advertising for anyone else's business?

8) Does buying Craftsman tools make you lecture inanimate objects?

7) Will wearing Levi's make you recite insufferable poetry?

6) If I switch my insurance to Geico, will I start busking on street corners?

5) Why is Ford threatening to smash my mouth with their truck?

4) Doesn't the frequent degrading of its product to free send out an unfortunate approximation of the worth and taste of Papa John's pizza?

3) Why is the sudden magical manifestation of a huge train conducive to beer drinking?

2) And as a follow up, do I have to destroy a forest to enjoy Coors?

1) When did Outback install a zip line, and given the weight of most of the people I see in that place, for heaven's sake, why?

Eagles - Ravens Takeaways

> Anyone who was surprised by the Eagles coming out throwing the ball all over the yard, or Michael Vick throwing a red zone INT, hasn't really paid attention to the last 2 and 14 years of Eagle Football

> Trent Cole's strip-sack of Joe Flacco was as pretty of a play as a DE can make

> It might be nice to have a QB who can take a fairly ordinary shot to the ribs without needing a timeout to recover, or exceptional media concern

> If you were surprised to see LeSean McCoy get the fourth and one carry from the 7, rather than some reserve with tricksy, you are not alone

> I was shocked, shocked, to see a game with the Ravens get chippy

> If you are new to NFL football, the referee is supposed to call out the number of a player who has commited a personal foul

> How Bernard Pollard has been on multiple teams, I'll never know -- dude is just useful and nasty

> Brent Celek hurdled Ed Reed like he was a pro wrestler coming off the ropes

> It was nice of our old friend Sean Considine trip to give his old team 40 yards of field position by tripping over his own

> On the plus side for the Eagles, when you commit turnovers in the red zone, it limits the other team's field position

> How you can call a timeout before having 12 men in the huddle is a feat of quantum physics and string theory that is only known to scab refs

> Nnamdi Asomugha was torched on the Ravens' second touchdown without safety help, but, um, he's supposed to be a guy who doesn't need safety help

> What LeSean McCoy did to Jimmy Smith with about five minutes left to go in the second quarter isn't legal in 12 states

> If you need an offense to move the ball between the 20s and then turn it over, the Eagles might be the best team in NFL history

> An underrated part of Vick's game is his tackling ability, but to be fair, he's getting a lot of reps

> It only takes five minutes for scab refs to place the ball properly after a turnover

> When the Eagles send the ineffective delayed relay race blitz, and Joe Flacco counters by throwing out of bounds against no pressure, you know you are watching two exceptionally coached teams

> Challenging the spot of the football is a time-honored Andy Reid tradition of blowing a timeout

> I'd really like to thank the Ravens for keeping Ray Rice from getting too many touches in this game

> The 50-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson at the end of the third quarter is, in microcosm, why Eagle Fan marks out for DJ no matter what else he does

> Long figgies against my laundry always, always, always work

> If you like pointless delays around marking the line of scrimmage, Scab Refs are just gold

> Kurt Coleman seems to have somehow become the most disliked man on the Eagles, or at least, the guy you try to get a highlight moment out of

> The initial fumble ruling with 2 minutes left redefined terrible officiating in our time

> Kudos to the patchwork Eagle offensive line today, in all seriousness

> How the Ravens aren't expecting QB draws late in the game is another indictment of the idea of Jim Harbaugh Is An Elite Coach

> The pass rush, which should have been fresh from the dominant time of possession, disappointed on the Ravens final drive

> This game is why reasonable people have never considered Joe Flacco to be an Elite Quarterback

> Rice's first 10 carries got 95 yards, and his last 6 got 4

> Independent of anything else, the Eagle defense had a second straight week in which they shook off multiple turnovers and sealed the win

> If you can figure out how a team can turn the ball over 9 times in 2 games and be 2-0, please explain it to the rest of us

Saturday, September 15, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Being Earth-Friendly Is Making Me Hate The Earth

How I Will Remember Summer 2012
You know the drill; not sports, yada yada yada.

One of the things that I do, and have written about in the past, is the laundry. I've got a motor for work and OCD-ish tendencies, so letting things go for too long isn't an option, and we've been without a dryer for years now, ever since the old one broke and ate a repair bill. So what started out as a play to avoid spending money became that and an environmental approach, because the cost of drying your clothes can be up to 15% of your overall utilities bill, and my utilities bill is substantial enough as is.

In previous years, I'd hang things up indoors, on folding metal racks or on hangers and chairs, with the racks going in a room with fans and a dehumidifier. I'm never in a big hurry for clean clothes, so coming back for them a day later isn't a big deal. But as the kids have gotten older and I've spent more days at the gym,with more sweaty workout clothes, the laundry loads have gotten larger, and we've gone to an outdoor line system. I now have five of them hung up across the backyard, enough to handle about 4 full loads.

So, here am I, using a front loader washer and hanging my clothes in the sunshine, as earth-friendly as can be... but there's a fly in the mix. Or, actually, a mosquito. Or dozens, to be more accurate.

New Jersey's state bird should be the mosquito. Summer here is a muggy and steamy mix of thunderstorms and flop sweat under the best of conditions, and if your back yard -- or the backyard of any of your neighbors -- had any kind of standing water situation, you've got the little bitches. (Only the female mosquito bites. It's one of the more logical reasons, in my opinion, for chauvinism.)

How bad is the infestation? Well, I've got a machine to kill them back there, running 24/7. I only go to the backyard while wearing full pants and a long-sleeved shirt, regardless of weather or temperature, and while wearing a mosquito repellent fan on my belt. And I'm still munched. Oh, and there's a persistent patch of poison ivy that produced a week of pain a month ago.

So, that need to be earth-friendly and save on the electric bill... is at odds with the desire to more or less pave and pillage all vegetation in the back yard.

Give me the option of a quarter acre of paved asphalt, and I'll take it.

In a heartbeat...

FTT Off-Topic: Paying The Price

As always with FTT O-T, it's a Big Dumb Internet, this will be Not Sports, and I'm not trying to make friends or expecting to change any hearts or minds. Rather, it's just me clearing my mind with the keyboard, and you can take or leave it as you like.

In my Facebook feed the other day, someone sent out a blog post detailing a phenomenon called "the distress of the privileged." You can read it here, and it' s a good read, but in case you are time-stressed, the gist of it is that when previously advantaged people encounter a change in the status quo, it doesn't really matter if it's a correction to a past injustice. What needs to happen is that the previously privileged people must be brought, slowly and gently, to understand how things can still work out for them, and that a more just society has advantages they might not have considered. Otherwise, you risk backlash and a prolonged fight with people who are likely to harden their hearts, rather than consider your cause.

Now, all of that's a long way to go in the cause of marriage equality and fast food chicken, which is what brought all of this on. (I'm assuming, for the sake of sanity, that you are familiar with the Chick-Fil-A kerfluffle, where a fast food franchise's family owners are bankrolling efforts against marriage equality for homosexuals. And if you aren't, um, open up a second window and use your search engine of preference. Moving on.)

The concept that boycotting a business for their political / ethical / moral stance hardly seems like a progressive thing to do. And, well, it wouldn't be if the penalty for losing the argument was equal, but, well, it's not. If people boycott a restaurant chain due to the political donations of its owners, they sell less sandwiches and people make other food choices for a more or less zero-sum economic game. If marriage inequality continues, a sizable group of Americans continue to feel like second-grade citizens, and more terribly, be unable to make decisions for loved ones at the end of their lives. Not quite the same impact.

Now, I'm old enough to know that I'm not going to change anyone's mind about, well, anything. But that's not what this is about. Because if I were interested in promoting the cause, it wouldn't be about justice, or equality, or human rights or any of the other high-minded stuff that the proponents might want to talk about. (Side bar: why am I not interested in promoting this cause? Because, well, it just doesn't affect me personally. I've got friends on the other team, but for the most part, I haven't seen them in years, and the fights that I want to fight are a little more universal. But, anyway, digression over.)

No, the way to make the argument is to make it about money, and convenience, and taking the power out of a position. To wit:

1) If gay people marry, they spend money -- lots of it. Marriage licenses, catering halls, musicans, florists, jewelers, hotel reservations, travel and more, more, more. And a frightening amount of that money is going in the hands of people who will spend it right back, on gas and food and groceries and so on, and soon. If you are looking for an immediate regional stimulus, having more people get married is like manna from heaven.

Oh, and if you want to give this some teeth? Tell the taxpayers of a locale that if they don't go for this, that's fine, but they will have to agree to higher tax rates to make up for the hit to your local tourism and entertainment proprietors. It's one thing to be against a minority of people in your area, but it's quite another to pay cash money for that.

One other aside. Tomorrow, if I'm lucky, I'm going to go to Delaware to play poker in a casino. Why Delaware? Because while I'm there, I'll be able to put some NFL parlay bets, which is something I wouldn't be able to do at a closer place. Delaware will win off my purchase, win or lose. New Jersey or Pennsylvania? Not so much.

2) This is pretty much the final big issue for these folks; there is no next step to the agenda, since job discrimination and hate crime legislation is pretty much on the books by now, and adoption is only going to matter to a small subset of the new group. So if you are tired of people pushing their sexuality in public -- and hey, I have young daughters, I'm completely OK with less of that from everyone, striaght or otherwise -- give them this, and watch things melt away to other causes.

3) Finally, I realize this can sound like a hacky stand-up routine, but honestly... there's no better way to hurt a sub-culture than to normalize and co-opt them. You know what you are going to get with gay marriage? Gay married people. Boring, monogamous, rapidly aging cocooners who stop marching in parades, freaking out the norms or making you think about them in, well, any way imaginable. Instead, they'll be getting to the serious business of buying durable goods and financial service products. Like, well, everyone else of a certain age.

So, all of you who want to keep marrige inequitable -- an institution with a 50% rate of failure, an institution with a long and bloody history of subjugation that's even codified in the very rituals of passage, an institution that, if opened, will sap the finances of the people you are acting against while adding to the local vitality of your tax base -- well, I've just one question for you.

Why are you letting these people get off the hook?

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