|Or Just Wallow In It, I Guess|
I don't come from money. I'm the first person from my family to graduate from college, and I did it on my own dime -- which is to say I lived in awful places and paid off an unconscionable amount of credit card debt for decades. I don't think I've ever owned anything that was real ivory, and I'm also not awash in gold or platinum or diamonds. So this isn't any kind of sacrifice or change for me to make, but...
How is the handling of ivory pleasant to anyone with a functioning brain?
You are touching the stolen horn of an animal. Not even a common one you might use, like a deer: just something exotic, to show that you have the means to do it. You're touching the artifact of murder.
And on some level, that's kind of the nature of humanity, isn't it? We're at the top of the food chain. If you eat meat, there's murder for dinner routinely. If you look at in the right way, your car is filled with murder, your home may be heated by it, your clothes are made with some measure of slavery and torture, and so on, and so on.
It's really only a measure of degree. No life without sin, no life without compromise. The somewhat abhorrent view of original sin, in which even the youngest newborn is said to be soaking in malfeasance, starts to make more sense. And to roll it all back to the NFL picks that you ostensibly came to this site for, well, um...
Yeah, NFL football shortens and degrades the quality of life of the people who play it, in a remarkably craven bargain. If not exactly murder, it's definitely assault, along with the garden variety vice of gambling, and timewaste, and encouraging the horrific economics of cable television, which is large scale theft / subsidy for the profit of billionaires.
You can, and will, still watch and eat and patronize and partake of the venality, and will do so, all over the board. And you will be called a hypocrite for drawing the line at ivory, or oil, or football, or meat, or any of the other conflicted items.
But still. Holding the horn of a murdered animal, sold to you by some of the worst people on the planet. Just not getting the sweet with my sin there.
And with that... on to the picks!
* * * * *
Arizona at ST. LOUIS (-4.5)
More proof, not that you need it, that when you play an NFL team is more important than the identify of the actual club. Does anyone have any doubt that this Rams team, right now, would punch the Eagles in the mouth and win? Or that the early season Cardinals, with QB1 and RB1 and WR1 and FS1, would have provided a far more even battle with the favored and below .500 Rams? (Leave alone, for the moment, how this Rams team would be rolling the NFC South.)
Anyhoo... the Rams have defensive playmakers popping up like mad, and might win out. Arizona is staggering to the close with honor, and might still get to a wildcard game, but at some point, talent wins out over heart. Especially on the road, with an offense that can't convert on third down.
Rams 27, Cardinals 20
Pittsburgh at ATLANTA (+2.5)
I can't read this Steeler team at all. Just about the only team in the NFL to have problems with the putrid NFC South. Bad at home, good on the road. With the best all-around RB in the league, and a QB that has put up popcorn numbers, but routinely losing in the trenches. I'm not sure I've won a spread pick with, or against, them for the whole damned year.
Atlanta has the short week, could be without a full-speed WR Julio Jones, can't rush the passer to save their lives, and have real issues keeping their QB clean. Other than home field advantage, there's no good reason to pick them. Pittsburgh has everything going for them after beating the Bengals in Cincy last week. Which means it's time for them to drop a deuce all over the field, and remind everyone that their secondary is just that bad.
Falcons 34, Steelers 31
Washington at NY GIANTS (-6.5)
Blue got well in a big way last week in Tennessee, and sure, strength of schedule is just screaming out full blast right there... but are the Slurs any better than any other terrible team right now? The defense was never any good, the offense is a turnover machine no matter who is at the controls, and there are reports now that the team is fighting with each other in practice. It's making me wonder just how secure first year coach Jay Gruden is, and just why on earth anyone would root for this laundry, for any other reason. Anyhoo. Go Blue.
Giants 31, Slurs 17
Miami at NEW ENGLAND (-7.5)
I don't mean to bum you out any more than the Murder lede in this week's column already has... but yeah, this Patriot team is looking as complete as any in a really long time. Defensively, they get after it; offensively, they are just limited enough to stress the running game, which is probably better for them in the long run anyway. Against a Dolphin team that spit the bit on their wild card bid by failing to stay on the Ravens last week, and who never travel well to New England in December... the home team covers. Maybe even easily.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 16
OAKLAND (+10.5) at Kansas City
So, who do you like in this game -- the underdog that started KC down the spiral of non-playoffs, and lost by 52 points in their last road game, or the home team that still, somehow, hasn't thrown a TD pass to a WR this year, and seems to be circling the drain? I'm going to go with the dog, because when the resistible force meets the movable object, big point spreads are not your friend. But I'm not exactly betting with confidence.
Chiefs 24, Raiders 17
HOUSTON (+6.5) at Indianapolis
Longtime readers of this column know that I don't think very highly of the Colts. They are the best team in a bad division, but they struggle on defense, are turnover-prone to mitigate their offensive explosiveness, and don't run the ball well enough to keep the variability out of their week to week performances. Houston has elements of a team that could roll them -- physical running game, good pass rush -- but also has a terrible secondary that will keep them from winning the game. But not, alas, covering the spread.
Colts 31, Texans 26
Jacksonville at BALTIMORE (-14)
Temptingly big line here, especially for a Ravens team that is likely to look past this opponent. But the Jags are just bad, especially on the road, and a turnover factory. The Ravens will work from enough short fields to cover the number, in a game that's actually going to be closer than the score indicates.
Ravens 38, Jaguars 20
GREEN BAY (-4) at Buffalo
Here's the Packer trap game, if you believe in such things. And there's reasons to like the Bills, in that they are really good in the trenches, and competent on offense now, or would be if WR Sammy Watkins was healthy. And I'd like the home team to cover the spread... but the Falcons probably ruined that for them by putting up garbage time numbers on MNF, and probably giving the coaches more than enough to make them good and miserable during the short week. Good game, but the better team wins and covers.
Packers 27, Bills 20
Tampa at CAROLINA (-3)
This line has shrank due to the absence of QB Cam Newton, out after a car accident early in the week, but I don't think it's going to matter against the quitty Bucs. Carolina's bigger injury issue is that RB Deangelo Williams, the timeshare returning back that makes RB Jonathan Stewart a lot less dominant, is going to be back for this one. Carolina would be better with just one healthy back and QB1, but at home, against a Bucs team that isn't playing their best QB... well, the spread looks generous now. Especially since QB Derek Anderson might not be that much worse than Newton, at least this year. (Yes, that is the faintest of praise.)
Panthers 24, Bucs 17
CINCINNATI (+1) at Cleveland
The battle of Ohio is also probably a survivor pool for both of these teams, losers last week in impressively different ways. Cincy got rolled at home by this Brown club a month ago on Terrible Night Football, and also gave up their stranglehold on the division last week in a home loss to the Steelers. The Browns are finally giving up on QB Brian Hoyer for rookie QB Johnny Manziel, in a story that's getting a little more ink than, well, anything else in sports, because Manziel is just like that. The Browns just need competence from their QB to win, and their young RBs to not put the ball on the ground. The Bengals need to find people other than WR AJ Green to move the sticks, since CB Joe Haden routinely ends him. I think they'll squeeze this one out, in one of those Good Andy Dalton games that helps him keep the job until the inevitable playoff meltdown. But it's going to be crazy close.
Bengals 24, Browns 23
NY JETS (-2) at Tennessee
Toilet Bowl? But of course, with dueling failed QBs (Geno Smith and Jake Locker) trying to put some good film out there so they can be a backup somewhere else in 2015. I like the road Jets in this one, with RB Chris Johnson having a mild vengeance game, and the relatively stout Jet DL making the Titans put the game in Locker's hands. Yeah, that doesn't end well.
Jets 24, Titans 20
DENVER (-4) at San Diego
Everyone convinced that the Broncos and Peyton Manning are vulnerable now, just because they totally punked you in your fantasy league playoff? Oh, and because Manning has struggled against the Chargers since coming to Denver. Good, because it's time for them to shift back into high gear, especially in good weather and against a team with an intermittent pass rush. That wailing you'll hear isn't just from the Charger faithful watching their wild card chance go down the chutes, it's also from fantasy honks feeling personally betrayed. And yet, they'll all be back next year. Whoever said S&M wasn't a mainstream taste?
Broncos 34, Chargers 24
MINNESOTA (+8) at Detroit
Everything's coming up Lions, right? WR Calvin Johnson is healthy, the defense has been dominant, they need the win to keep pace in the playoff race, and the Vikings aren't very good, especially on the road. Which makes me think that they are going to sleep on this one, just enough to make a comeback and back door cover, seem more likely to be than true comfort. Besides, the Vikes can play a little defense, and are going to be a wild-card contender next year, with their advantageous schedule.
Lions 27, Vikings 20
San Francisco at SEATTLE (-10)
After watching this Seahawks team last week in Philly, I'm not sure that the Niners are going to score 10 points, so the line seems pretty easy to me. You also avoid any worries about trap games, given how much these teams hate each other. But the Niner offense is just a tire fire right now, and Seattle has that This Is What They Should Have Been All Along vibe to them. Sure, the lack of game-breakers on offense will eventually come back to hurt them, maybe on a cold night in Green Bay, or against a more complete Patriots team. But not at home, and not in Week 15, against an also didn't run nearly hard enough.
Seahawks 24, Niners 9
Dallas at PHILADELPHIA (-3)
Wow, are the NFL betting lines reactive or what? Dallas comes in with extra rest (unlike last time), with vengeance on their mind, and they've done real damage to Philly in Philly over the past few years. If you believe that QB Tony Romo is all better now, or that Eagles QB Mark Sanchez has had his confidence perpetually shaken by what Seattle did to him... well, um, you really haven't been paying attention to the Chip Kelly Era. Kelly's teams bounce back from defeat, they win at home, and they treat secretly bad teams, especially with poor defenses, like they are tomato cans brought in for Homecoming. It won't be as easy, or as porny, as it was on Thanksgiving... but it's not going to be *that* much harder. Especially since this Eagles defense has a full-speed MLB in Mychal Kendricks, and there hasn't been a team that's beaten them on the ground in a real long time.
Eagles 34, Cowboys 24
NEW ORLEANS (-3) at Chicago
This was supposed to be a great game, between real factors in your fantasy leagues. Instead, it's going to be a dueling dumspter fire between outraged fan bases, and the only reason I'm going with the road Saints is because it will provide for more hatred. But if you are betting this one very hard, you have Gambling Issues.
Saints 34, Bears 24
Last week: 8-8
Year to date: 99-104-3