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December 30, 2011

Moving to Los Angeles: Week 17 NFL Picks

Welcome to the final week of the NFL Regular Season. Ryan remains on vacation, so you’ll all have the privilege of reading my wonderful insights in the intro for one more week. Step into my web.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about the NFL is how the league went from having two teams in Los Angeles to none. With LA being a city of transplants and the stadium situation less than ideal, the city isn’t as appealing a market as the pure population numbres would suggest. Still, with a number of teams playing before empty stadiums in dead cities, moving a team (or two) to LA, and soon, makes too much sense for it not to happen. Let’s take a look at some of the candidates to play in Hollywood in the near future:

Jacksonville Jaguars
This is the most natural move for any franchise. Jacksonville is the epitome of the Southern urban sprawl hellhole. It’s beyond bland, takes two hours to get from one side of the city to another, and the feature that made it seem an attractive market, population, is overstated due to the presence of a nearby military base. Although the Jaguars are a generally competent franchise, which just got a new, very rich owner, no one watches their games, ever. A move to Southern California would be awesome for the team, unfortunately it’s impossible. The Jaguars’ stadium lease makes it nearly impossible for the team to leave Florida before 2030, and by then the apocalypse will have occurred or all the attractive untapped markets will be taken, one of those two.

Minnesota Vikings
I think this one is happening. Despite the Vikings’ long and storied tradition of making Minnesotans cry, a move to Southern California seems in the cards. The Metrodome, where the Vikings play, is a mess, and their owner is a greedy, largely incompetent New Yorker. Sorry Vikings fans, but at least they won’t be able to hurt you anymore.

San Diego Chargers
The Chargers’ situation is a lot like the Jaguars’, except for them moving is much more feasible. Like Jacksonville, San Diego’s population is artificially inflated by the presence of nearby military bases. The Chargers are a generally well run franchise and they generally draw well, but a large amount of their fan base in Orange County lives too far to regularly commute to the stadium. Sitting four hours South of a potential goldmine has to bother the Chargers to some extent and you have to figure that the NFL would give them first crack at moving to LA before moving a team from another part of the country.

St. Louis Rams
The Rams make sense and they don’t. They’ve played in LA before and they at least ostensibly had reasons for relocating the first time. Coming back after that may seem strange. That said, there is precedent, with the Raiders moving to LA and back to Oakland in the 90s. Additionally, the Rams aren’t in the greatest economic situation in St.Louis, where a good amount of fans still root for the Cardinals despite their move to Arizona. If the Vikings don’t go to LA, the Rams seem the next most likely NFC team.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have won a Super Bowl in Tampa and their stadium has a pirate ship. That’s about the extent of their appeal to the geriatrics and meth-addicts who populate the surrounding area. Florida in general, and Tampa in particular have been absolutely devastated by the financial crash of 2008 and the Bucs aren’t drawing fans anymore. California was hit bad too, but nowhere got it as bad as Florida. To get an idea of how bad things are in Florida read thisexcellent New Yorker article from 2009. Things be sh*tty. Even if the Bucs don’t go to LA, expect them to move to a market like San Antonio or Portland in the near future.

Picks follow after the jump:

Previous Records:

Ryan:
Week 15: 7-9

Asif:
Week 15: 6-10 (woohoo back to mediocrity!)

Washington @ Philadelphia (-8.5)

Ryan: Along with the Panthers, the Eagles are looking to be the team we see every year that finishes strong and parlays the momentum into a good start for next season. Win or lose this week, they probably have done enough to save Andy Reid’s job but I expect it to come at the cost of Juan Castillo’s job at defensive coordinator. DOPE ON THE TABLE (pardon me, I spent all day yesterday watching Season 5 of The Wire so this probably won’t be the last reference to it).

That being said, this line seems a little bit too high for a game that is ultimately meaningless.Redskins cover but bear in mind that I don’t think I have picked one of their games right since like October.

Asif: Words can’t describe how much I hate the Redskins. They perfectly competent beating my beloved Giants two weeks ago and then they go and DERP away a game against the Vikings, even after Adrian Peterson had his leg severed. DIE IN A FIRE REDSKINS I HATE YOU.Eagles cover.

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta (-12)

Ryan: The Buccaneers might be the worst team in football. Like, I’m not sure whether or not they would be favored on a neutral field against the Rams or Colts. They haven’t won since October 16th (the 12-year anniversary of my bar mitzvah) and have been outscored 158-64 the last four weeks. No bueno.

Even though they’ve already clinched the playoffs, the Falcons still have something to play for; they hold the tiebreaker over the Lions from beating them head to head. The higher seed plays the Giants or Cowboys while the lower probably plays the Saints. The incentivizedFalcons cover.

Asif: As bad as the Bucs are, they have a long way to go to reach Rams territory. Raheem Morris has said that he would never fire himself, to which I reply, “No sh*t!” Thankfully for Tampa fans, it isn’t actually Raheem’s choice.

Forget last week’s annihilation at the hands of the Saints, no one beats New Orleans in the Superdome (I’m not calling it by its new name dammit). The Falcons are very good. Atlanta covers.

San Francisco (-10.5) @ St. Louis

Ryan: The 49ers need this game to hold off the Saints for the first round bye. The last time the Rams played the 49ers–four weeks ago–they didn’t get the ball inside the 35-yard line once. I wish I had the Elias Sports Bureau on retainer so I could find out how many times that has happened since the merger. I would guess less than five. 49ers cover.

Asif: The Rams are bar none the worst team in football. They’re way worse than the Colts. It’s going to be hilarious when the Saints level the Niners in the second week of the playoffs. San Fran covers.

Chicago @ Minnesota (-1)

Ryan: I thoroughly enjoyed the 2011 incarnations of the Bears and Vikings. Combined with the Packers’ near-perfection, it has truly been as close to perfect as a regular season can be.

It’s kind of whack that whatever bar I end up going to on Sunday is going to have the sound on for this game instead of Packers-Lions. At least I won’t have to hear Bear Down (the worst song ever written) again forever until September after Sunday. Bears cover.

Asif: This week’s derp bowl is extra derpy as it’s QB matchup features a guy who got benched for Jimmy Clausen (Josh McCown, or is it Luke? I always get the two mixed up) and a guy who has been consistently outplayed by a dude who was playing wideout two years ago.

I had a pretty spirited argument with one of my friends (who happens to be an FSU fan) last week about Christian Ponder (I know, I have no life). My buddy, let’s call him Goofus since he’s wrong, thinks that it’s too early to make a judgement on Ponder. I personally believed that if they had the chance the Vikings would have been wise to draft Andrew Luck. I think the fact that Ponder got outplayed by the Great Joe Webb  last weekend means I win this argument. Of course it’s all moot since the Vikings one the game while Adrian Peterson was cut in two, costing them two franchise players in one game. PHYRRIC WINNING! Bears cover.

Detroit (-3.5) @ Green Bay

Ryan: This line is assuming that the Packers are going to rest their starters more than I assume they are going to. They play at least a half and if the game is close I don’t see them doing the kitties any favors.

I must say, though, I am impressed with the Lions’ resiliency late this season. After losing to the Saints Week 13 in the first game of NDonkey Kong Suh’s suspension, the Lions had lost five of seven and appeared to rack disciprine (to put it lightly). However, they’ve won three in a row and destroyified the Chargers 38-10 in a game that I didn’t see or read anything about but can only imagine resembled the score.

Back to my original point, though, which is that I think the Packers play harder to win this game than they are expected to. Packers cover.

Asif: I’m kinda just wishing that Ryan would get with the program and refer to Suh as “House of Spears,” which is an undeniably awesome name for a D-Lineman to have. The Lions have more incentive here than the Packers as they’re hoping to avoid a date with New Orleans in Week 1 of the playoffs. Detroit covers.

Carolina @ New Orleans (-8)

Ryan: With all the hype about the Packers, Patriots, and Tebows, the Saints have quietly been the best team in football since the beginning of November. They haven’t lost and won their games by 11, 3, 25, 14, 5, 22, and 29.

Still, you can never count Cam Newton out of a backdoor cover opportunity. The Panthers have won four of five and are really starting to come to form around Newton as a vocal leader. Saints win but the feisty Panthers cover.

Asif: New Orleans + in dome = slaughter. Tim Tebow had his moment in the sun, but it’s pretty apparent at this point that Breesus is our true Lord and Saviour. Exalted be His Birthmark and Glory to His Lightning Fast Release.

Saints by like 10,000.

Tennessee (-3) @ Houston

Ryan: In advance of the next few picks, The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk does a great job writing about all the AFC playoff tiebreaker scenarios if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Texans are pretty much slotted into the AFC 3-seed and therefore have nothing to play for. If, as is the most likely scenario, they end up playing the Bengals in the first round, it would be the least exciting NFL playoff match-up that I can remember. I’ll obviously still watch it because at that point, with just 11 sweet, succulent NFL games left before nuclear winter/spring/summer (last year I passed the time in July by watching women’s soccer. Women’s soccer!), beggars can’t be choosers.

Considering that they still have a puncher’s shot at getting into the playoffs, Titans cover.

Asif: The lustre has come off the Texans a bit, as should be expected. Titans cover.

Baltimore (-2.5) @ Cincinnati

Ryan: This game is the stunning combination of being perhaps the most important game of the weekend from a broader NFL perspective and terribly aesthetically displeasing to watch. If you like points, you will hate this game. I think Baltimore covers because there is a huge difference between playing two road games and getting a bye + hosting a 2nd-round game. Therefore, we see a motivated Ravens squad.

Asif: If the Bengals make the playoffs and no one watches, did it really happen? I’m really starting to resent the Ravens and their apparent lack of motivation against teams not from Pittsburgh. Ryan does a good job of breaking down Baltimore’s incentives in this game, I’m just not sure that they actually care. In other news, I remain incapable of spelling Cincinnati right on the first try, just thought I’d share that with the world. Bengals cover.

Kansas City @ Denver (-3.5)

Ryan: I didn’t get to see Denver’s colossal collapse last week against the Bills so that means it didn’t happen, right? The Chiefs have been feisty for Romeo Crennel, what with beating the Packers and taking the Raiders to overtime.

I never finished this pick and now, as I look down, Asif took my Kyle Orton revenge game joke. Great minds think alike, I suppose. Chiefs cover but this won’t necessarily eliminate the Tebow quite yet. See below, won’t you?

Asif: Kyle Orton revenge game? KYLE ORTON REVENGE GAME GRRRR!!!1! *pounds Jager, blasts Metallica*. In all seriousness, this game couldn’t be coming at a worse time for Denver. Tim Tebow blows more than the Whore of Babylon (Bible jokes are the best!) and here comes the drunkbeard, looking to pick a fight.

Since we’ve had so much fun comparing Tebow to Bible characters, who would be the biblical equivalent of Kyle Orton? I say Noah, because they’re both drunks, have bitchin’ beards, and I like to imagine Kyle Orton having random animals at his house. Kansas City covers.

NY Jets @ Miami (-2.5)

Ryan: No idea what happened to the Jets this year, but they’re in contention with the Chargers and Eagles for most disappointing team in the league. I still don’t think the Dolphins should be covered in this one, though. Jets cover.

Asif: What happened to the Jets is that Matt Sanchez sucks, Shonn Greene is overrated and no one in their secondary except Darelle Revis can tackle. That said, am I the only one who thinks that the Jets making the playoffs isn’t that far-fetched? They need to win and for Cincinnati, Tennessee, and either Denver or Oakland to lose. The Bengals are playing the Ravens, who for all my complaints about them are a good team, the Titans are playing in Houston, the Broncos are playing in the Kyle Orton revenge game right when God has forsaken Tebow, and the Raiders are the Raiders. Yeah, it’s still a long shot for NY to make the playoffs, but maybe not so long as it seems at first blush. Jets cover, Sanchez plays better in warm weather.

San Diego @ Oakland (-3)

Ryan: Because nothing helps misery like spreading it, it’d only be right if the Chargers came in and spoiled this for the Raiders. My dream scenario is that the Broncos back into the playoffs at 8-8 and end up hosting and beating the Steelers on a series of inexplicable calls and bounces. Chargers cover.

Asif: I was sooo ready for the Chargers to back into the AFC West title. I even sent Ryan an email about it after God forsook Tebow only for the Chargers to blow their chance a few hours later. Raiders cover because I don’t think the Chargers care all that much.

Pittsburgh (-7) @ Cleveland

Ryan: Pittsburgh needs game in case Bengals beat Ravens. Cleveland has lost five in a row. Spread should be double. Steelers cover.

Asif: I freely admit that I am not the manliest man in the universe. That said, I do have a base level of manliness. I have a sweet beard, I wear flannel shirts, and I know how to operate a chain saw. However, there is one thing keeping me from full manly man status: my abiding love of Bed Bath & Beyond. Seriously, that place is awesome. They have every kitchen gadget imaginable and they send me 20% off coupons every other week! My blender broke two weeks ago, so I went to the triple-B as I like to call it and picked up a Ninja blender, which is just as cool as it sounds. My favorite Christmas gift? A new 6.5 qt slow cooker from BB&B. As far as you know I will be eating nothing but pulled pork and drinking nothing but margaritas from now until the end of time.

Steelers cover.

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville (-3)

Ryan: May Asif have been premature in declaring Bears-Vikings to be this week’s derp bowl? Perhaps. Not quite sure why they are even bothering to send cameras and announcers to this one. With zero interest or conviction, Colts cover.

Asif: Nope, Bears-Vikings is still the derp bowl. Neither of those teams could be beat the Colts or Jaguars right now (unless the Vikings started the Great Joe Webb, which they refuse to do for some reason). Colts cover only because it’s going to be hilarious to watch the entire population of Colts fans try to chase down and murder Dan Orlovsky for costing them Andrew Luck, only to run out of breath after a quarter mile and decide to go to Steak and Shake for some chili cheese fries instead. Get it? Because people from Indianapolis are fat. *Obligatory joke about Jacksonville being a terrible city, whatever you don’t care do you?*

Buffalo @ New England (-11)

Ryan: The Bills’ laying the smackdown upon the Broncos last week makes absolutely no sense. Prior to that outburst, they had lost seven in a row and looked to be in contention with the Colts, Browns, and aforementioned Bucs as the worst team in the league. The Patriots never seem to let up in these types of games and, if for some reason, this is the year they do, I can live with it much easier than if I picked the Bills and they were down 14-0 six minutes into the game. Patriots cover.

Asif: Last week was likely a one time event for the Bills. That said, the Pats defense is still terrible and Tom Brady just got X-rays on his non-throwing shoulder. Still, I’m feeling a possible blowout in the making here. Pats cover.

Seattle @ Arizona (-3)

Ryan: The John Skelton Wins Football Games gravy train came to a screeching halt last week while the enigmatic Seahawks saw a three-game win streak end. The Seahawks are a compelling darkhorse in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. You heard it here third. For no good reason, Seahawks cover.

Asif: Gotta go with Marshawn Lynch and his Skittle powers. Check out these sick kicks:

 

 

Seattle covers.

Dallas @ NY Giants (-3)

Ryan: Disclaimer: I am fully aware that you don’t care about my fantasy team. That being said, allow me to vent. I had the agonizing choice in my FF finals of whether to start Tony Romo or Michael Vick, which was sort of ironic since they were playing against each other. Yahoo projected Vick to get slightly more points but for some stupid reason my gut said Romo. Either way, I was certain at the time that I made the decision that I was going to choose wrong and that that choice would cost me the game. I swear I said this to my family at the time.

Romo went 0-2 for 0 yards and an injured throwing hand (0 fantasy points) while Vick had 20.72. I lost by jusssst less than 20.

I think the Giants are a slightly better team than the Cowboys, they have home field advantage, and Romo is banged up. Also, I hate him for costing me $150 last week even though it’s obviously not his fault that his hand hit a helmet on his follow-through. Deserve got nothing to do with it though (Wire reference #2). Giants cover.

Asif: I’m afraid to say anything. Giants cover.


December 23, 2011

Week 16 NFL Picks Special Suck for Luck Edition

Asif: Ryan is on vacation this week so he gave me the password to his wordpress account so that I may bring the glory of our weekly mailbag to the masses.  Anyway, you can read more of my musings at my own blog if you’re so inclined.

So perhaps the Colts aren’t the tanking geniuses that we thought they were? I’m going to assume that they have been trying to lose, but Dan Orlovsky threw a big wrench in everything because he’s from Connecticut and people from CT are born winners. In any case, at 2-13 the Colts are looking at potentially having the top pick in this year’s draft fall out of their hands and into the grasps of either the Vikings or Rams and then all those fake Luck jerseys that Colts fans made will look awful stupid won’t they. Perhaps the calculus in Indy is that with young QBs of their own Minnesota and St.Louis would be less inclined to take Luck and might opt for USC left tackle Matt Kalil. That line of thinking by the Colts may turn out to be correct, but taking any player other than Luck with the first pick would be a huge mistake for any team that has the good fortune of obtaining the pick. Let’s take a look at the Rams and Viking’s situations and see why:Vikings: Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Christian Ponder sucks and he’ll likely never be any good. Ponder only ever looked good because he was replacing Donovan McNabb, who looked like he’d rather be at the Home Country Buffet. Since becoming the Vikings starting QB, Ponder has produced a -222 DYAR mark according to Football Outsiders, and he’s not passing the eye test anymore either. For some context on just how bad Ponder has been according to advanced metrics, his DYAR  indicates that he’s been worse than such luminaries as AJ Feeley, Tyler Palko, and aforementioned buffet enthusiast Donovan McNabb. He’s only been slightly better than Curtis Painter. I know he’s just a rookie, but considering that there have been questions about Ponder’s measurables (he’s slightly undersized) since he was drafted, the future doesn’t look super encouraging.

At the same time, it’s not hard to imagine the Vikings being good again with a competent QB. Even with Adrian Peterson missing a sizable chunk of the season they have the fourth best rushing offense in the league, which indicates that their O-line is still capable of mauling defenses. They also have an electric wideout in Percy Harvin so it isn’t as if their offense is one dimensional by necessity. It would be a huge mistake to waste Purple Jesus’ prime behind garbage like Ponder, especially if you have a chance to draft the next Peyton Manning. If the Vikings get the first pick they have to take Luck.

Rams: The Rams situation is a bit trickier than the Vikings and it all relates to the folly of drafting Sam Bradford first overall in 2010, a move that may lead to a long period of futility in St.Louis. Taking Bradford and his spotty medical history over Ndamukong Suh was a huge mistake and the Rams compounded it by giving Bradford $50MM guaranteed, at the time the richest contract in NFL history, prompting the league to insert a rookie wage scale in its new collective bargaining agreement.

Bradford’s first year was encouraging, but rather than taking a step forward this season, he’s regressed. His -171 DYAR rates him just slightly better than Christian Ponder, but unlike Ponder he can’t use being a rookie as a shield. Bradford has dealt with injuries this season, but injuries aren’t as great of an excuse when they’re your constant state of being as appears to be the case with Bradford. Like the Vikings, the Rams do have some talent on offense in Steven Jackson and free agent to be Brandon Lloyd. The Rams do have pressing needs on the O-line and on defense (Suh would have helped there), but passing on a consensus once in a generation talent like Luck to draft for need would be folly. Bradford’s contract makes him prohibitively expensive to trade, so the smart move is just to realize that he’s a sunk cost and cut him. St. Louis can take some solace in the fact that Luck, due to the aforementioned wage scale, will be cheaper than Bradford. What is absolutely certain is that first passing on Ndamukong Suh and then Andrew Luck all on account of Sam Bradford would be something that Rams fans would regret for a long time.

Ryan is enjoying himself on a family vacation in Borneo this week and I’m really hoping that he comes back with a pet Orangutan. It would be just like that Clint Eastwood movie, Every Which Way But Loose, except I imagine that their hijinks would be much less endearing and it would likely end with Ryan in the hospital. You have to be careful with Orangutans, they have the strength of 10 men, which makes them pretty poor pets.

In any case, the upshot of all this is that you’ll only have me for company. Don’t worry I won’t steal anything or ruin your furniture.

Ryan: Can’t get rid of me THAT easily! However, I do not have time or fast enough internet to do any research so everything is going to be completely off the top of my head. Let’s proceed, shall we?


December 16, 2011

Week 15 NFL Picks

No Intro this week. Let’s head straight to the picks which, as always, are done against my friend Asif who writes Uninformed Commentary.

Previous Records:

Ryan:
Week 14: 8-8

Asif:
Week 14: 9-7

Last week we noticed that we both had the season numbers messed up – our records didn’t add up to the total amount of games played. Personally, I blame Thursday Night Football because sometimes we incorporated that game into our season stats and sometimes we didn’t. I swear at some point I will spend like 90 minutes reconciling the records but unfortunately that time has not yet come.

Cowboys (-7) @ Buccaneers

Ryan: The Bucs are really, really bad. Like, lost seven in a row and outscored 79-33 by the Panthers and Jaguars (combined record in games not against Tampa: 6-18) bad. Josh Freeman has regressed immensely this season; last year he threw 25 touchdowns and six interceptions and his quarterback rating was 95.9. So far this year, he has 12 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and a 72.5 QB rating; Freeman is ranked 27th in QB rating, behind Christian Ponder, Colt McCoy, Matt Cassel, and Tarvaris Jackson. No bueno.

I think the Dallas has a big bounceback game this week, perhaps with a fourth quarter lead so big that even they can’t blow it. Cowboys cover.

Asif: I love saying, “I told you so,” so allow me to say this about the Bucs, “I TOLD YOU SO” *hip thrusts for embellishment, throws out lower back*

Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey seems to be on a personal mission to prove that icing the kicker does indeed work, despite the mountain of statistical evidence that it doesn’t. Between Bailey, the rise of Tim Tebow, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ winning the World Series it’s been a bad year for those of us in the Statistocracy. As much as I wonder if the Cowboys have the mental fortitude to come back from two epic choke jobs–and yes, the Giants game was a choke; Tony Romo botched a throw that would have sealed the game, DeMarcus Ware lined up offsides twice on the final NY drive, and Orlando Scandrick committed a holding penalty in the red zone. While all of these were self inflicted, I can’t in good conscience pick a team that just gave up 41 points to the Jaguars. Dallas covers.

Redskins @ Giants (-7)

Ryan: New theory: when your team comes really close to beating an elite opponent, it convinces the team that they can compete with anybody. Let’s call it the We Believe in Ourselves theory.

Everyone remembers this happening when the Giants lost in Week 17 to the Patriots in 2007. However, it’s sort of a footnote that this happened with the Packers last year. They were a 71-yard kickoff return by Patriots guard Dan Connolly away from beating the Patriots in Foxboro with Matt Flynn. During that game, a flip switched as the Packers realized that they could beat anybody and they haven’t lost since.

What we saw last week against the Cowboys was a Giants team that is getting hot and confident at precisely the right time. Eli Manning might be the second most worthy MVP candidate behind the historically brilliant Aaron Rodgers and Jason Pierre-Paul is coming on hard, real hard, as an elite pass rusher. I’ll let Asif tell you what happened when he tried to buy a JPP jersey on Monday morning.

Giants scare me from a Packers perspective. I’m 1-3 in my pick-blindly-against-the-Redskins resolution but that probably wouldn’t be the case if Tom Brady hadn’t thrown an awful interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter last week. Giants cover.

Asif: It’s hard to think of a Giants player who has become more popular faster than Jason Pierre-Paul. I woke up Monday morning with a compelling urge to buy a JPP jersey and went on NFLshop.com only to find that every other Giants fan apparently had the same idea and the only sizes lefter XL and XXL. Since I generally wear size S clothes, these jerseys were not an option.

Initial reaction to Giants’ selection of Pierre-Paul in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft was largely skeptical. I personally thought that the Giants had more pressing needs than DE and that the USF product was way too raw, and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz (who should really stop making predictions about the Giants after calling them overrated throughout the 2007 playoffs) didn’t think too highly of JPP either. We were all wrong, though. He’s a beast who plays hard on every single play and he’s demonstrated the ability to make adjustments. The Cowboys spent much of Sunday’s game running to JPP’s side of the field to take advantage of his aggression in the pass-rush. By the fourth quarter he had made the appropriate shift and Dallas’s end runs were much less effective. I’ll sum up this rather long winded tribute by saying that I love Jason Pierre-Paul and I am now convinced that he’s going to be the best Giants DE since Michael Strahan.

The Redskins suck. Giants cover.

Packers (-14) @ Chiefs

Ryan: The only way the Packers don’t cover this spread is if they are up by three scores in the fourth quarter, pull their starters, and the Chiefs cover back door. Packers cover.

Asif: Rumors are floating that Chief’s GM Scott Pioli wants to replace the departed Todd Haley with Josh McDaniels in the offseason. This is like switching which testicle you have cancer in. Packers cover.

Saints (-7) @ Vikings

Ryan: Apparently Adrian Peterson has been practicing and should be good to go Sunday; he wants to play for his fantasy owners. THIS IS AWESOME! That changes things around just a bit; the Vikings lost all four games that he fully or partially missed.

However, the Saints have won five in a row and have covered in all of them. They have also fixed their rushing defense problems; they’ve held their opponents to under 100 yards on the ground in each of the last three weeks. I see the Saints scoring at will in this dome game. Saints cover.

Asif: The Saints are more or less invincible inside domes and they’ve got way too much speed on offense for the Vikings to handle.

Apparently last week was the one week out of every year where I’m allowed to be right about stuff, because no sooner did I write about how awful Christian Ponder has been than did he get benched and Joe Webb looked infinity times better. Saints cover.

Seahawks @ Bears (-3.5)

Ryan: There are very few teams in the NFL (the Rams and Colts come to mind) that the Bears should be favored over right now. Chicago needs this game to have any semblance at keeping Wild Card hopes alive but I don’t know if this Bears team is capable.

The Seahawks are, sort of quietly, not that bad. They’ve won four out of five (admittedly, two of those came against the Rams). A big reason for their re-surgence has been the running game; Marshawn Lynch has been averaging 117.7 rush yards the past six games and has only been held under 100 in of them. Tarvaris Jackson has evolved into an adequate game manager (the ultimate backhanded compliment for a quarterback) before our very eyes! Watch me pick him on the road. Seahawks cover.

Asif: How do the Marshawn Lynch Skittles celebrations not draw flags? Don’t get me wrong I love them, but by NFL standards they do seem a bit excessive. Is it because the fans are the ones throwing the Skittles?

The one element that people have been ignoring in Marion Barber’s big pile of fail from last week is that Barber is a former Cowboy. Apparently, in the Jason Garrett era there is some sort of taint that attaches itself to anyone who puts on a Cowboys uniform and compels them to do idiotic things at the end of football games*. I’m positively giddy about this development. Seattle covers.

*Ryan: Asif wrote this segment before the Sam Hurd stuff came out. I just hope Brian Urlacher is on the list of players he sold drugs to.

Asif: Nice to know that former Cowboys are also susceptible to my invented curse off the field.

Miami (PK) @ Buffalo

Ryan: I completely missed Eagles-Dolphins last week because it was shown on one of the TVs that wasn’t in my 180-degree, seven-screen vantage point. That being said, the Bills are terrible. They’ve dropped six in a row and showed no signs of life last week against the Chargers. Dolphins win.

Asif: Tony Sparano got fired this week. Did anyone notice? Miami covers.

Panthers @ Texans (-6.5)

Ryan: This line seems about two points too high. TJ Yates has shown himself to be capable of winning games for the Texans but I don’t know if he can beat this Panthers team by a touchdown or more. With Wade Philips out on medical leave, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texans defense falters a little bit. This feels like it could be a statement game for Cam Newton as he and the Panthers seek to build some momentum headed into next season. Panthers cover.

Asif: Despite some surprising games early in the season, the Panthers have basically been who we thought they were, to quote Dennis Green. That said, even though TJ Yates has looked competent, I’m not confident picking this incarnation of the Texans to win by more than a field goal, especially now that they’ve sealed up a playoff spot. Panthers cover.

Titans (-7) @ Colts

Ryan: At 7-6, I’m fully ready to call the Titans what they are: brilliantly mediocre. The Colts, though, would LOVE to be mediocre (actually, considering it’s been pretty well-established that they were horrific this year on purpose that may not be the case). Titans cover.

Asif: Jake Locker looked really good in the Titans’ loss to the Saints last week. With his ability to pull down the ball and run he’s a bit reminiscent of Tim Tebow, only he doesn’t throw like a five-year old. In fact he’s got an absolute cannon, showing zip on passes off his back foot. The Titans are mediocre, but the future may be bright. On a semi-related note, the picture on Matt Hasselbeck’s ESPN player card shows him in a Seahawks’ jersey. Further proof that the AFC South is the least interesting division in football.

Last I checked the Colts still suck really bad. Titans cover.

Bengals (-6.5) @ Rams

Ryan: The Rams suck so bad that Nike should take their cleats away. In case you were wondering, I stole and adapted that joke from Celtic Pride, one of the great underrated movies of the 90s. Daniel Stern + Joe Pesci + Dan Aykroyd + Damon Wayans = comic gold. Bengals cover.

Asif: Speaking of Dan Aykroyd, he’s been on my TV quite a bit lately, appearing in commercials for Yankee Spirits, a liquor store in Attleboro, MA. My question is this… is Dan Aykroyd really that desperate for money, or is Yankee Spirits the most successful liquor store in New England. To be fair, I would drink a lot (more) too if I lived in Attleboro. Bengals cover.

Lions (-1.5) @ Raiders

Ryan: The Lions get NDonkey Kong Suh back this week which should be good for them as long as he refrains from STOMPING ON THE ARM OF FALLEN OPPOSING PLAYERS. I’m pretty sure that the Lions aren’t any good (as in I don’t think they have much of a chance to win a road playoff game) but I also don’t think that the Raiders are good enough to expose them. I’d expect Detroit to win this game. Lions cover.

Asif: The Lions haven’t looked terrible without the House of Spears, but having him back certainly won’t hurt them. In any case, the Raiders have been sucktastic recently and I don’t see any indication of that changing. Lions cover.

Patriots (-6) @ Broncos

Ryan: I’m sorry but this idea that Bill Belichick is just going to be able to “figure out” Tim Tebow and put the Kibosh on all of this nonsense is a little bit presumptuous considering some of the personnel that the Patriots are starting on defense. The last two weeks, New England has not exactly “figured out” Dan Orlovsky and Rex Grossman. The Patriots won those games but not in the dominating fashion that one would expect.

At some point, Tebow’s magical streak of luck is going to crap out. That might be this week. That being said, he doesn’t need to win this game for Denver to cover; the Broncos just need to keep the game close and their defense has proven to be more than capable throughout this stretch.

Darren Rovell tweeted that 90% of the action on Sportsbook has been on the Patriots for this game. I’d rather be with the casino than the public. Patriots win a close game but Broncos cover.

Asif: I came around to Tebow a couple of weeks ago and now I’m teetering on the verge of reversing my position again. Why you ask? This has a lot to do with it. Now that we’ve started comparing Republican Presidential candidates to Tebow, I think it’s safe to say that the whole thing has gone too far. This week’s Tebow Bowl does have a compelling Good (Tebow) vs. Evil (Belichick + Tom Brady and his philandering ways) storyline. I’m betting that much like in real life, evil will prevail. Patriots cover.

Jets @ Eagles (-3)

Ryan: I’ve fallen into the Eagles’ trap twice: after they beat the Cowboys 34-7 in Week 8 and after they beat the Giants 17-10 in Week 11. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not getting fooled thrice. The sort of under-the-radar Jets cover.

Asif: The Jets have quietly (not a word we normally associate with the Jets) crept back into the playoff hunt. However, I’m still not buying them as actually good.

The Eagles have major spoiler potential over the next two weeks as they play the Jets and Cowboys. I’m thinking they try to salvage a little dignity. Philly covers.

Browns @ Cardinals (-7)

Ryan: Because you are dying to know, today I had laundry pile that was a little bit too big for one load. Being greedy, I tried to stuff it all into the laundry machine. When they finished washing, my clothes were SOAKED and as I’m writing this they’re still damp after two drying cycles, which means it’s now going to have cost me more time and more money than if I had just done two loads. Pigs get slaughtered. Update: They were dry after the third cycle. Holler!

Amidst all the outrage and calls for independent neurologists to be on the field after Colt McCoy’s concussion last week, nobody has pointed out that allowing McCoy to return to the game gave the Browns a much worse chance to win. Seneca Wallace had come in and thrown a beautiful 13-yard pass to Evan Moore to get to the Steelers 5-yard line. McCoy came back in, drew an intentional grounding penalty and then threw an AWFUL interception. Not that this outweighs the human health element of the story but it’s worth noting.

John Skelton wins football games. Cardinals cover.

Asif: Derp Bowl. JOHN SKELTON WINS FOOTBALL GAMES. Cardinals cover.

Ravens (-2.5) @ Chargers

Ryan: Similar to the Eagles resurgence that I’m not getting fooled by, I’m not buying into the Chargers. Philip Rivers had more protection and more open receivers the past two weeks but that is all going to change this week against Baltimore. The Ravens need to keep winning games to clinch a first round bye and should be sufficiently motivated for this game even though it isn’t against the Steelers. Ravens cover.

Asif: God clearly hates Chargers fans, which is why He always ensures that the Chargers disappoint them and why He put His greatest servant (Tebow) in their division to torment them. This season the best way to torment the residents of Southern California would be to allow the Chargers to win their last few games, saving Norv Turner and AJ Smith’s jobs. This is totally happening. Chargers cover.

Monday:

Pittsburgh @ San Francisco (-3)

Ryan: I’m assuming that Ben Roethlisberger plays in this game even though almost nobody in the history of ever plays the week after a high ankle sprain. I remember Bill Barnwell tweeting this earlier in the season when Sam Bradford had the same injury but there’s no way I’m going to scroll through months of his Twitter feed to find it and link it. I swear it happened, though. Bradford ended up not playing.

49ers-Cardinals happened while I was watching the Packers DOMINATE the Raiders and Tim Tebow perform miracles (like praying that Marion Barber ran out of bounds and fumbled) against the Bears so I didn’t really get to see how the Cardinals came back. The 49ers were up 19-7 and I assumed that the game was over. I looked up a little while later and they had lost 21-19, proving once again that sometimes the NFL makes absolutely no sense.

As far as psyche going into the playoffs, this is a much bigger game for the 49ers. They desperately need to bounce back from the Cardinals loss in order to prove to themselves and the world that they are not frauds who peaked too early in the season. The veteran Steelers know they can win games in January even if they drop this one. 49ers cover.

Asif: I’m guessing Roethlisberger plays as well. Losing James Harrison for a game certainly takes some of the teeth out of the Steelers defense since Alex Smith won’t be living in constant fear of the giant psycopath with a burning desire to spear him helmet-to-helmet. As tempted as I am to pick the Steelers, because they are a demonstrably better team than the 49ers, I’m taking San Francisco to cover as a hedge against Ben not playing/being ineffective with limited mobility.


December 15, 2011

Quick Pick: Jaguars @ Falcons

As always, picked against my friend Asif who writes Uninformed Commentary.

Jaguars @ Falcons (-11.5)

Ryan: The Jaguars showed some feistiness last week, destroying the perhaps-quitting-on-their-coach Buccaneers. Still, though, that performance doesn’t make it any easier to pick Blaine Gabbert on the road in a hostile environment.

I don’t think that the Falcons are really all that good but they don’t really have to be to win this game. That said, I’m wary of the backdoor cover/letdown game potential for this one. Falcons win but Jaguars cover.

Asif: The Jaguars are actually better than most people give them credit for thanks largely entirely to very good defense. They were legitimately impressive against the Buccaneers. On the other hand, Blaine Gabbert has been the single worst QB in the NFL (worse than Curtis Painter!) this year, according to DVOA and anyone who has had the misfortune of watching him play.

Meanwhile, the Falcons are in great position to snag a wild card spot and on paper they should be a juggernaut, yet they continue to be less than inspiring. Matt Ryan has certainly held up his end of the bargain and Julio Jones has been a gamebreaker when healthy, but Roddy White has been inconsistent and Michael Turner is having his least productive year in a Falcons uniform. On the defensive side of the ball the Falcons have been much better, Atlanta has arguably the best cornerback tandem in the NFL in Dunta Robinson and Morgan Grimes and John Abraham remains a threat in the pass rush. I personally think the Falcons are a team on the verge of breaking out, especially if they can get both White and Jones working at the same time. Falcons cover.


December 13, 2011

Tuesday Trends

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

1. The Packers are gunning for 19-0

The scary Greg Jennings injury notwithstanding, the Packers are going to go for this. Don’t believe me? Ask Mike McCarthy’s unofficial spokesman, BJ “The Freezer” Raji. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert documented some telling statements (h/t PFT):

“I think I can speak for coach in that he’s going to try to go for this thing,” Raji said.

Later, Raji added: “You don’t win a Super Bowl by being scared. You just play. That’s the message [McCarthy] is preaching. Just play the game because … that’s the way you’re supposed to play it. You’re not supposed to be playing a game and looking at all of these scenarios of who you want to play. That’s not how football is supposed to be played. Generally, if you do things the right way, hopefully you get some luck in the injury thing.

“You have to respect the game of football. Obviously we’re in a great position. We’re 13-0. We have a lot of things wrapped up. But ultimately, you never accomplish anything great by being scared. We have an option to go either way, but if you want to make history and do some things that haven’t been done in a while, you have to take a chance.”

I continue to find it awesome that the Packers are talking about this openly instead of speaking in platitudes about “being singularly focused on the next game.” Whether or not it is something that they achieve, they can be proud of themselves for gunning for it. This is so much more exciting for all non-Bears and Lions fans to watch than the 2009 Colts who went 14-0 before resting their starters and finishing the regular season 14-2.

The Jennings injury was a sobering reminder of the terrible things that could go wrong in this pursuit of perfection but I am in strong agreement with Raji, and from what I can gather, the rest of the organization, that the potential rewards are worth the risk.

2. The Jets have pole position for the 6-seed in the AFC.

Somewhat under the radar, the Jets have won three in a row and the three teams that they entered into Week 14 tied with–the Titans, Bengals, and Raiders–all lost. Part of the reason for the comparative quietness surrounding this team is how much attention the undefeated Packers and the preternaturally blessed Tim Tebow have been getting and part of it is that those three wins have come against the Bills, Redskins, and Chiefs (combined record: 14-25, which is actually better than I thought it would be before adding up the teams’ records).

Still, though, each of the victories has come by at least two touchdowns and the Jets’ strong defense will serve the team well as the weather gets colder and points get harder to come by. The Jets finish their season with games against the Eagles, Giants, and Dolphins. The schedule could be easier (although it could also be harder) but they are now in full control of their own destiny.

3. The Falcons and Lions have pole position for the NFC Wild Cards.

Atlanta and Detroit were, similarly to the Jets, aided by Chicago and Dallas losses this week. The Falcons should be able to win two of their last three and get in–they play the Jaguars, Saints, and Buccaneers. The Lions, though, continue to look shaky and undisciplined even in victory and must face the Raiders, resurgent Chargers, and potentially 18-0 Packers. They could definitely falter down the stretch but right now the last playoff spot is theirs to keep or lose.

At this point, with consecutive losses to the Raiders, Chiefs, and Broncos, the Bears look incapable of righting the ship. They aren’t completely done for but they are in a precarious position and may have squandered their last best chance to keep pace when they got Tebowed* in the fourth quarter and overtime on Sunday. The bi-polar Cowboys, who play the Bucs, Eagles, and Giants can’t be written off quite yet as they are capable of beating or losing to anybody.

*Webster’s dictionary defines Tebow as a verb referring to when your running back goes out of bounds to stop the clock, fumbles in field goal range in overtime, and your defense collapses under the pressure of the Almighty One.

4. The Saints offense is scary good.

When I was doing research to try to show that the Jets’ defense is really good (they ended up not being in the top five in passing yards or rushing yards, temporarily thwarting my ability to wow you with the stats), I was astonished to see that the Saints are leading the league in total offense with 447.8 yards per game–23.4 more than the Patriots and 43.6 more than the Packers. They are outgaining the Packers by more than 10%!

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that as the Packers have built up big leads in some of these games, they’ve taken their foot off the gas pedal a little bit and run on first and second down instead of continuing to go for the kill. Another component, somewhat related to the first, is that the Saints have a better running game with their four-headed not-quite monster of Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles than the Packers have with Ryan Grant, James Starks, and out-of-nowhere Brandon Saine.

All this is really to say that it would be a tremendous story if the Saints and Packers met at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship game on January 21, 2012. It would be a unique sense of parallelism that the last two teams to win the Super Bowl, who opened up this NFL season, met again for the right to go to Indianapolis. This scenario is far from unlikely.

5. Can I do another flip flop on Carson Palmer?

Maybe the trade was as egregious as I thought it was! After throwing four interceptions against the Packers on Sunday, Palmer now has 13 in seven games to go along with only nine touchdowns this season.

His interception to DJ Smith was particularly putrid; the throw looked like it was intended for Smith as Darius Heyward-Bey was triple covered five yards behind where the pass ended up.

If the Raiders don’t make the playoffs this year–and right now they are a game behind the Broncos in the AFC West and the Jets in the Wild Card–then this trade will go down in history as having been a colossal mistake.

 


December 12, 2011

Football and Me Part XV

This is the fifteenth post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

Eventful weekend sportswise but uneventful weekend lifewise so no need for a running diary; no college football on Saturday was a stark reminder that we really aren’t all that far away from having no football on Sundays–there are now only three full Sunday slates left. Thankfully, yesterday’s was GREAT. Packers takeaways first then miscellaneous thoughts from the weekend + food porn:

Packers Highlights

  • First and foremost, it must be noted that the Packers’ 46-16 victory, which was even more of a blowout than the score indicates, came after the Raiders’ coaching staff spent the entire week telling its squad, “NOBODY BELIEVES YOU CAN WIN THIS GAME!” Every week, the Packers play with a gigantic bullseye on their back and this contest was against a team that came into the weekend in a tie for the lead in its division. The best the Raiders could muster was a game that was over before the first quarter ended.
  • It was great to see Ryan Grant show a burst that we really haven’t seen out of him in years. Hopefully this means that the first part of this season was spent getting comfortable running on his healed ankle. Yesterday, he stepped up in James Starks’s absence and rushed 10 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns; before that this season he had run 92 times for 316 yards and no touchdowns. I may or may not have been angry every time he got a carry instead of Starks. Perhaps, because he was able to share the load with Starks, he will be fresher than most running backs are headed into the Playoffs and can help the Packers build and protect leads.
  • I can’t be the only person who Googled “Taylor 82 Packers” before sending the obligatory “You can’t stop Ryan Taylor, you can only hope to contain him” mass text. Upon further research, he was a 7th-round pick out of North Carolina.
  • NEXT GUY UP ALERT: Love seeing DJ Smith and Robert Francois step up with huge interceptions. I’ve said it before and will almost assuredly say it again but it’s a miracle that Ted Thompson and his staff find these people and that Mike McCarthy and his staff develop them into players who can step in and not only avoid being liabilities but also contribute toward a dominant victory.
  • Aaron Rodgers continues to have strikingly beautiful eyes (confession: I find these pictures by going on Google Images and searching Aaron Rodgers hot) and play at a historically brilliant level. Yesterday he went 17/30 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. At 96.7, this performance comprised his worst quarterback rating of the season by a sizable margin; his previous worst was 106.2 in last week’s Giants game. Like almost everyone else, I have no idea what goes into quarterback rating or why it is drawn up so that a perfect rating is 158.3 but I know that it reflects what anyone with eyes would be able to tell you: ARodg is pretty good.
  • Quick response to Brandon’s Brent Favre post last week about Jermichael Finley: Brandon wrote, “Personally, I haven’t decided yet what I want the Packers to do.  It’s a joy watching Finley play, and there are numerous occasions where it seems like Rodgers is just going to #88 every play until the defense proves it can stop him.  But he’s going to cost a lot of money, and Thompson will have some other contracts to extend.  There will be a lot of discussion about this after the Super Bowl.  Stay tuned.” The Packers are 99.8% going to franchise Finley. The franchise tag for a tight end is only expected to cost $5.4 million next season. Finley may argue that he should be designated as a wide receiver, where the tag would cost the Packers $9.5 million. Perhaps they could meet in the middle? Seems fair. Either way, my prediction is that Finley plays on the Packers next season before they go their separate ways. He’s a match-up nightmare and one of my favorite Packers but I can’t see the Packers paying him what someone else will, especially when they are going to have to figure out extensions for Clay Matthews and BJ Raji before the end of next season.
  • Sour note of the week was obviously the Greg Jennings injury. Right now it’s still a little bit murky but it’s looking like an MCL tear which would have about a six-week recovery time? We should know more this afternoon. Hope to have him back in time for the playoffs. His production this season has shifted a little bit to Jordy Nelson this season but it’s important to realize that Nelson often has favorable match-ups because of the attention that defenses must give Jennings and Finley.
  • 13-0. 19 straight wins. Pretty OK time to be a Packers fan.

Food Porn

I went to Yolk for brunch on Saturday with my friend Zack who writes Unvegan, his girlfriend Bina, and a few of their other friends and relatives. Yolk’s menu is like six pages long and quite intimidating so it was a very good thing Zack was there to steer me towards the bacon batter waffles and eggs, an item that I missed upon the first perusal. Without him, I would have probably ordered a bacon/cheese/pesto quesadilla which would not have been nearly as exquisite:

Bacon batter waffles + eggs over medium @ Yolk

I was lucky enough to watch the first slate of brilliant NFL games with my buddy Taylor, my former roommate who got transferred to London for work a few months ago. We went to Schoolyard Tavern and split deep fried macaroni and cheese as well as Monster Tots, which are tater tots that are doused in buffalo sauce, topped with cheese and bacon, and served with queso sauce on the side:

Monster Tots and Deep Fried Mac and Cheese @ Schoolyard Tavern

Other quick thoughts from the weekend.
  • On Saturday night, I luckily stumbled into the best boxing match I’ve ever seen: Khan vs. Patterson. As tends to happen in boxing, the fight ended on a controversial split decision and I highly recommend that everyone who enjoys watching sports goes out of their way to catch the inevitable re-match. Khan was the favorite, the welterweight champion, and hails from the United Kingdom while Patterson has literally grinded his way to this level from homelessness and had the advantage of fighting in his hometown Washington DC. I don’t really know very much about boxing but this is what I was able to take away:
  • Khan was vastly superior technically. Sometime in the middle of the fight, Patterson became aware of this and the fact that if he continued to fight at Khan’s pace he would definitely lose. At this point, Patterson started to go all out. He was throwing everything he had into his punches and, while somewhat undisciplined, was landing enough of them to win a few rounds and somehow stayed balanced enough not to leave himself exposed to counters that would knock him down. Patterson had a 0% chance at winning the fight without this strategy and a 15-20% chance with it and went for broke.
  • Khan got a point deducted twice for pushing off. These penalties ended up being the difference in the final result. Max Kellerman, whose work I have followed and enjoyed since Around the Horn first came on the air, strongly insinuated corrupt refereeing, saying that Khan should have been explicitly warned that points would be docked and that if this happened to Patterson in the UK there would be harsh allegations of “home cooking.” I disagree, slightly. My stance is that this may hold true for the first point that was deducted but that the first infraction should have served as ample warning to not do it again, which Khan blatantly did. After the first point was deducted, the referee had to make the same call again.
  • Patterson was a great winner and immediately offered Khan a re-match. Khan, however, was anything but a gracious loser, saying that he had “to fight two people” (Patterson and the ref) and criticizing Patterson’s unwieldy style.
  • I’d bet on Khan to win the re-match but it will be pretty awesome.
  • Yesterday was the best NFL Sunday of the season. Six games came down to the final play: Patriots-Redskins, Texans-Bengals, Saints-Titans, Vikings-Lions, Bears-Broncos, and Giants-Cowboys. Additionally, Falcons-Panthers and 49ers-Cardinals came down to the final two minutes. More thoughts on these games and their ramifications in tomorrow’s Tuesday Trends. With sincere apologies to my good friend Bauer, a die hard Bears fan on or greater than the level that I am with the Packers who flew to Denver for the game, let’s just say that I’m not going to get tired of seeing Marion Barber run out of bounds or fumble anytime soon. I know he’d feel the same way if the situation was reversed, though. Tebow!!!!
  • Did everyone see that insane Cincinnati-Xavier fight? Kevin Cronin’s outrage (7:15) in after the game followed by only suspending Yancy Gates for six games might be the biggest dichotomy I’ve ever seen between bark and bite. Gates might have gotten a lifetime ban for throwing that punch in the NBA.
  • Awesome buzzer beater in Indiana-Kentucky. Would it have killed Tom Crean to crack a smile? He does realize that he’s coaching basketball–a game–not leading troops in Afghanistan, right? On the wet blanket coaches scale, this was only surpassed by Nick Saban’s being visibly upset with his Gatorade bath after clinching the 2009 National Championship.

December 9, 2011

Week 14 NFL Picks

I was going to write extensively about Chris Paul trade in my introduction but my home internet is down and I opted for a local coffee shop with better food and faster internet than Starbucks. The unfortunate trade-off of this decision is that it’s a hotbed lunch spot for the toddlers and stay-at-home moms in my neighborhood. This very second, a 3-year old boy is playing with action figures and a doll house right behind me. He was tripping over my computer chord so recklessly and so often that I decided it would be best to unplug. I don’t begrudge him (or his mother) for it or anything because I’m in his domain–it’s not like this is happening at a bar–but it’s not an ideal formula for cogent analysis.

Very quickly, though, as loudly as David Stern is being criticized for vetoing this trade, it may have been even worse if he allowed it to go through. My initial read when Chris Paul was traded to the Lakers was that the Hornets didn’t get anywhere close to enough back in return (my NBA philosophy is that you need two superstars to win a title and that it’s much better to build pieces around one than to trade one for pieces; there were obviously mitigating circumstances in this trade, though, because Paul made it abundantly clear that he would not be re-signing). My first thought was shot down by John Hollinger (insider subscription required) and Adrian Wojnarowski–who know much better than I do–but I feel that fans of similar or greater unsophistication as I would have drawn the same conclusion that I had off the bat: the idea that the NBA was conspiring for a Lakers-Heat Finals would have persisted. If the NBA wasn’t going to allow this trade, however, it should have made that clear before the transaction became public. This is now a nightmare.

It doesn’t seem as though Chris Paul can be traded at all this season now and, as a consequence, the Hornets will be stuck getting nothing back in return. This story will be much discussed but the most precarious aspect of it is that the NBA has reached a point where its transactions are more compelling than the entire regular season. The superstars are going to dictate their movement on their own terms and that’s just something everybody is going to have to deal with. On an unrelated note, I look forward to reading (maybe writing?) the book in 30 years that goes into meticulous detail of all of David Stern’s shady dealings and points specifically to where the bodies are buried.

More importantly, it’s football season! And the NFL has a full slate this weekend! There’s only four of these left, we’ve gotta soak these Sundays up in all their glory. As always, I am picking against my buddy Asif who writes Uninformed Commentary.

Previous Records:

Ryan:
Week 13: 7-9
Season: 102-85-8

Asif:
Week 13: 8-8
Season: 97-86-8

Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-16.5)

Ryan: Two factors at play in this one: first, Dan Orlovsky is MUCH MUCH better than Curtis Painter. A cynic would suggest that the Colts’ coaching staff and front office knew this but kept running out Painter until the Colts were hopelessly behind (in front of?) the second worst team in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The second is that the Ravens have a track record of not getting up for games like this one. They almost assuredly won’t lose but I also don’t see them trying hard (real hard) enough to cover this spread. Colts cover.

PS – Peyton Manning’s contract makes a trade prohibitive; he is due a $28 million dollar roster bonus before the start of the next league year and trading him causes a 2012 cap charge of $38.8 million. Unless he re-works his contract, which would be a glaring act of self-un-interest (explanation forthcoming), he is either going to be cut before next season or will be on the Colts with Andrew Luck.

This was an unbelievable negotiating coup on the part of Manning’s agent Tom Condon because it means that Manning will get to choose where he plays next, cherrypicking either the best contender, highest bidder, or both instead of having to play for whoever will give the Colts the best value in return as Brett Favre had to do when the Packers traded him to the Jets. Also, the team that Manning goes to will not have to give up a draft pick to get him. This should make a marginal difference in his ability to contend. My guess is that the highest bidder is the Redskins. Taking a quick look around the league, though, Manning’s best chance to contend would come from the Texans, Jets, 49ers, Ravens, or Seahawks.

PPS – It is incredibly disrespectful to Aaron Rodgers, who has strikingly beautiful eyes, that the new NFL Magazine named Peyton Manning its MVP. Let’s ignore the fact that this is a blatant move on the part of the magazine to call attention to itself and its launch and focus on the bulletin board material it can provide Rodgers in his game against the Raiders on Sunday. NO ONE BELIEVES IN YOU AARON, EVEN THOUGH EVERYBODY IS SAYING YOU ARE HAVING A HISTORICALLY BRILLIANT SEASON, SOME PEOPLE STILL THINK OLD LEMONFACE, (Asif: I prefer Fetushead) WHO ISN’T EVEN PLAYING, IS MORE VALUABLE THAN YOU ARE.

Asif: Lost in the sea of Colts suckage is the fact that I’m not convinced that they’d be that good even with Peyton Manning playing. Sure they’d have won a few games and might be contending for a playoff spot, but Manning probably wouldn’t make up for the fact that their defense is terrible (32nd in DVOA, 32nd in Passing, 28th in Rushing via Football Outsiders); Dwight Freeney’s days as a premium pass rusher appear to be over. Hey, want to see a picture that will make you want to punch a baby? No? Too bad, you’re going to anyways:

DIE DIE DIE DIE. By the way, that fat ginger, 14-year old Colts fan is the worst thing I have ever seen. God, I can’t wait for Andrew Luck to Elway (or Eli) these mouth-breathing buttplugs. Colts cover, but only because there’s no way I’m trusting the Ravens with a spread larger than two touchdowns.

Oakland @ Green Bay (-11.5)

Ryan: That bulletin board material I just referenced, along with the fact that they are pretty good, is going to lead the Packers to win this game 42-10.

This is the time of year when weather starts to become a factor for games at Lambeau. While the Packers’ finesse offense isn’t necessarily built for the cold, at least they have to practice in it. When a team that plays in balmy weather has to travel to Green Bay in the cold, the Packers will have an advantage. The forecast calls for a high of 36, but expect that to dip in the second half as the sun sets. Packers cover.

Asif: I wouldn’t call Oakland balmy, but compared to Green Bay it might as well be Arizona. The Packers showed some cracks against the Giants, specifically that their defense is vulnerable to the big play, something that Oakland does very well. That said, I’m picking the Packers to cover. Semi-related note: does Clay Matthews douse himself with water on the sidelines more than any other player in NFL history? Is he doing this just so he can get a shampoo commercial like Troy Polamalu? (Ryan: He’s one step ahead of you). It seems like a really good way to catch a cold.

Houston @ Cincinnati (-3)

Ryan: Even with TJ Yates starting at quarterback, Houston is immensely undervalued. They beat a pretty legit Falcons squad last week more convincingly than the 17-10 score. The Bengals have given up over 100 yards rushing each of the past four weeks which bodes well for Houston’s ball control strategy with Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

Cincinnati still hasn’t come back down to Earth in the minds of bettors, even after getting thumped 35-7 by the Steelers last week. Unfortunately for Bengals fans, it looks like this team peaked too soon. Texans cover.

Asif: I don’t think the Bengals peaked too soon, the truth is that they’ve had an extremely lopsided schedule (much like the Giants) with a lot of cupcakes early and a gauntlet late in the season. Here is what they are: a young team with a solid defense, a good running game and a game-breaking receiver. They’re still in line for the final playoff spot in the AFC and I do think that they’re a better team than their main competition to make the postseason (Titans, Jets, Raiders). That said, I think Houston covers here. TJ Yates doesn’t look awful, especially since he’s protected by the Texans steamroller running game.

Kansas City @ NY Jets (-9.5)

Ryan: The Chiefs have been feisty the last two weeks; they beat the Bears in Chicago and only lost by four to the Steelers. Their defense can absolutely keep them in this game. I think that the Jets will win but I don’t trust Mark Sanchez to cover a spread this high in the cold. Chiefs cover.

Asif: Kansas City is more than capable of playing the Jets close, especially if Kyle Orton is starting. There’s no way that I’m taking Mark Sanchez as a 9.5-point favorite in bad weather. Chiefs cover.

Minnesota @ Detroit (-8)

Ryan: Even though Adrian Peterson is probably going to miss this game, the Lions are too undisciplined to trust with a line this high. They are in consummate free fall mode and may well pull this one out but I don’t see them doing it by more than one score.

The Vikings have been hanging around in their games the last two weeks; they squandered their game against the Tebows last week and should have covered against Atlanta but inexplicably went for it on 4th down, down 10, instead of kicking a field goal to make it within one score. Vikings cover.

Asif: Question: is Christian Ponder actually good or does he just appear good because he replaced Donovan McNabb? He seems to pass the eye test, but Football Outsiders has him at -16 DYAR (Defense adjusted yards above replacement), down in Vince Young/Kerry Collins territory. For comparison’s sake, McNabb was at 129 DYAR with about half as many passing attempts. If you’re looking for more traditional stats, Ponder has been less accurate than McNabb (56% vs. 60%) and has a worse TD/INT ratio (9/8 vs. 4/2). So maybe switching QBs wasn’t a slam dunk for the Vikings? (Edit: As Ryan pointed out in our “business meeting,” McNabb had Adrian Peterson so may have benefited from defenses stacking the box. Also, McNabb should be expected to play better than a rookie.) I can’t believe I just wrote that paragraph.

At first this line seemed high, but after actually looking at Ponder’s performance and factoring in the fact that Purple Jesus will likely be out, I have to go with the Lions.

New Orleans (-3.5) @ Tennessee

Ryan: Doesn’t this line seem like it is blatantly too low? The Saints have covered four games in a row and won five of their last six (the one loss was to the Rams which makes absolutely no sense).

The Titans haven’t beaten anyone over .500 since the Ravens Week 2 (I’m not counting the Broncos BT*). I remain thoroughly unconvinced that they are any good. This week should confirm or deny my suspicions. Saints cover.

*Before Tebow

Asif: This line is about seven points too low for my liking. Gun to my head, I’d say the Saints are probably the best team in the NFL right now. Yes, better than the Packers if for the simple reason that their defense has looked better than Green Bay’s in recent weeks and their offense is more balanced. Saints cover.

Miami (-3) @ Philadelphia

Ryan: We can now say, with conclusive evidence, that the Eagles just suck. I apparently broke off the Dolphins train a little too early last week because they destroyified the Raiders and are still undervalued against this putrid Eagles team.

I spend enough time tooting my own horn for broad predictions I somehow manage to get right so it’s only fair to acknowledge that I was SUPREMELY incorrect in my assertion that Vince Young is not an awful quarterback. I apologize but it will probably happen again (me getting a prediction wrong). Dolphins cover.

Asif: Michael Vick will be starting this game, not that it makes an iota of difference, because he can’t play linebacker, or offensive line, or create a defensive scheme, or manage the clock properly from the sidelines. I can barely suppress my glee at how badly the Eagles have sucked this year. Miami covers.

New England (-8) @ Washington

Ryan: I am now 1-2 in my pick blindly against Washington campaign. ALMOST BACK TO EVEN! I don’t care how many wide receivers the Patriots are starting on defense, the Redskins gave up 34 points to the Jets last week. Patriots cover.

Asif: To further Ryan’s point, the Over/Under for this game is 48 points and I’m betting the over. Patriots cover.

Atlanta (-2.5) @ Carolina

Ryan: I can’t get a good feel on the Panthers; I’m 4-7-1 picking their games this season. When I zig, they zag. I picked against them in last week’s game against the Buccaneers and it was one of those games where I knew within five minutes that I had gotten it wrong. So frustrating when that happens.

It would seem to me, given that this game is important for them to maintain their wild card pole position, the Falcons will come out and win this game. Falcons cover.

Asif: Another line that just seems off. Carolina does have upset potential, but there’s also blowout potential on the other side especially since the Falcons will be looking to redeem themselves after a poor performance last week. I just think the Falcons are better here so Atlanta covers.

Tampa Bay (PK) @ Jacksonville

Ryan: Like my shower, which I griped about in a previous NFL pick, the dryer in my basement is wildly inconsistent. On medium intensity, sometimes my clothes will come out scalding and sometimes they will come out still damp. I’m not sure which is worse but neither is ideal. When they are scalding, they are impossible to fold without BURNING yourself in that five minute window you have to get the job done before they become irrevocably wrinkly. If they come out damp this means another $1.50. Now that I’ve thought more about it, the worst case scenario is when they come out damp but I don’t have enough quarters left to run it again. That is DEVASTATING.

Tampa wins this featured match-up on the Black Zone Channel.

Asif: Derp bowl. I’m picking Jacksonville. Just cause.

San Francisco (-4) @ Arizona

Ryan: Could this line possibly be real? *Looks it up on Bodog* Yep! Free money! On the always outstanding BS Report with Cousin Sal, it was pointed out that the Rams didn’t get inside the 49ers 35-yard line once all last week. The Rams are transcendently terrible but that only goes so far in explaining such a dismal performance. The 49ers defense is legit and this team doesn’t have anywhere near enough respect. 49ers cover.

Asif: Fun story… when doing my first run through these picks I didn’t read this match-up closely and wrote a rant about how much Sam Bradford sucks (don’t worry it’s still here, just in its proper place). Still, Kevin Kolb sucks too. This line is a joke. 49ers cover.

Chicago @ Denver (-3.5)

Ryan: This is another one of those lines that looks like free money. I don’t care how ugly it looks but the fact of the matter is the Denver Tebows win football games. In all seriousness, though, the thought of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil chasing an already-skittish Caleb Hanie around all day makes this my deadbolt lock of the week. Broncos cover.

Asif: I love the fact that Von Miller is trying to bring back the black nerd look with his glasses, while simultaneously rocking a neck tattoo…

Classy! Meanwhile Caleb Hanie continues to be the least inspiring quarterback — both name and performance wise — in the NFL. Broncos cover.

Buffalo @ San Diego (-7)

Ryan: This is a tough one to pick because I’m not buying a Chargers renaissance after they beat the just-fired-their-coach Jaguars but, on the other hand, the Bills have dropped five in a row and which would look even worse if it was possible to lose games more than once. The Chargers have been overvalued all season, though. Bills cover.

Asif: The Bills are in full collapse mode and I’m starting to talk myself into the Chargers pulling off a winning streak — last 4 vs. Bills, vs. Baltimore, @ Detroit, @ Oakland, all winnable — that improbably saves Norv Turner and AJ Smith’s jobs and ensures that San Diego remains delightfully mediocre for another two seasons minimum. Or maybe not, either way, it’s going to be fun when Philip Rivers’ head explodes. San Diego covers.

NY Giants @ Dallas (-3.5)

Ryan: Watching them closely against the Packers last week, the Giants are ready to fight this out. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have some trouble staying out of their own way. In four of their five losses this season, they have led in the fourth quarter. Jason Garrett doesn’t trust Tony Romo with the game on the line (I’m not sure I would either but that’s never a good scenario).

Sort of bold prediction: The Giants beat the Cowboys twice in the next four weeks to win the NFC East. Giants cover.

Asif: After the timeout-pocalypse in Dallas last week, does anyone really trust the Cowboys in what should be a close game? On the other hand, the Giants just got through a horrifyingly tough stretch during which they played @ NE, @ San Francisco, vs. Philly (one of these things is not like the others), @ New Orleans, and vs. Green Bay. Their last four games are: @ Dallas, vs. Washington, @ NY Jets (not a true road game for obvious reasons) and vs. Dallas. NY winning out does not seem inconceivable at all. Giants cover.

Monday:

St. Louis @ Seattle (-5.5)

Ryan: If the Rams played the Colts of the Dan Orlovsky variety on a neutral field, I think the Colts might be favored. At the very worst, it would be a pick’em. One of the biggest surprises this season has been how much Sam Bradford has regressed this year with Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator. Outside of Joe Paterno, has anybody’s coaching stock taken a bigger hit in the last two years than Josh McDaniels’?

Seattle is enigmatic but we have conclusive evidence that the Rams are terrible. Also, the Seahawks beat the Rams in St. Louis by 17 three weeks ago and the Rams have given no reason to believe that they will do anything to avenge that defeat. Seahawks cover.

Asif: Derp bowl honorable mention, but not quite as derpy as Tampa @ Jacksonville because of less Florida. Remember when I wrote about how bad Christian Ponder has been? Well Sam Bradford is like Christian Ponder cubed. He’s been TERRIBLE. If I’m the Rams, I’m super pissed that I got Bradford in the year before the rookie wage scale came out and now I’m stuck paying him a monster contract while Cam Newton and Andrew Luck who are both (probably) infinitely better in every way signed (or will sign) with their teams for less. Seattle covers.


Quick Pick: Browns @ Steelers

Picked against Asif who writes Uninformed Commentary.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-14)

Ryan: After hiccuping a little bit at the start of the season, the Steelers have won seven of their last eight and are rolling. With a road game against the 49ers looming ahead next week, this game has a little bit of letdown potential for Pittsburgh. That being said, I’d rather lose this cover because the Steelers show up groggy or give up a back door cover than seeing them go up 14-0 six minutes into the game, wondering WHY I overthought the pick. Steelers cover.

Asif: So nice of the schedule makers to hide this game on a Thursday night… Let’s see… do I feel comfortable giving 14 points to the Browns. Yes, a million times over. Steelers cover.


December 6, 2011

Tuesday Trends

The NFL is continuing to wind down and the playoffs are continuing to take shape…These were my five most important takeaways from this week’s action:

1. Everyone in reasonable NFC Wild Card contention lost this week.

That would be, in descending order of current seed, the Cowboys, Bears, Falcons, Lions, and Giants. Of those teams, the Cowboys and Bears have to be feeling the worst about their losses–the teams had almost surely penciled in wins against the Cardinals and Chiefs. The Bears especially had to have this game but could not generate any offense.

The Giants, meanwhile, played the best out of all of these teams, losing a last minute heartbreaker to the Packers 38-35. The last time the Giants lost 38-35? Week 17 against the Patriots in 2007.

Here are the remaining schedules for these teams:

Cowboys: Giants, @Buccaneers, Eagles, @Giants
Bears: @Broncos, Seahawks, @Packers, @Vikings
Falcons: @Panthers, Jaguars, @Saints, Buccaneers
Lions: Vikings, @Raiders, Chargers, @Packers
Giants: @Cowboys, Redskins, @Jets, Cowboys

Quick schedule thoughts:

  • The Falcons have the path of least resistance
  • Obviously, if either team wins both Giants-Cowboys match-ups, it should win the NFC East.
  • If the Bears had not lost to the Chiefs, they would have the inside track for the second wild card spot. I’m not sure if we can even trust them to beat bad teams right now.
For information on current seedings and tiebreakers, hit up the ESPN Playoff Standings page.

2. The funniest subplot in the NFL right now is when Tim Tebow does something good and the cameras point to John Elway.

It is visually obvious that Elway hates Tebow’s success more than anybody. Every time Tebow runs for a first down, miraculously completes a pass, or leads a game winning drive, we see Elway initially look disgusted before realizing that the cameras are on him and forcing a smile that looks much more like a grimace.

While Elway is aware that the cameras are on him, it’s unclear if he realizes what his body language implies. Elway clearly believes that Tebow’s success is not sustainable, wants to build the franchise around a conventional quarterback, but is paralyzed by what he perceives as fluky success. Only the Broncos keep winning which serves the dual purpose of making Tebow harder to unseat and giving the Broncos a worse draft slot, making it more difficult to pick an elite quarterback.

Elway refuses to give Tebow a vote of confidence as long-term starter. Unfortunately for him, it really doesn’t appear as if he’s going to have a choice.

3. Are the Chargers about to make another late-season playoff run?

I would say almost definitely not. They are two full games behind both the Broncos and Raiders with four games left to play. They will, however, probably beat the Bills this week and get everybody talking about it.

The Chargers’ biggest issue this season has come from their lack of depth and toughness on the offensive line. Losing Marcus McNeill and and Kris Dielman–and their replacements–changes everything that their offense can do. It impacts run blocking and pass protection. A half-second difference in pass protection dramatically changes how we perceive the quarterback. Extra time allows routes to develop, receivers to get separation, and a quarterback to scan the field to exploit mismatches. Losing Darren Sproles as Philip Rivers’s security blanket when nothing is open also has not helped but their most glaring deficiency has been on the offensive line.

4. If the Packers do not lose at home, only the Chiefs stand between them and headed into the Super Bowl 18-0.

Burying the lead? Perhaps. Let’s just say I do not not enjoy all of the positive coverage that this team is getting. I also love that they are embracing the bullseye on their backs and saying that they WANT the perfect season. Charles Woodson has been at it for weeks and now Clay Matthews is getting into the game: (note: I SWEAR I saw a Clay Matthews quote scroll on the ESPN ticker yesterday about wanting to go 19-0 but now my magical Google powers are letting me down. Anyone wanna throw me a link?).

I hear the argument that the Packers should rest their starters in Weeks 16 and 17 because if, God forbid, anything happened to Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, or Charles Woodson, it would make me sick to my stomach and cost the Packers dearly in their quest to repeat as champions. Still, though, I maintain that a team wins the Super Bowl every year. Only the Dolphins have gone undefeated for an entire season in the Super Bowl era and no team has done it since the schedule expanded to 16 regular season games. Winning the Super Bowl is a historical accomplishment but going undefeated guarantees immortality.

5. Chris Johnson is back just in time for the fantasy playoffs.

I am kicking myself for not making buy low bids a few weeks ago. The past two weeks he has 46 carries for 343 yards and two touchdowns and has been exhibiting the burst that has largely been lacking all season.

Skipping training camp almost certainly contributed to Johnson’s lack of production for much of the year. That being said, I do not begrudge running backs for holding out to get paid fair market value for their services. Johnson was a late-first round pick in the 2008 draft and grossly outperformed his contract for three seasons. Elite running backs have short shelf lives compared to other skill position players and can really only count on one blockbuster contract. Any play during this season could have jeopardized that from ever happening for Johnson so he utilized the only leverage he had: his services.

Many fans inexplicably take management’s sides in contract disputes, giving some variation of the “he gets to play a game for a living and make more than I could ever imagine doing it” gripe with professional athletes. While that is true, have these people never felt that they weren’t compensated in accordance with their performance?

Would their appropriate reaction be to just be happy with whatever their employers are paying them because they make so much more than human beings starving in Africa? Most people’s reactions when feeling undervalued would be to look for a job with a different employer, something that Chris Johnson was unable to do because he was bound by the draft to work for the Titans. He should not have had to continue to risk bodily harm, playing on a contract that was low for no other reason than the fact that 23 other front offices misjudged his ability to succeed in the NFL because his size was not that of a prototypical running back.

Also, have these management supporters seen what football players from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s look like now? Many, if not most, walk with a limp and are afflicted with post concussion syndrome. NFL players have a shamefully short window of opportunity to get paid for the entertainment they provide us with and pay for it the rest of their lives.

Matt Forte took a more diplomatic route to his contract negotiations than Chris Johnson and now he is out 2-6 weeks with a knee injury, still lacking the financial security that Johnson obtained by witholding his services.

None of this is to say that I think front offices should give running backs big, long-term contracts. As I have written before, they should not. But I have no qualms with NFL players, especially running backs, from maximizing their leverage to force front offices to pay them or hurt the short-term performance of their teams.

If I were a parent raising a kid who has the chance to be an elite football player, I would not want him to play running back. I would try to guide him toward cornerback or safety, positions that you can play with a similar body type and take less physical punishment.


December 5, 2011

Football and Me Part XIV

This is the fourteenth post in a series in which I will document this football season. It will broadly be about the Badgers and Packers but will more specifically be about myself in it. Football season does not just happen on the field. It is about great friends, foods, drinks, and merriment. My hope is that it will be interesting for readers but at the very least it will serve as a journal to look back on. I wish I had done this last year.

What a weekend for the Badgers and Packers! What a weekend for me! Time to re-count the weekend in Bill Simmons running diary format. Times are approximate to the best of my hazy memory.

Saturday

12:30 PM – On the outskirts of Indianapolis, we see a billboard for Flap Jacks Pancake House and, as badly as we want to start the Badger pre-game festivities, it calls us in like a siren. Turns out to be a great decision. The only problem was that there were too many types of pancakes on the menu that I wanted. Luckily, they let me mix and match on a single stack of pancakes so I got apple cinnamon, strawberry, and banana nut. And a side of bacon.

Pancakes

1:30 – We arrive at the Hotel Motel Quality Inn, have a Spotted Cow and a couple JagerMonsters, and wait outside the lobby for a cab. While we are waiting, two Indiana Hoosier fans, Charlie and Dan, offer us a ride downtown in their Escalade. Charlie and Dan are AWESOME. They deftly guide us through the back roads and by the time we are parking across the street from Lucas Oil, we realize that we didn’t encounter any traffic. We were impressed:

Me: Charlie, has anyone ever referred to you as a boss?

Charlie: Well, the people that work for me do.

This response made complete sense.

3:00 - We head to Scotty’s Brewhouse to catch the Wisconsin-Marquette basketball game. Big Badger contingent. I run into my friend Fred, the only other person my age that I know that I can talk about the Lombardi-Packers with (he is Fuzzy Thurston’s grandson). Saying that we are smitten with this Packers team wouldn’t be too different from mentioning that Warren Buffett is wealthy. Some things are so obvious that they can go unsaid.

Mario, Habib, and I meet Brandon who writes the Badger Preview, for the first time. For the first time all season, he picked against the Badgers and we call him out. “I have my reasons,” he laughs, implying a reverse jinx. This goes unmentioned, though, because any reference to a reverse jinx undoes all its power. To a non-sports fan, that would sound childish and even delusional but as I’ve said before, what point would there be to watch sports if you didn’t feel like you had some control over the outcome?

We order boneless wings and blue cheese macaroni and cheese and spicy boneless wings. The waitress strongly admonished against ordering the wings extra spicy, saying that last week they made a customer cry. They were pretty spicy but not unbearable. My eyes watered but I could have kept eating them. Finally, we ordered a brownie ice cream sundae. It was decadent.

Brownie Ice Cream Sundae at Scotty's Brewhouse

When the dessert is finished, Mario lifts the bowl over his head and sips the remaining melted ice cream like one would do with the leftover milk in a bowl of cereal. Let’s just say that there’s video evidence of this and if Mario is ever famous or runs for office, Habib would be able to make some money selling it to TMZ.

8:00 - We get into Lucas Oil and our seats are just unreal. Like, 30-yard line, 3rd row behind the Badgers bench. It should go without saying that these aren’t the seats we paid for. We’re in the section of Lucas Oil that is segregated from the commoners by glass in the corridor and railings in the seating area. Our buddy G pulled some Catch Me if you Can type s— to get us into these seats. I don’t want to elaborate too much here but talk to me if you want details.

View from our seats

Both bands come together on the field to play the National Anthem. The National Anthem at sporting events is an underratedly awesome tradition–it leads us to reflect on how lucky we are to live our lives and how they would not be the same outside America.

The game was unreal. Instead of summarizing the plays, I’m going to embed the highlights and just write about broad takeaways. This is better right?

  • Keyshawn Martin was an absolute beast. To my untrained eye, he looks like a starting NFL receiver. I spent the whole game wondering what Mike Mayock thinks of him.
  • The 4th-and-7 play to Duckworth was the coolest play I’ve ever seen live. The ball hung up in the air FOREVER. It doesn’t fully make up for the hail mary at Michigan State, but it’s close.
  • I’m going to miss Russell Wilson. I wish Wisconsin could sign him to a contract extension.
  • Oregon is a great Rose Bowl match-up for Wisconsin. They have national cache with Nike, are very fun to watch, and are the opposite stylistically of Wisconsin. A win would be nice and would be a great talking point for recruiting.

12:15 AM –  Joined by Mario’s friends Kristen and Jessie, who snuck down to sit with us for the second half, we get to prance around Indianapolis! Winning is so much better than losing! We end up at a bar called the Ugly Monkey and dance around for the next few hours until it closes. CHEERS TO RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW!

3:30 – Night’s not quite over. In fact, it’s only just begun. We get a cab back to our hotel and realize that there is Waffle House, White Castle, and Denny’s all within striking distance. Instead of having to choose one (for the record, Waffle House would have won in a landslide), we decide to hit all three.

First stop: Waffle House. I try to order a stack of waffles, hash browns, a T-Bone steak, and five chocolate milks for the table but get overruled on the T-Bone and three of the chocolate milks because we need to pace ourselves. The hash browns, which we ordered smothered and covered (with cheese and sautéed onions), arrive plain so we send them back. They come back like 30 seconds later with a single piece of non-melted cheese on them and like four half-sautéed onion pieces. This was a glaring act of passive agression, perhaps stemming from the amount of times we changed our order (I didn’t relinquish the T-Bone without a fight).

Waffle House Hash Browns

Anyways, I mixed it together so the cheese would melt and, in doing so, had the genius idea to mix the waffles in with it too and add syrup and Tabasco. It doesn’t look that tasty in this picture but believe me, it was.

Waffle House DANK

Next stop was White Castle. I didn’t realize that a) White Castle is terrible, and b) everyone else only wanted one slider. So, after I made Habib order 10, I ended up getting stuck eating four. My stomach disagreed with this decision (perhaps amongst others?) and at Denny’s I just wanted to be asleep.

10:00 – I wake up on the floor, with my shoes on, a headache, and perhaps a little less self esteem than 24 hours earlier. But, the Badgers are Big Ten champs and it’s a Packers Sunday! If there is such a thing, this is the good type of hangover.

3:00 - At Will’s Northwoods Inn for the Packers game! It is packed shoulder-to-shoulder, to the extent that it is a little bit uncomfortable. There’s also way too many Bears fans, which makes no sense because there are any number of other bars (like, all of them) they should be at in Chicago. One of them has had like 25 beers and no matter where or how I position myself, he keeps bumping into me. I can’t figure out whether it’s on purpose or not but throughout the game it messes with my mojo.

I’m still feeling like a zombie but put down 64 oz. of Diet Coke to try to alleviate my fatigue. It kind of works but I have the feeling that there will be a piece of me missing until I have three days of rest, exercise, and nutrition. The wait for kickoff, as always, is interminable.

Highlights:

Takeways:

  • Another great win for the Packers. They are playing with a confident swagger right now and it just feels like no matter how much adversity they face, they will overcome it and win. There’s a fine line between that and being overconfident but they appear sufficiently motivated to keep up their high level.
  • While everyone else is playing checkers, Aaron Rodgers is playing chess. Was there ANY doubt he was going to lead a scoring drive in the final minute?
  • On a related note, I love the move by Mike McCarthy to tell Cobb to take a touchback on that kickoff. It is unlikely that the yards Cobb gained past the 20 would have been worth the time that the kickoff return took off the clock.
  • Drops continue to be an issue for the whole offense but especially for Jermichael Finley. Finley had at least two brutal drops yesterday and needs to get this issue in order before the playoffs. Perhaps the optimal strategy with Finley might be not to throw him perfect passes? He seems to have the most trouble with those.
  •  Mason Crosby had another tackle saving a long kick return yesterday. How many of those do he and Masthay have over the past few years? How awesome is it that the Packers have the best tackling kicker AND punter in the league?
  • So awesome and classy to see Charles Woodson give Hakeem Nicks dap.
  • Nerdy NFL stat time: When the Packers scored a touchdown to go up 8 with 3:30 to go, Bill Barnwell tweeted that they should go for 2 to try to make it a two-possession game. His logic was that if you convert it, you force the Giants to score, recover an onside kick, and score again–virtually impossible in the given time frame and way more difficult than executing a two-point conversion. He said something similar about a month ago and at the time I dismissed it as unrealistic but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense. The first coach that tries it, though, better hope and prey it works out. If it doesn’t, that coach will get crucified for thinking outside the box.

Overall, a GREAT weekend. I feel truly blessed to have such wonderful family, friends, and football in my life.


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