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February 19, 2017

Honeymoon in Thailand and Myanmar (Part I)

Our honeymoon started out with quite the journey. We had a 13-hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo, a 7-hour flight from Tokyo to Bangkok, and what amounted to an 8-hour layover in Bangkok before a 7-hour bus and 3-hour ferry to the island of Koh Phangan.

In Bangkok, while we had booked a hotel room, we spent much of the time eating and drinking before it would be time for the 6 am ferry. We randomly met a group of people, including a 33-year-old man from Vancouver who’s now living in Australia, and a guy seeming to be in his late 50′s or so from Sweden who was living somewhere in Thailand. These two men were quite intoxicated. The former bought us a round of shots before realizing that he had no local currency left, and subsequently bartering an unfavorable conversion trade with the server to pay with Aussie money. The latter kept singing, impromptu, you may be right you be crazy (and he called Billy Joel by the name of Billy Yoel).

Somehow, we didn’t realize that we were drinking at a bar literally next door to where we would be getting on our bus. A lot of aggravation stemming from failure to read maps, and the lack of street signs in Asia, would have been saved if we had just seen that damn sign. We wound up paying a cab to take us what would have been a 10-minute walk from the hotel back to right where we had just been.

In any event, we found the bus, then took the ferry, and got to our hotel at 5pm that day. The hotel, Haad Son, which was booked by my old friend from high school Scott Trimble, was great. It was on a relatively secluded beach, had a gorgeous view and a reasonably priced restaurant and bar, and only cost about $50 a night. We met a few of Scott’s other friends who are teaching with him in Thailand and had a nice, relaxing evening.

Everything on Koh Phangan was going splendidly until the next day when we decided to rent motorbikes to go see a waterfall on the island. I wasn’t too excited about this idea because I have always seen those things as death traps, and I did not have a high degree of confidence in my ability to ride them without maiming myself or someone else. Nevertheless, I got convinced. There wasn’t a place to really practice using them at our hotel. It was get on them and go.

Except I didn’t go much of anywhere. Within literally 10 feet of accelerating, I drove straight into Karla, fell off the bike, and was lucky to emerge merely with two scrapes on my leg, a bruise below my hip, and a bruise on my other foot. $120 later, I returned the scratched bike to the lady who’d rented it to me 20 minutes before, and I was in a damn foul mood. But, this probably ended up being for the best, because it was not long after that the heavens opened up and it started raining horses and donkeys. I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen it rain harder than this in my life, and if we were on the road when that happened I probably would’ve crashed the demon bike into a truck or something. Crisis semi-averted?


On Koh Phangan, we had kind of stumbled into the weekend where the island hosts a full moon party, which is a pretty famous shindig that attracts reveling tourists from all over the planet. I thought we had booked a hotel to encompass those two days, but I had done so with a credit card that I hadn’t told I was going overseas. The room got canceled, and we had to hop over to the island of Koh Tao, which was about an hour away. This was probably also for the best because Karla and I are both getting too old to binge drink buckets of sugary death alcohol on the beach until sunrise.

Our ferry ride to Koh Phangan had been pretty smooth sailing, but this was not the case from there to Koh Tao. The gulf was quite choppy and the boat was rocking back and forth. It felt like being on an hour-long roller coaster. On this ferry, and the subsequent one two days later from the island to the mainland the boat was so rocky that you couldn’t even walk. Sitting on the top deck on our final ferry, we would see people making arduous efforts just to get to the bathroom, involving a series of grabbing onto the bleachers or other passengers’ arms at every step to make it to the stairwell. If you ever take these ferries, make sure you take motion sickness medicine beforehand.

On Koh Tao, we had a relatively relaxing two days. Our one excursion was to a rock island about 15 minutes away called Koh Nang Yuan. We had a 20-minute hike up, but the perch was way too crowded to enjoy the view, and after us there were only more and more tourists trying to catch a glimpse. It seemed very unsafe, and it would not be surprising to read about a tragedy happening there down the road. We hiked back down and waited about 90 minutes for our water taxi to return.

The coolest thing we saw on Koh Tao were a group of young men twirling fire stick batons at night. They were totally fearless with those things. One random thing about Thailand is that there are 7-11′s on literally every block. It’s like McDonald’s and Starbucks put together. A few people told us about these “Toastie” sandwiches they all had, and had raved about them. In Koh Tao, I tried a ham and cheese one, and unfortunately was underwhelmed. They have nothing on our taquitos.

From Koh Tao, we headed back to Bangkok for two days. The first night, we met a cool Canadian couple at dinner. The man makes his living building oil rigs. I feel like I could have lived my life from birth a million times, and never would have wound up in that profession.

Karla went to bed early, and I wandered around the bustling Khao San Road for an hour or two. This street featured mostly EDM music, which is not my cup of tea, but I did find a rock bar where a fun cover band played “By the Way” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers into “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana into “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. I love stumbling into things like that overseas.

The next day, we went to the Grand Palace, which is one of those types of places that no amount of words or pictures will do justice. It was gorgeous. I’ve already forgotten most of the narrative behind the buildings and ornate artwork that were told to us on the audio guide, but that’s kind of the way things go for me on these trips.

I had been craving Mexican food throughout the trip. This always happens to me when I travel to Asia — I miss certain types of foods and the craving consumes me. By Googling, I found a restaurant in an upscale, freestanding food court called The Commons, which had a chef from Mexico City and a really good chorizo queso fundido dish. Craving satisfied! We rode there in a motorbike coach taxi called a Tuk Tuk, and it was fascinating to see this thing bob and weave in and out of traffic. The roads can be one big game of chicken. Our driver never flinched.

Crossing the streets in Thailand and Myanmar is kinda problematic. There aren’t very many crosswalk signals, and you just have to wait for a momentary pocket to develop and then hustle. A lot of times you will wind up standing in the middle of the street praying for a window to make it to the other side.

On our way to The Commons, another couple was having the same issue, and at one point followed us across on the assumption that we were a human shield. They wound up being from less than two miles away from us in Chicago! We spent the rest of the night with them, which included dinner, an hour or so watching the acoustic cover artist at the food court, and then a fun time at a hipster bar in the Thung Lor neighborhood called Studio Lam. Here, a DJ played vinyl world music tracks, none of which had much thematically to do with one another, but all were awesome. Then there was a progressive jam band led by some instrument I’ve never seen that was both blown into and had strings.


We made tentative plans to hang out with the couple again the next night at a Muay Thai fighting event. However, those plans never materialized, because when we woke up the next day I had a calendar alert for our hotel in Yangon. We quickly realized that although we thought our flight to Myanmar was the next day, it was actually in three hours! We booked it to the airport and made our flight.

In Yangon, our first meal was in Chinatown. We got a meatball appetizer. Karla got chicken wings. I had a beef noodle dish (I ordered chicken, but am pretty sure that’s not what arrived). Between us we had four beers. We get the check. $6!


The next day was our busy tourist day in Yangon. We went to see the reclining Buddha — which was basically the size of a football field — and the massive Shwedagon Pagoda. We also took a walk through People’s Park, which was gorgeous, but is surrounded by a massive fence and only has two entrances, nominally because they charge a fee to get in that is the equivalent to a dime. It’s a strange dichotomy.

Outside the Shwedagon Pagoda, I got scammed. In Bangkok, I had my head on a swivel for this sorta thing, because it’s crowded, there are signs everywhere advising you to beware of pickpockets, and there are a million people coming up to you trying to sell you trinkets. In Yangon, we hadn’t come across many tourists the first night, and I just didn’t have my guard up.

It started when a young boy, ~10 years old, came up to me and gave me a plastic bag to carry my shoes in. As it turned out, this was not an altruistic act on his part. Then, a second boy, about 15, came up to me and helped me tie my Longyi — a long skirt that males in Myanmar wear, and I had put on because the temples and pagodas forbid shorts. This was actually a valuable service, as I’m, uh, wider than the average male here and my Longyi kept coming untied and falling off. This kid did the best job of anyone at tying it so far, so I took out my wallet to give him 1,000 KYS (about 65 cents, which as evidenced by our dinner the night before, goes a longer way here).

This was a big mistake. Then, the kid who gave me the little bag also demanded compensation. Even though I could have carried my sandals without a bag, I gave him a 1,000 KYS note in an attempt to get him to go away. This was where the real trouble happened. A third kid, who had done me no service, grabbed my sandal bag out of my hand while I was paying the other kids and held it hostage. I was now out of small bills, so I had to give this little jerk a 5000 KYS note (like $3.50) to get my damn sandals back. This enraged the other two kids, who, at varying levels, had done something for me to deserve money as opposed to transparently swindling me. I evaded their begging. (Karla, who is much smarter than I, had managed to escape the sandal-stealing scammer by just grabbing them back from him and refusing to pay.)

At night, we met up with my brother Dale’s old college roommate, Eli, who until last week had been working as a journalist in Yangon. He took us to a restaurant that he suspects is run by a Chinese drug cartel (the food was phenomenal) and then a reggae bar owned by a Jamaican expat. We met a group of great people from Colorado while a non-reggae cover band played in the background.

Then, it was off to Bagan. Bagan is the type of place that seems like it took several hundred years off, but regained relevance when Myanmar recently reopened its borders to tourism. There are thousands of pagodas, some of them a thousand years old or more, and it’s miraculous that they are still standing in the condition they’re in. We spent much of yesterday going to the temples, including this one where we saw the sunrise (and a bunch of hot air balloons rise with it):


I actually missed the great view of this moment because our vantage point was crowded and giving me some anxiety, but I did catch a great view of the break of dawn, and had a serviceable view of the sun and balloons from the side of the pagoda.

We’ve got about a week left in our honeymoon, which will involve another afternoon observing pagodas in Bagan, a three-day hike around Inle Lake, and two more nights in Yangon before the long journey home.

January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Pick

Two Weeks Ago: 2-0
Playoffs: 6-2-2
Season total: 133-123-10

Two Weeks Ago: 0-2
Playoffs: 3-5-2
Season Total: 126-130-10

Denver (-2.5) vs. Seattle

Ryan: Some personal anecdotes that have been simmering inside my brain during the playoffs because there’s not a regular outlet for my hot life takes:

1) I feel irrationally proud of myself when I actually do my laundry. It’s like that old Chris Rock sketch when people brag about taking care of their kids or never having been to jail. I’m SUPPOSED to do my laundry, and the extent to which I let it linger is irresponsible considering I’m now 27 years old. Getting it done isn’t an accomplishment, and I need to stop treating it as such inside my head.

2) Last week, the Wi-Fi router in my apartment abruptly decided to not work, and I’m truly embarrassed about how much anxiety this gave me. I have no idea how people lived for thousands of years without internet when I can’t endure several minutes. After going through the unplug/reset cycle several times and getting nowhere, I had to trudge to Starbucks and that was terrible.

One of my first posts on this blog was about how it’s an OUTRAGE that Starbucks has such abominably slow internet. Who the hell do they think they are? Why even have it in the first place if stuff isn’t going to load? Did we lose a war? I get that people would sit there for an eternity if their free internet were worth a damn, so they should just charge for good access instead of trying to pass off their 1997 bullshit like it’s some sort of service.

3) I just noticed I also talked about this in the old Starbucks post but it’s amazing how much of a difference making or missing the bus in the morning can make in my day. Earlier this week, I missed saw the thing pull away while I was across the street and had to stand there in the cold for 15 minutes despising life. Today, I had to run to catch it, got in AT THE BUZZER and I’ve been euphoric ever since.

4) I don’t wanna be that guy but the winter in Chicago has been BRUTAL this year. It’s been far colder and snowier than the four past ones, and it’s been sucking the life out of me. There’s a very real danger that it’s going to stick around until late-May at this rate. It feels like we’re being punished for something.

5) Here’s the bacon cheeseburger basket at the Anchor Bar in Superior, WI. Inflation clearly hasn’t reached northern Wisconsin.

anchor bar superior wi

Anyways, if you couldn’t tell, I’ve been stalling because I have very little to say about the actual football in the Super Bowl. What really is there? These have been the two best teams all year, and I hope they give us a close game before the sport goes away forever until September. Seahawks cover, but I really have no idea.

Continue reading Super Bowl Pick

January 17, 2014

NFL Conference Championship Picks

Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers

This is the last real football Sunday forever until September, and that makes me profoundly sad. I need to come up with my post-NFL Sunday resolution pretty soon. Three years ago it was to study for the GMATs, and I actually kept to it. Two years ago, it was to play live sports and that faltered after a week or two. I don’t even remember what last year’s was so that must not’ve gone particularly well, either. Any suggestions are welcome.

On to the picks …

Last Week: 2-1-1
Playoffs (so far): 4-2-2
Total Season: 131-123-10

Last Week: 2-1-1
Playoffs (so far): 3-3-2
Total Season: 126-128-10

New England @ Denver (-5.5)

Ryan: When you really think about it, it’s pretty incredible that the four best football teams in the world are playing this Sunday but the social dialogue pertaining to the NFL is all focused on the bizarre arrests of Davone Bess and Kellen Winslow today. Like, we’re all pretty fatigued with the Brady-Manning narrative, but that’s never stopped us from running that stuff into the ground before. Roger Goodell must be INFURIATED that their parking lot masturbation and throwing-coffee-on-a-cop antics couldn’t wait until like two weeks from now.

At this point, it’s pretty hard for me to come up with anything especially original to say about any of the four teams left. I’ve either written it in the previous 19 weeks or, and this is far more likely, someone else has. Looking up and down the rosters, it would certainly appear as though the Broncos should win this game — even if you’re the sort of person who rightfully would take Brady over Manning.

Still, though, this line seems too high. That makes me think it’s a Vegas trap. Broncos cover.

Continue reading NFL Conference Championship Picks

January 10, 2014

NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

Regular Season: 127-121-8
Last Week: 2-1-1
Total: 129-122-9

Regular Season: 123-125-8
Last Week: 1-2-1
Total: 124-127-9

New Orleans @ Seattle (-8)

Ryan: Within the next couple years, the NFL is probably going to going to expand the playoffs two teams in each conference. There’ll be some squabbling, and then it will happen, and then we’ll watch the games anyways, and the NFL owners will pocket the money that is the lifeblood of their veins (and existence, really). 34 of the 35 highest rated fall telecasts were NFL games, so they and you and everyone else knows deep down that no amount of complaining will actually stop us from tuning in.

So if the future format had been the case this year, Pittsburgh and Baltimore would’ve gotten in in the AFC and Arizona and Chicago would’ve made it in the NFC. The Seahawks would have been hosting the Bears last weekend in a game that they would have, in all likelihood, won. Provided they didn’t sustain any crucial injuries — and that’s obviously a big if — the game probably would’ve been more helpful for their preparations against the Saints than a whole week off.

Occasionally, no. 8 seeds — who are decently likely to limp into the postseason at 7-9 — will knock off regular season conference champs and that will be pretty irksome, but there’s nothing that’s really too harmful about having your team’s meaningful seasons (i.e. when they aren’t completely eliminated from contention) extended, but the folks who rage on about the erosion of the regular season’s legitimacy will also have a strong point.

The Saints could win this game outright, or they could get completely blown out. PROFOUND. I’m taking the points. Saints cover.

Asif: You really think I’m going to take the Saints, in Seattle, on the three year anniversary of BEAST MODE? Yeah, no. Seattle covers.

Continue reading NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

January 3, 2014

NFL Wild Card Playoff Picks

Last Week: 8-8
Regular Season: 127-121-8

Last Week: 5-11
Regular Season: 123-125-8

San Francisco (-3) @ Green Bay

Ryan: The big story of the week, which entertained the idea that the Packers might not sell out a playoff game at Lambeau Field and might have the game blacked out on television, was so fucking stupid from so many different angles. First, the organization made season ticketholders prepay for all three rounds of playoff tickets about a month ago when the team had about a 5.5% chance of even making it in.

The Packers season ticket base is not a wealthy one, and even though they would ultimately get reimbursed WHEN the games (especially the next two rounds) didn’t happen at Lambeau, that’s their Christmas present money — two tickets alone is the better part of a grand in that transaction. And so the team — who for whatever reason couldn’t just charge credit cards in the event the games happen like the Eagles are doing – had to move 40,000 tickets this week as the fans got dragged through the mud for not wanting to sit in the cold. (And it’s gonna be so fucking cold, but I assure you we will be loud and proud on Sunday.)

There was never going to be any television blackout in these playoffs for any of these three games, and anybody who said there might’ve been was using scare tactics to sell tickets or pageviews.

I love this Packers team, they’re playing with house money, and I’m rolling with faith over reason. Green Bay covers.

Asif: I’m a little bit torn here. The 49ers were my preseason pick to win it all, and I like the way they’ve put things together over the past couple weeks. On the other hand, Green Bay is starting to have that team of destiny feeling, kind of like the 2007 Giants. Like those 2007 Giants they got a big assist from a collapsing division rival. That’s really my only true point of comparison between the teams, but I’m rolling with it. Packers cover.

Kansas City @ Indianapolis (-2)

Ryan: It’s really hard to come up with some sort of binding, cogent prognostication for this game because Indianapolis is so bi-polar. In the regular season, they beat San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Kansas City but lost to Miami and San Diego and badly to St. Louis, Arizona, and Cincinnati.

The Chiefs faltered down the stretch. After starting out 9-0, they finished 2-5 (though last week their back-ups took San Diego to overtime, so that one really shouldn’t count against them).

Again, this is a guess more than anything else because it’s impossible to project the Colts on a week-to-week basis, but this is essentially a rematch from two weeks ago when the Chiefs couldn’t throw the ball and turned it over three times in a 23-7 loss. Feels like they’re the team that peaked too soon this year. Colts cover.

Asif: The Chiefs probably did peak too early, but the Colts haven’t been the same since losing Reggie Wayne. I’ll go against recent history and pick the Chiefs to cover.

New Orleans @ Philadelphia (-2.5)

Ryan: It is alarming that the line is so low when so many aspects of this game appear to be so squarely in Philadelphia’s favor. They finished the year 7-1. Nick Foles led the league in passer rating. Every pundit in the universe has spent the past month gargling Chip Kelly’s balls. The Saints sucked away from the Superdome this season and the franchise has never won a road playoff game.

While the other three games are still struggling to attract fans, the Eagles sold out in three minutes. It’s Saturday night and the crowd is gonna be fucking wasted.

For all but the most elite gamblers, these spreads amount almost entirely to coin flips. Therefore, it’s not really more outrageous to play the VEGAS KNOWS SOMETHING card and say Saints cover than it would be to build a logical case for the Eagles and roll with it.

Asif: It snowed quite a bit in New York last night. I know this because they started clearing the sidewalk by my bedroom window with a snowblower around 7AM and continued to do so for another two hours. I’m way too lazy to look at how much it snowed in Philly, but I’m assuming it’s around the same amount.

The temperature in Philly isn’t supposed to rise above 18 degrees today and 31 degrees tomorrow. All of that means it will be miserable on the field on Saturday. If the snow had come a day later I would give the Saints zero chance in this game, but regardless I like the Eagles’ more run-heavy offense under the current conditions. Philly covers.

San Diego @ Cincinnati (-7)

Ryan: I don’t really know why I feel this way, but for whatever reason it seemed like the Bengals were shakier down the stretch than my research is now showing — their loss in Pittsburgh three weeks ago overly stuck in my mind. They actually finished the year 5-1, which included a 34-17 victory over a Ravens team that would’ve made the playoffs with a win, a 42-14 shellacking of a Vikings squad that had just badly beaten the Eagles the week before, a 42-28 besting of the Colts that was even less close than the score indicates, and a 7-point win over these Chargers.

The Chargers, meanwhile, only even made it into the playoffs because Miami and Baltimore lost last week and played against a Chiefs team that was playing backups at key positions, missed a game-winning 41-yard field goal in overtime, and probably should’ve had another (even closer) shot at it on an uncalled San Diego penalty. So.

Anyways, all of this is to say that I’m not even thinking about veering from my coin flip strategy. Heads is Chargers, tails is Bengals. San Diego covers.

Asif: I for one am thrilled to have Philip Rivers back in the playoffs if only because it lets me re-use my favorite sports .gif of 2013.

I could watch that for hours. Here’s another angle.

Rivers truly is a man of many faces, most of them awesome. Which one will we see on Sunday? I predict this one:

Bengals cover.


December 30, 2013

12 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the Packers Beating the Bears

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

Gonna keep this a bit more concise than the last time, but wanted to collect some thoughts about another gutty win by the Packers.

1. It’s so nice to have Aaron Rodgers back in my life. The separation anxiety was a bit much to handle. I know he was a little bit rusty in the first half, but 75% of him is still far greater than 100% Wallace/Tolzien/Flynn. Fitting the ball in amidst tight coverage, recognizing when the rush is coming (as opposed to learning about it only after getting trucked like Flynn would do), and simply having demonstrably assertive command of the offense were things that I missed terribly over the past couple months.

2. Randall Cobb’s nice to have back, too.

3. The most important play of the game was obviously Rodgers-to-Cobb, but the second most significant moment came when the Green Bay offense shooed the punting unit off the field and convinced Mike McCarthy to go for it on 4th-and-inches from their own 22. The Packers picked up three 4th downs on that drive. Rodgers had the exact right word for it: “character”.

4. The block that John Kuhn made on Julius Peppers saved the season (for now, at least). Kuuuuuuuhhhhhhnnnn got jussssssssst enough of him to allow Rodgers to slide to his left and hit Cobb for the 48-yard touchdown. It’s the little things.

5. Speaking of little things, it’s silly to gripe right now but I can’t remember the last time the Packers picked up a two-point conversion attempt. They should try running the ball on those — nothing else ever works.

6. James Starks has been an unsung hero this year. He may not have even made the team if DuJuan Harris hadn’t suffered a season-ending injury in training camp, but he’s been solid. Starks averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the season, and ran 11 times for 88 yards yesterday. It’s huge that his performance makes it easier on the coaching staff to give Eddie Lacy some rest.

7. Soldier Field was more benign than I thought it would be yesterday. My girlfriend had gotten us tickets for my birthday back in September, and I admittedly had an ominous feeling about the game for the past two months. The two other times I’d been there, I swore I’d never go back after too many fans were drunken neanderthals. There were a lot more Packers fans than I expected — and they were around our seats in every direction — so even a loss would not have been as horrific as I envisioned. (Don’t get me wrong — it still would’ve been fucking terrible. Just a bit less so.)

8. The last few weeks could be the beginnings of a storybook run, and they might not. But, by and large, they’ve been really fun. I can’t wait to jet up to Lambeau this weekend. I really hope our momentum continues into Sunday’s game against San Francisco. They’ve terrorized us for the past 18 months, and it’d be fantastic if this group can figure out some way to exorcise those demons.

9. Either way, though, the season’s a lot better than it looked a month ago and I feel affirmed that it’s all been worth it. Like, just imagine being a Browns fan.

10. Go!

11. PACK!!!!!

12. GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 27, 2013

Week 17 NFL Picks

Whew … I passed Asif last week, but we’re only separated by a game. BIG STAKES AHEAD.

Oh, and you can still send me money if you find yourself wanting to donate to the hopefully worthy Ryan-writes-jokes-about-football cause.

Last Week: 8-7-1
Season: 119-113-8

Last Week: 4-11-1
Season: 118-114-8

Carolina (-6.5) @ Atlanta

Ryan: I think this is going to be one of those blip-on-the-radar seasons for Atlanta, but it’s weird that more people haven’t used their slide to castigate Matt Ryan. Nothing is more obnoxious than the “IS THIS QB ELITE” (embraced) debate, but you don’t see teams led by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers ever go 4-12 as the Falcons are expected to do — injury plague or not.

Contingent on how this week plays out, the Panthers could finish ranked anywhere between no. 1 and no. 6 for the NFC playoffs, so they have a lot to play for. Carolina covers.

Asif: If Matt Ryan was, say, Cam Newton, a much larger swath of the mainstream media would be questioning his quarterbacking. Hell, Peter King even spent the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Panthers’ game casting aspersions on Newton’s ability. I don’t see this one being close. Panthers cover.

Continue reading Week 17 NFL Picks

December 20, 2013

Week 16 NFL Picks

I’m on vacation with my family in Cancun this week, so these picks are a little bit abridged this week. Please still free to enjoy them and/or send me money, though. I have a bit of ground to catch up on Asif, but it’s not insurmountable.

Last Week: 
Season: 111-106-7

Last Week: 6-10
Season: 114-103-7

Miami (-2.5) @ Buffalo

Ryan: I haven’t been especially caught up on the 24-second news cycle this week — can somebody clue me in as to whether there’s been a puff piece about Joe Philbin and the Dolphins overcoming the adversity that they created for themselves yet? Line seems way too low, as the continuation of that narrative feels inevitable. Dolphins cover.

Asif: I think the reason we haven’t seen a Joe Philbin puff piece is because Joe Philbin is the least interesting man in football. The Dolphins just keep hanging around though. Miami covers.

New Orleans @ Carolina (-3)

Ryan: This seemed unfathomable a few games ago, but the loser of this game is in pretty real danger of losing their playoff spot to the suddenly-hot 9-5 Cardinals. New Orleans whooped Carolina just two weeks ago, but the Saints are a completely different team away from the Superdome — they’re 7-0 at home and 3-4 on the road.

This might be the best matchup of the week, and it’s pretty disappointing that it’s buried in the middle of a nine-game early slate. Panthers cover.

Asif: The Panthers are starting to look like “that team,” you know, the one that doesn’t seem that great on paper, but finds a way to get things done. I think Cam Newton is going to have a big game. Panthers cover.

Continue reading Week 16 NFL Picks

December 15, 2013

19 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the Packers Beating the Cowboys

Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys

Gutty win. This is more of a personal therapy to collect my thoughts and feelings than anything else, but if you happen to enjoy it I suppose that’s wonderful too. A fair warning that I’m not even really going to proofread it, and there will be swearing. Let’s fucking go.

1. What a motherfucking win. The season is alive headed into Week 16 — you cannot say that Packers will not win the Super Bowl and definitely be correct. That is a privilege, not a right.

2. For the second straight week, the fact in no. 1 has appeared to definitely not be true heading into halftime. Last week the Falcons had a pick-six to go up 21-10, and Green Bay was coming off a Thanksgiving drubbing and it didn’t seem like there was any earthly possibility that they would figure out a way to score points and figure out a way to make Atlanta stop scoring them. Today, the Packers were down 26-3 and the only reason my friends didn’t leave Will’s (the wonderful Wisconsin bar) was that they give away (really outstanding, actually) free stuff at halftime, and then we scored really quickly.

3. That I was planning to sit there at a table by myself for the duration of a 51-3 outcome doesn’t make that the right decision for my personal wellbeing, but it is also the decision I made and make. Oh, and I won two bitching Packers coffee mugs in the aforementioned halftime raffle. I don’t want to take full credit for the ultimate outcome, but that was assuredly the turning point. I had no. 552, and the only reason I awakened from my compulsive Twitter refreshing to claim it was that no. 556 had been called two prizes prior. I had lamented that I was only four off (which was exacerbated by having the first two digits spot on), and my friend Matt recognized my mannerisms and poked me to tell me I had won.

4. I know that at that moment those coffee mugs, which I’m sure I could buy for like 10 bucks after seven seconds of Googling, could have gone on to be an insufficient consolation prize on a shitty afternoon but hindsight has rendered them special.

Continue reading 19 Assorted Exultant Thoughts About the…

December 13, 2013

Week 15 NFL Picks

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Last Week: 8-7-1
This Week (so far): 1-0
Season: 103-99-7

Last Week: 10-5-1
This Week (so far): 0-1
Season: 108-94-7

Washington @ Atlanta (-7)

Ryan: I don’t think I can remember a team that was more amusing to observe from an impartial standpoint than this year’s Redskins. A hatable coach pretty openly campaigning to get fired by an odious owner — who is trying to figure out a way to fire Shanahan without paying him — is delightful, and I feel a little bit bad for RG3 as being collateral damage in the middle. (But obviously not bad enough to keep this whole situation from being hilarious.)

I have several favorite aspects of this story. The first is Mike Shanahan appearing genuinely humble and concerned with RG3′s well-being and need for a full offseason before snakily leaking this story the next day:

The next-best part was Brian Billick going on Mike and Mike  and saying that Shanahan is not a lame duck, but someone who is assured he will be back next season and acting in accordance with the franchise’s long-term best interest.

The reality is that benching RG3, who has played poorly all season and does really need to get himself healthy, is in the best interest of Washington. BUT, Daniel Snyder probably doesn’t see it that way, and Shanahan definitely would rather take his $7 million and go home rather than have to endure all of this crap for another calendar year.

After watching them blow an 11-point halftime lead against the Rodgers-less Packers, I’m really not sure Atlanta should be seven-point favorites over anybody. Washington covers. 

Asif: Here’s Jason Whitlock psychoanalyzing RGIII for ESPN. I don’t really have much to say about this other than I wonder where Shanahan keeps his incriminating photos of Jason. My favorite part about the whole Redskins – RG-III – Shanahan kerfuffle is it gives me a new, novel reason to call the Redskins and their fans racist. Kirk Cousins sucks and Atlanta covers.

San Francisco (-5.5) @ Tampa Bay

Ryan: Reason no. 98373978 why the Internet is the greatest place on Earth: here’s what Nick Saban and Mack Brown would look like if they flip-flopped hair (via Cork Gaines):

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 4.24.24 PM

I know Tampa’s been having a bit of a renaissance in recent weeks, but it seems like they should be bigger underdogs in this game. 49ers cover.

Asif: Smells like free money. Niners cover.

Arizona (-2.5) @ Tennessee

Ryan: It is very bizarre how I weigh my inconveniences. The air conditioning unit in my bedroom was in the wall in a manner that lets a ton of cold air in, and it’s been especially frigid this week so I’ve slept two nights on the couch and am petrified of even entering my room. The solution is as easy as texting the maintenance guy for my apartment, but I’ve been procrastinating because it seemed like a lot of effort to do that and to clean up my room a little bit, at least enough so he has a free path of getting there without stepping on my clothes. And yet.

Anyways, as Chicago reached single digits, I finally relented and have no earthy idea why I didn’t just do that sooner.

Cardinals cover.

Asif: Both of these teams are good enough to beat truly bad teams, but not good enough to beat good teams. So… Cardinals cover.

New Orleans (-5.5) @ St. Louis

Ryan: There are some of these games that are tempting to pick the underdog, until I envision what it would be like in my head if the Saints go up two scores quickly. I’d have to spend two hours trying to use my football karma to urge Kellen Clemens into a backdoor cover. No thanks. Saints cover.

Asif: Wait, what? Saints cover.

Seattle (-7) @ NY Giants

Ryan: I’m like a week or two late on this, but the coverage of JJ Watt and Russell Wilson’s off-field wonderfulness is reaching a level where it almost distracts us from how outstanding they are at football. SportsCenter devoted approximately 20 hours of my time the last few weeks saying how great a person Wilson is because he carries around some shitty duct-taped wallet a little girl made for him, as if he is doing that for any other reason than for lazy reporters to gush about it.

Yeah, yeah west coast team flying East for a 1pm start. But it seems like the Giants have quit, and I don’t want to go against the Seahawks coming off a loss. Seattle covers.

Asif: I don’t care that this game is in New York, there’s no way this line should be less than 10 points. Seahawks cover.

Chicago @ Cleveland (-1.5)

Ryan: I know that Marc Trestman is with his team on a daily basis and surely understands his quarterback situation better than a fledgling blogger, but it’s bizarre to me that he is going back to Jay Cutler in the middle of Josh McCown’s sorta hot streak. Yes, Cutler has greater upside and they need some final evaluation before deciding what to do with his future. However, it seems as though McCown gives the team a better chance to win right now.

I still don’t get why they aren’t favored this week, though. Bears cover.

Asif: Looks like Cutler is going to start this game, so… Browns cover.

Houston @ Indianapolis (-6)

Ryan: I already did an Extra Mustard post on this, but you should totally watch Andrew Luck give an impassioned pep talk to his fantasy football teammates:

Colts cover.

Asif: I’m convinced that the Colts aren’t any good, but the Texans actually suck. Colts cover.

Buffalo (-2) @ Jacksonville

Ryan: The Jaguars have won four out of five games, which is unfathomable considering they were headed down the path of historical putridity right before that. It’s been truly astonishing. Jacksonville covers.

Asif: Yucky. Buffalo covers.

New England (-2.5) @ Miami

Ryan: For the first time in awhile, I eschewed the Red Zone Channel last Sunday and went out to a bar with four screens. I had it perfect, getting there about 15 minutes before kickoff and monopolizing the screens with the best games. As I told my friend Matt, the worst case scenario in this equation is some Browns fan who comes in the middle of the second quarter — always alone — and asks for his game. And of course it fucking happened.

The guy then had the audacity to LEAVE when Cleveland was leading New England in the fourth quarter. Even if he rightfully sensed the Browns’ impending doom, arriving late and leaving early — and messing up my flow — was wholly unacceptable.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t happened, but I still haven’t seen anyone write anything really dumb about the Dolphins overcoming the adversity they caused for themselves. Let’s give it one more win. Miami covers.

Asif: It’s pretty amazing that the Pats are still in position to potentially grab a first round bye. When you consider that they’ve lost their two best defensive players for the season and only had their receiving corps together for a couple weeks, their record is a lot more impressive than it appears at first blush. New England covers.

Philadelphia (-4.5) @ Minnesota

Ryan: I had a five-day stretch this week where I ordered chicken shawarma three times. It’s been really cold outside. Anyways, there are few greater feelings in life than the moment where you remember that you have leftovers in the fridge. Since I work from home and have no respect for the traditional order of meals, this inevitably means I’m in for a phenomenal breakfast with minimal effort. It’s glorious.

The Eagles have won five in a row and they aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Philly covers.

Asif: Nick Foles is the best quarterback in the NFL. Philly covers.

Ryan: Stop that, no he’s not. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers are still definitely better.

NY Jets @ Carolina (-11)

Ryan: Gwen Knapp did a great job over at Sports on Earth describing why Cam Newton’s supposed redemption is sorta a false narrative:

Any connection between Newton’s lack of sulking and the flipped record amounts to classic chicken-egg theory. There isn’t even compelling evidence that the visible attitude shift improved him as a quarterback. The separation between his immature and mature models represents a natural improvement for any player over three years more than it suggests a diva downgrade. In the realm of advanced stats, his Rate+ makes the case with almost comical precision. Rate+ measures each quarterback’s passing stats against the league average, and it shows that Newton went from 100 (or the league average) as a rookie to 101 as a second-year player and 102 now.

The widely held notion that he endured a sophomore slump last year is not borne out very heartily by the statistics. He had a better passer rating in 2012 than 2011 (86.2 vs. 84.5), averaged more yards per attempt in his second year (8.0 vs. 7.8) and threw five fewer interceptions (12 vs. 17). He fumbled more in 2012 (10 times vs. 5) and scored fewer rushing touchdowns (8, down from 14), but he ran for slightly more yardage as a slumper than as a rookie (741 vs. 706). In this, the year of ostensible redemption, he is on a pace to throw and run for fewer yards than he did in the two previous ones.

In reality, as I wrote a few weeks ago and Knapp expands upon, the biggest difference for the Panthers this season has been their stout defense. Carolina covers.

Asif: The Jets are the least fun team to watch in the NFL, unless you like horrible battles of attrition marred by terrible QB play. Carolina covers.

Kansas City (-4) @ Oakland

Ryan: Feels like stealing. Chiefs cover.

Asif: This makes no sense. KC covers.

Green Bay @ Dallas (-7)

Ryan: Rodgers is out, and I don’t really feel like talking about this game too much so I’m gonna discuss the idea of having a “strike zone” in football. When you see Randall Cobb and Rob Gronkowski go down after taking a helmet to the kneecap, it’s horrifying. But, that is really the only way to get Gronk down when he has momentum, so I’m not exactly sure what the defender is supposed to do, especially when he knows a five-figure fine is coming his way.

I think if there is some sort of torso strike zone in the NFL, it’d only be fair if defensive backs were allowed to bump receivers all the way down the field until the ball is in the air. (Whitlock talked about this idea more in-depth a few weeks ago.)

Cowboys cover.

Asif: Goddamn it, just play Rodgers so that I can avoid elimination in fantasy football. Dallas covers.

Cincinnati (-3) @ Pittsburgh

Ryan: What Asif’s about to say. Cincy covers.

Asif: One of these teams is good, the other is not. Bengals cover.

Baltimore @ Detroit (-6)

Ryan: I’m not exactly sure why the Lions are favored by this many points. The Ravens have won three in a row and, as a reader pointed out to me, would have a top-5 defense if not for their Week 1 debacle against the Broncos. But, I’m still not picking them — 1) I’ve had remarkable success in these picks going entirely against my instinct, and 2) I’m picking the Lions every week from here on out as an emotional hedge. Detroit covers.

Asif: Megatron gonna show them the old man strength. Detroit covers.

Twitter @sportsrapport

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