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December 6, 2013

Week 14 NFL Picks

You can still send me money if you want — this column takes a lot of time and effort, and you are here! — but I’ll save you the long shpiel this week.

***

Ryan
Last Week: 
9-7
This Week (so far): 1-0
Season: 95-92-6

Asif
Last Week: 8-8
This Week (so far): 1-0
Season: 99-88-6

Atlanta @ Green Bay (no line yet)

Ryan: There’s still no spread up for this game, so we’ll just count it as a tie. That’s fine by me, because thinking and writing about them has made me feel bad for the past month and you know what they say about when you don’t have anything nice to say …

Asif: Disclaimer for this whole post: I’m feeling a bit crotchety this morning. I should be winning one of my fantasy football leagues this season, but will instead be getting bounced from the playoffs in the first round, due almost entirely to Aaron Rodgers’ stupid injury. Despite handily dominating the competition for the vast majority of the season, my team was decimated when Arian Foster went down for the season and Rodgers broke his collarbone.

I had enough running back depth to make due without Foster, but Rodgers hurts twice as much because Jordy Nelson had been my second best receiver all season and the collection of slapdicks who’ve replaced Rodgers seem entirely incapable of getting the ball to Nelson. I would still be okay with all of this if Rodgers was definitively out for the season, but the will he, won’t he play nonsense has been driving me nuts as my league’s playoffs begin this week. Prediction: Rodgers is back in two weeks, right after I’ve been eliminated because life is unfair and everything sucks. Rant over.

Kansas City (-3.5) @ Washington

Ryan: This line seems a bit low, no? The wheels have fallen off the Redskins wagon. We’re at the point where Mike Florio is writing posts centered around the premise that Mike Shanahan probably wouldn’t mind getting fired at the end of this season and collecting his $7 million dollars next year while not having to deal with all this crap again.

Speaking of that, it makes zero sense that these coaches’ salaries are guaranteed while the players have to earn their money each season. There is nothing anybody could say to me to make me agree that that is reasonable. Chiefs cover.

Asif: It’s been a rough three weeks for the Chiefs, but Washington is atrocious. Chiefs cover.

Minnesota @ Baltimore (-7)

Ryan: If the playoffs began today, Baltimore would be in at 6-6. The thought of their limping into the 6th-seed in a top-heavy AFC and Joe Flacco illogically morphing into Joe Montana for a month again should strike fear in the hearts of Patriots and Broncos fans.

Matt Cassel is starting this week for the Vikings, and my highly untrained eye has told me that he’s been the best option this season. No, I’m not going to look up fancy book-learning stats to prove my point because I’m not really all that passionate about the subject. Ravens win, Vikings cover.

Asif: For the last few years, Larry Fitzgerald has been everyone’s favorite charity case as he toiled away without the benefit of an NFL caliber quarterback. That torch has definitely been passed to Adrian Peterson, who is in danger of seeing his prime wasted playing on some truly atrocious Vikings teams. Speaking of atrocious, this game is going to be unwatchable. Vikings cover.

Cleveland @ New England (-12)

Ryan: Bill Belichick made the point earlier this week that penalties should be subject to review, and I agree entirely. While some calls are of the “judgment” variety, there is a rulebook that clearly defines what is and isn’t allowed and the game gets called accordingly. Pass interference (or lack thereof), for example, can make a 50-yard difference at any given time and make a much bigger impact than lots of plays that currently get challenged. This is a no-brainer. Browns cover.

Asif: I can’t even pretend to care about this game. Pats cover.

Oakland @ NY Jets (-3)

Ryan: I’m not saying that he’s totally unsalvageable, but Geno Smith might be the worst NFL quarterback I’ve ever seen for the past month. How bad has Smith been?

Gonna do the George Costanza thing, though, and go against Matt-McGloin-Covers-Football-Games. Jets cover.

Asif: GUH. Let’s talk baseball instead of even thinking about this game. I’ll never understand the mentality that drives baseball GM’s employed by teams other than the Yankees (or Dodgers I guess) to say, “Fuck it, I’ve finally got some payroll flexibility, let’s give Robinson Cano all of it.” This is not smart, even if you’re trying to make a splash and save your job.

In all likelihood, if your team finished 20 games under .500 (yes, I am talking about you, Seattle), you have bigger problems than any one player can solve. This should be especially apparent after a season in which the Red Sox won a World Series essentially by dumping their biggest contracts, signing a bunch of mid-level free agents to deals three-years or shorter in duration, and leaning on homegrown talent.

Mega-deals rarely work out, and now Seattle is going to be paying a 40-year old Robby Cano something around $24 million. Does that sound like a winning proposition to anyone? Prediction: Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik will be out by this time next year, and Seattle will be desperate to offload Cano within the next 4 years. But hey, at least Cano can become an international superstar in Seattle. Oh, wait.

Raiders cover.

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati (-6)

Ryan: The Colts are a weird team, but for the most part they play to the level of their competition. They’ve beaten maybe the three best teams in football in the 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos. On the other hand, they’ve lost to the Dolphins, Rams, and Chargers — all of them are frisky some weeks, but none are .500. This seems like the type of game they’ll play well in. Indy covers.

Asif: I’m starting to wonder if the Colts are any good. Bengals cover.

Detroit @ Philadelphia (-3)

Ryan: Nick Foles doesn’t look or carry himself like a prototypical star quarterback, many of whom are strikingly handsome, or, at the very least supremely confident. If they weren’t leading football teams, they’d be taking advantage of their physical stature as politicians or rapidly ascending the corporate ladder. Foles, though, looks almost like an engineering student:

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles

That’s the man who leads the NFL in passer rating by a significant marginLions cover, purely as a slight emotional hedge.

Asif: This game has “Nick Foles gets decapitated” written all over it. Lions cover.

Miami @ Pittsburgh (-3)

Ryan: We’re about one more Dolphins win away from someone making a dumb comment about how well the team has responded to what it’s “been through” like what happened with Riley Cooper. This sentiment would be written or spoken under the presumption that the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito saga were something that was externally foisted upon them, like the abrupt death of a teammate, as opposed to being the result of a glaring lack of leadership.

The consistently excellent writer Sean Conboy brilliantly captured what everybody in the room I was watching with felt like when Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell took a gruesome (and legal) helmet-to-helmet hit at the goal-line during the Ravens game on Thanksgiving night:

It was impossible to watch Bell’s naked head bounce off the cold, hard ground and not think about certain horrors. To not imagine insidious spiderwebs of tau protein coursing through Bell’s brain upon impact. To not imagine him washed out of the NFL before his second contract. To not imagine the ledger of his life being changed forever by one play. And then, almost before the trainers could escort Bell’s wobbly body from the playing field, the officials delivered a bit of black humor so sinister that all you could do was laugh. After consulting with the replay cameras, which showed Bell’s head bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce off the turf infinitum, the zebras had concurred visa-vis the NFL’s Very Serious Player Safety Rules that because Bell’s helmet had Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Roboted off his cranium before the ball crossed the plane, the play was dead at the inch-line. At this point we became aware that Bell himself was in fact not dead, but merely swaying from side to side in an upright stupor as if trapped in the Mortal Kombat fatality screen.

A player is going to fucking die from one of these hits at some point, and that might be a real inflection point for the now-seemingly-unyielding popularity of football in America. No feel for this game. Steelers cover.

Asif: Ditto on having no feel for this game, so I’ll go the other way. Controversy! Dolphins cover.

Buffalo @ Tampa Bay (-2.5) Ryan: I thought this was an excellent suggestions for craptacular games like this one that we do actually yearn for seven months a year:

Bucs cover, but who really cares?

Asif: Football season is too long and there are too may teams in the NFL. This game is proof. Bucs cover.

Tennessee @ Denver (-12)

Ryan: The weather forecast for Sunday in Denver is currently a high of 23 and a low of -6. Titans cover. I think I’m being all smart and stuff by picking against Peyton Manning in the cold, when his struggles are so well-documented that you’d have to think Vegas builds them into the line. That being said, it’s not like any amount of real research is going to lead me towards an informed opinion about whether Denver is 10 or 14 points better than Tennessee either.

Asif: Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday shopping has gotten absurd. It’s not just the gigantic hordes of people having Vale Tudo matches in the middle of Wal-Marts. I’ve had at least two packages delivered to my apartment every day this week, all by UPS, and all at different times of the day. UPS can’t even get all of our deliveries together and that’s their job! From now on, I’m doing my holiday shopping on Columbus day. Broncos cover.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-6.5)

Ryan: I think I relayed this non sequitur last season, but the feeling still stands. The convenience store a few blocks from me cools candy bars in its fridge, which is a tremendous business decision on their part at least in the sense for having me as a loyal customer. Cold Twix Peanut Butter bars are pure bliss, and there are times when I put on pants and leave my house just to get them. Rams cover?

Asif: The best part about living in New York is easily the sandwiches. I’ve lived in Atlanta, Shanghai, and Boston and I can say from firsthand experience that being able to find a delicious, high quality sandwich within two blocks, even in my relatively lame neighborhood, is a total game-changer. Add in pizza and no last call and I don’t really understand why people live other places. Cardinals cover.

Ryan: My rent is under $700, I do not struggle to find good sandwiches, and I can’t remember the last time I wanted to stay out after a bar closed. Chicago is a better place to live than New York. I do wish I had access to better pizza, though.

NY Giants @ San Diego (-3)

Ryan: One of the smartest moves in the world is picking long songs on bar jukeboxes. My go-to’s are Tuesday’s Gone by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cowgirl in the Sand by Neil Young, Notorious Thugs by Notorious BIG, and Hurricane by Bob Dylan. Feels like stealing. Anybody else got any good suggestions? Heads is Chargers, Tails is Giants … Chargers cover.

Asif: Yeah, there’s no way that the Giants win this game. Chargers cover.

Seattle @ San Francisco (-3)

Ryan: The last 40 minutes of the early games where the Red Zone Channel is in its magical flurry of hot, sweaty action will be followed by this game and Panthers-Saints. That’s about as great as an NFL Sunday gets.

It just feels like we are on an inexorable march towards a Seahawks Super Bowl appearance at the very least. Every other NFC team has such greater flaws, and it’s difficult to see anybody else winning in Seattle right now. As we saw when Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone on a seemingly benign tackle, everything in the NFL can change just like that, but the Seahawks have been phenomenal. Seattle covers.

Asif: Oh look, an actual game worth watching! As badly as Seattle beat the Niners earlier this season, and as good as they looked last week, I can’t help but feel that these teams are are going in opposite directions. San Francisco is finally getting it’s receiving corps healthy, while Seattle’s cornerbacks are all apparently incapable of beating an NFL drug test (which is kind of sad). That plus the Seahawks being generally less impressive away from the dome makes me think Niners cover.

Carolina @ New Orleans (-3.5)

Ryan: With both of these teams entering the contest at 9-3, the outcome will go a long way in deciding which team gets a first round bye and a home game and which one has to play on the road the first weekend. For an Extra Mustard post earlier this week, I wrote about how Brett Favre gave Sean Payton the hook-up on some earbuds to help the Saints deal with the loud Seattle faithful last week. As I see it, there are only two possibilities here:

1. The earbuds don’t work at all. In the game Favre said they were totally awesome for, he threw an egregious season-ending interception and was never the same again. The Saints got throttled by the Seahawks.

2. Revenge. Favre was a Bountygate target of Payton’s Saints. What better way to get back at them than to publicly claim you don’t harbor a grudge, waiting for the right time to sell them on a bill of goods about some crackpot product? Probably lots, actually, and I guess that also folds into the theory that the earbuds are worthless, but it’s funny to imagine Favre silently brooding for three years waiting for just the right time to strike back.

Panthers cover, but only if they don’t use stupid earbuds to try to block out the Superdome noise.

Asif: Wait, two good games in one week?! This is unprecedented. Panthers cover.

Dallas @ Chicago (-1)

Ryan: The Bears have given up more than 500 rushing yards over the past two weeks. The all-time single game record for a running back is 296, and Chicago has come sorta close to giving that up in two straight games. Cowboys cover.

Asif:  Looks like we’re back to Monday games being worthless. Cowboys cover.


December 5, 2013

Quick Pick: Texans @ Jaguars

Houston (-3) @ Jacksonville

Ryan: Over/Under 10: The percentage of people watching this game who have no affiliation with either team and aren’t gambling on it. Jaguars cover.

Asif: Christ, can we just get rid of these worthless Thursday games already? While we’re at it, can we get rid of the AFC South too? Trust me, no one will miss it. Jaguars cover.


November 27, 2013

Week 13 NFL Picks

I’ve been stalled at $3,305 for about two months now. With the Will’s Northwoods Inn keg party, I should be able to at least get to around $3,500. I am within striking distance of my $5,000 goal — also the amount at which I will ‘Office Space’ my printer — and would greatly appreciate any and all support towards getting there. Again: My PayPal is email hidden; JavaScript is required and you can email me if you would prefer to mail me a check. Think of the mouth you would feed.

On to the picks …

Ryan
Last Week: 8-5-1
Season: 85-85-6

Asif
Last Week: 6-7-1
Season: 90-80-6

Green Bay @ Detroit (-6)

Ryan: Since the Packers won the Super Bowl in early 2011, there was the sense that the team was constantly waiting for Aaron Rodgers to bail them out with big plays — and he’d do it more often than not. In Rodgers’ absence, only Eddie Lacy has really stepped up to fill any of that void.

And that’s been depressing. Each of these past four games without Rodgers has been theoretically winnable in the second half. Against the Bears and the Eagles, the defense couldn’t get a stop when they needed it. The Giants pulled away late, while the Vikings were able to stave off — barely — a late resurgence last week where a Packers win seemed inevitable. But they couldn’t close the deal.

The only reason Green Bay still has a season to speak of is because the Lions and Bears have lost games that you’d think they should win, and it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even look forward to watching the Packers play. Lions cover, if only as an emotional hedge.

Asif: This game really hinges on whether Aaron Rodgers plays or not. The Lions haven’t looked great of late, but the Packers offense looks terrible without Rodgers. Since it looks like he won’t be playing, Lions cover.

Continue reading Week 13 NFL Picks


November 22, 2013

Week 12 NFL Picks

I’ve been stalled at $3,305 for over a month now. With the Will’s Northwoods Inn keg party, I should be able to at least get to around $3,500. I am within striking distance of my $5,000 goal — also the amount at which I will ‘Office Space’ my printer — and would greatly appreciate any and all support towards getting there. Again: My PayPal is email hidden; JavaScript is required and you can email me if you would prefer to mail me a check. Think of the mouth you would feed.

On to the picks…

Ryan
Last Week: 6-7-2
This Week (so far): 0-1
Season: 77-80-5

Asif
Last Week: 6-7-2
This Week (so far): 0-1
Season: 84-74-5

***

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-5)

Ryan: During the week before Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter and NFL Hall of Famer Bob McGinn wrote that the Packers could win without Rodgers:

The theory goes that it makes no difference what players might be behind Rodgers. If No. 12 goes down, all hope is lost — the Green Bay Packers would be finished. Every coach, player and executive working at 1265 Lombardi Ave. should take that as a personal affront.

We’ve seen Mike McCarthy, Ted Thompson, their staffs and the players overcome more injuries in the last four seasons than any National Football League team. Time and time again they’ve lost key players only to plug in well-prepared backups and keep on winning. They’ve never had to make do without possibly the finest player in the league. Losing Rodgers to major injury would be the nightmare of all nightmares. He makes everyone’s job easier.

Yet, no organization would be better equipped to handle it than Green Bay.

Since then, a bunch of morons have claimed that McGinn somehow jinxed the Packers with this column and have directed their ire at him accordingly. While that assertion and behavior is aggressively stupid, we’ve now had a large enough sample size without Rodgers to assert that McGinn’s supposition was incorrect.

Before Green Bay played Philly two weeks ago, Bill Simmons noted that Aaron Rodgers was worth nine points to the Packers’ spread. After seeing the team play without him for essentially three games now, I’d argue that he’s even more valuable than that. Yes, there have been a monumental amount of injuries on both sides of the ball this year, but you’d have to think that if Rodgers were fully healthy that the Packers would’ve been at least 2-1 versus the Bears, Eagles, and Giants.

None of this is a knock against Scott Tolzien, who has played about as well as you could expect anybody to, but the idea that Rodgers is and has been supremely and irreplaceably valuable to this team has been fortified in his absence. Vikings cover.

Asif: What has to be sad for Vikings fans is that Scott Tolzien is probably better than whoever Minnesota has under center on Sunday (I didn’t bother to check because does it really matter?). Packers cover.

Tampa Bay @ Detroit (-9)

Ryan: Tampa continues to be a little bit underrated due to the tyrannical megalomania of Greg Schiano. The Bucs have won their last two games and covered three in a row. They’re bad, but not terrible — there’s a difference.

The Lions, meanwhile, had the chance to control their own destiny in the NFC North until getting popped in the mouth in Pittsburgh last week. I don’t fully know what to make of them. When they are firing on all cylinders, they can beat almost anyone in the League. However, once every few weeks — seemingly without rhyme or reason — they just can’t get out of their own way. I have no idea how one would logically project when that happens. Bucs cover.

Asif: I’m seeing a bounceback for the Lions. Detroit covers.

Jacksonville @ Houston (-11.5)

Ryan: I had a tremendous triumph when I was doing laundry earlier this week. My dryer costs $1.50 per hour cycle, but if you put a quarter in when it’s already running it adds 15 minutes. Therefore, you can save about 75 cents (stuff only really takes 45-50 minutes to dry) if you get down there right as one is ending.

So anyways I got downstairs, there was one minute left on the timer, and I beat the buzzer. Such a wonderful moment. The opposite actually happened a few weeks ago, and it was day-altering. Jacksonville covers.

Asif: Is there a less compelling division than the AFC South? It’s not the worst of the divisions quality-wise (hello there NFC East), but I’ll be damned if it isn’t filled with teams that no one rightfully gives two shits about. Has anyone ever gotten pumped for Jaguars-Texans?

And while I’m on a rant, what’s with the stupid team names in this division? I guess the Colts are okay, but Jaguars? Pretty sure there aren’t any in Jacksonville. Titans? Dumb. Texans? Oh, is that what you call people from Houston? If I were made NFL-god-commissioner I would contract all three of those teams and/or move them to LA.

Jacksonville remains the worst team in the league, but Houston has had a nightmare scenario of a season. Considering all that’s gone wrong for the Texans, I can’t justify leaving this many points on the table. Jacksonville covers.

San Diego @ Kansas City (-5)

Ryan: And in the spirit of my aforementioned laundry situation, let’s talk about overrated and underrated chores/responsibilities. IMHO:

Not as bad as you think it’s gonna be: Laundry, dishes, taking out the trash, paying bills online (when you have the money), going to the gym (actually usually ends up being awesome), standardized tests, getting groceries
Even worse than you realize beforehand: Going to the dentist, shoveling, physically mailing anything, watching your team lose any football game, getting rid of a cough, stuffy nose, or sore back/neck

Chiefs cover.

Asif: San Diego is the definition of a league average team. The Chiefs are something better than that. Chiefs cover.

Carolina (-4) @ Miami

Ryan: This fascinating hypothetical was presented in the wake of Carolina’s controversial late victory on Monday night:

Let’s just say there would have probably been some backlash about Newton’s maturity and all sorts of backlash to that backlash. And since we’re on the topic, this was exquisite sarcasm after the Panthers scored late to take the lead:

Panthers cover.

Asif: All the talk about how the ref’s decision to pick up the flag on the final play of Monday Night’s game didn’t really affect the outcome is nonsense. Of course it affected the outcome, it was the last play of the game. Would it have been assured that the Pats would have scored a touchdown on the next play? No, but they absolutely deserved the chance to. The Panthers should be mad as well that their signature win will now carry the taint of that terrible decision. Carolina covers.

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland (-2)

Ryan: As Gregg Rosenthal notes, Ben Roethlisberger is 15-1 in his career against the Browns. Steelers cover.

Asif: Gross. Pittsburgh covers.

Chicago @ St. Louis (-1)

Ryan: I’m jusssst about done reading Boss, Mike Royko’s biography of Richard Daley, and it was fantastic. I learned untold amounts about Chicago’s history of corruption and racism — I hadn’t even realized that Martin Luther King spent a significant amount of time here — and it really helped me understand a lot more about why the city looks the way it does today. I hate it when engrossing books like this end, but I am sure I will really enjoy re-reading it in five or ten years.

I don’t have the slightest clue why the Rams would be favored in this game. Bears cover.

Asif: I can’t think of a single reason to pick the Rams here. Bears cover.

NY Jets @ Baltimore (-4)

Ryan: No idea how one would go about having a good feel on this game. Ravens cover.

Asif: Two teams that will either miss the playoffs or get bounced in the first round. Ravens cover.

Tennessee @ Oakland (-1)

Ryan: You cannot stop Matt McGloin, you can only hope to contain him.

mcgloin5

Oakland covers.

Asif: Doooooon’t care. Tennessee covers.

Indianapolis @ Arizona (-2)

Ryan: If the Colts had Carson Palmer and the Cardinals had Andrew Luck, the Colts would be a lot worse than 7-3 and the Cardinals would be a bit better than 6-4. That is such a meaningless hypothetical — if clouds could support human weight, they’d be really comfortable beds — but it just popped in my head, and I have about five or 10 of you captive right now, so you’re just gonna have to deal with it.

Gonna do the George Costanza opposite method on this one, because that’s seemed to work well. Cardinals cover.

Asif: So basically whoever made the lines this week was drunk right? Colts cover.

Dallas @ NY Giants (-2.5)

Ryan: Reports of the Giants’ magical resurgence have been greatly exaggerated. Their four consecutive wins have come against teams starting Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor, and Scott Tolzien. Not exactly a murderer’s row, unless you’re talking about what you’d expect to happen to their own teams. (I know I just said earlier that Scott Tolzien is not terrible, but I also broke the news that he’s not Aaron Rodgers, either.) Cowboys cover.

Asif: Since Ryan took my line about the QBs the Giants have faced on their four game winning streak, I will point out that Tony Romo may be better than those guys, but he’s just as capable of throwing a terrible pick at the most inopportune moment. Giants cover.

Denver (-3) @ New England

Ryan: If I have the time and mental capacity for it in the next couple days I will expand on this thought, but Wes Welker really shouldn’t be playing for the Broncos on Sunday. We just saw Brett Favre, who retired just three years ago and was asked to play by the Rams a few weeks ago, look like a broken man earlier this week. In the event that you ever forget what that feels like, you’ll be reminded of it by Wes Welker sooner or later.

And I’m complicit in all this because it’s not like my disgust is gonna keep me from watching. Broncos cover.

Asif: Dear Jack Del Rio,

Can I kindly ask what the fuck is wrong with you? After Montee Ball fumbles on his first carry of the game, you still give him not one, but two goal line carries that result in touchdowns after letting Knowshon do all the heavy lifting? How are you going to do Knowshon like that? You cost me a spot in the playoffs you twat.

Sincerely,

Every person who has Knowshon Moreno in fantasy. Pats cover.

San Francisco (-5) @ Washington

Ryan: Feels like stealing. 49ers cover.

Asif: It’s been delightful watching Washington fans turn on RGIII, if only because now I can constantly accuse them of racism, because we all know that they’re racist. 49ers cover.


November 21, 2013

Quick Pick: Saints @ Falcons

New Orleans (-8) @ Atlanta

Ryan: I am honestly unsure if the Falcons would beat the Jaguars on a neutral field at this point. They’ve lost four in a row now by a combined score of 135-51 and that might even be closer than these games have been. Saints cover.

Asif: One-sided beat down alert. Saints cover.


November 15, 2013

Week 11 NFL Picks

I’ve been stalled at $3,305 for about a month now. With the Will’s Northwoods Inn keg party (postponed again due to my assorted busyness), I should be able to at least get to around $3,500. I am within striking distance of my $5,000 goal — also the amount at which I will ‘Office Space’ my printer — and would greatly appreciate any and all support towards getting there. Again: My PayPal is email hidden; JavaScript is required and you can email me if you would prefer to mail me a check.

It takes a lot of work to make these, so if you enjoy them please consider contributing to their continual existence. Also, we’ve now apparently reached the point in the season where it is quite lucrative to bet against me.

***

Ryan
Last Week: 3-11
This Week (so far): 0-0-1
Season: 71-72-4

Asif
Last Week: 5-9
This Week (so far): 0-0-1
Season: 77-66-4

Atlanta (-1.5) @ Tampa Bay

Ryan: One of the things that has gotten burned in the Greg Schiano dumpster fire is the fact that the Buccaneers are not actually that atrocious of a football team. They’re 20th in DVOA, which isn’t great or anything, but it’s by no means 1-8 bad — they’ve been right in six of their eight losses, but found very new and excruciating ways to make those happen.

The Falcons are worse than people realize. They’ve lost their past three games by a combined score of 94-33, can’t rush the ball, and have a terrible run defense. Bucs cover.

Asif: This game is just a big bowl of yuck, so instead of talking about it, I’m going to talk about another piece of Atlanta sporting news. This week, the Braves announced plans to move out of Turner Field to a new stadium in suburban Cobb County in 2017. In the process, the team plans to bilk Cobb County tax payers out of $300 million. It’s been proven time and time again that public financing of stadiums is a losing proposition for municipalities and no one seems to like the practice, yet for some reason we keep doing it.

The Braves’ move is even more egregious because they only started playing in Turner Field in 1997. The team can justify the move by claiming that Turner needs a $150 million renovation – maybe they shouldn’t be handing out huge contracts to the likes of BJ Upton in that case. They can also say that the move will bring the team closer to their suburban fan base – god forbid those people ever have to interact with a black person in downtown Atlanta. Still, none of this makes paying for the stadium make any sense for Cobb County. It’s this kind of race to the bottom idiocy that’s ruining everything. Falcons cover.

Continue reading Week 11 NFL Picks


November 14, 2013

Quick Pick: Indy @ Tennessee

Indianapolis (-3) @ Tennessee

Ryan: One of the unfortunate things about attending NFL games is that you miss all the hot, sweaty football action going on around you. As such, I have no idea whether the Colts got SHELLACKED by the maybe-not-that-terrible Rams, or if there was an assortment of bad bounces and calls. And, no, I’m not going to go back and watch it now.

I think this will come to be seen as a random blip for the Colts, and will be much more alarmed if they fail to take care of business against Ryan Fitzpatrick and a Titans team that lost to Jacksonville last week. Indy covers.

Asif: No Fitzmagic is going to be happening here. Indy covers.


November 11, 2013

Red Meat and Cheese: A Wonderful Wisconsin Football Weekend With My Dad

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The above picture shows a white brat/ribeye combo sandwich and a basket of cheese curds at State Street Brats, which were on my table with a pitcher of Spotted Cow within 15 minutes of getting off the bus in Madison, WI on Friday. These things happen immediately.

Despite what would happen to the Packers at the end, it was an incredible weekend in God’s country. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Friday

3:00 – The journey begins as all my journeys do: Hastily stuffing my belongings into a suitcase as I’m running out the door, praying that I don’t forget something important. The day where I leave myself ample time, or God forbid pack everything in an organized manner the night before, is the one where I’ll know I’m actually a legitimate adult.

Hustling to get to O’Hare for my 4pm bus, I get on the CTA and realize that my Ventra pass is out of money. I have no cash on me and beg the bus driver to take pity on me. He obliges, motioning for me to take my seat. This is a good omen.

At the blue line stop, the person in front of me is struggling trying to figure out how to use a credit card to add money to her Ventra account. The voice inside my head is cursing her for being so daft when I have a tight schedule to keep. She gives up trying. I fumble my first attempt at the Ventra machine as the people behind me in line give disapproving glares. My second attempt is successful and I make the first el towards O’Hare.

4:00 – I make the bus to Madison with about six minutes to spare. A missed connection in either of my two CTA stops would’ve cost me 90 minutes and untold emotional distress.

7:05 – Arrive in Madison.

7:20 – See up-top.

9:00 – Head to Ivory Room, a dueling piano bar near Madison’s capitol for a couple hours. There were three rotating pianists — two were OK, and one was incredible. The latter was pounding Red Bull, water, and a mystery third beverage inside a coffee mug (coffee, perhaps?) and belting along every song request put in front of him.

Dueling piano bars >>>>> karaoke, especially when the performers are good ones.

Saturday

12:00 - Because of the road trips I do with my friends, it feels a little weird to spend the time before the game doing anything other than outright raging, but I gotta admit it is pretty enjoyable to be taking it slowly. We’re at Jordan’s Big 10 Pub on Regent Street for a little bit before I break off with my friend Max for lunch.

You meet the most interesting people on football trips. I asked a guy where he got his sewn JJ Watt jersey from (from a bootleg Chinese site because of course he did) and he ended up being with a crew of people from Quebec City who came to Madison, and later Green Bay, just for an awesome football trip. This was basically what my Dad and I did last year when we went to Baton Rouge for Alabama-LSU.

1:00 – Found a little tent right behind Camp Randall on Regent Street that was selling grilled brats, ribs, hot dogs, burgers, and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. Here’s what their grill looked like:

1457609_10102637100755827_1241100812_n

Had a brat and split a pulled pork sandwich. So exquisite. Wisconsin is the greatest.

2:30 - I am sitting with Max inside the Wisconsin student section, which still feels like home. I think I’ve got at least five more years of preferring that over regular seats. Even though I have my issues with many students’ late arrivals and early exits, it is a substantially more active cheering environment, which is ideal for me.

camp randall

(#ViewFromYourSeats not in chronological order)

4:00 - It’s not fair that the Ohio State band does Michael Jackson moonwalks and incredible Jurassic Park choreographies while Wisconsin’s half-time shows are always 1920′s swing music medleys or show tunes. Today’s offering is a series of songs from the Phantom of the Opera because nothing riles up football fans quite like a somber musical. Half-time feels like a funeral. This is egregious.

4:15 - Overheard in the bathroom: Dude, my friend passed out in the bathroom, but I don’t know which one it was so I have to look through all of them and hope I find him before he gets an underage ticket. College.

4:25 - Third brat in 18 hours. I swear I’ve read a study that says you should only eat two per year if you don’t want to degrade your health, but I can’t find it in 30 seconds and you wouldn’t have bothered clicking through anyway.

5:30 – Wisconsin is completely controlling the tempo of the game. For some reason, BYU decides to punt twice down 17 points in the fourth quarter. You guys know that you need three scores, right? I mean, I’m cool with their surrendering, but it means the last 12 minutes of the game are just a formality.

5:40 – They keep showing out-of-town scores — there is particular schadenfreude when Michigan goes down to Nebraska — but they miss a major opportunity by not telling everyone that Piggly Wiggly and his Arkansas Razorbacks just lost their 7th in a row #karma

Sunday

10:00 – Meet at friend Kevin’s tailgate behind Brett Favre’s Steakhouse, whose silent partners must be indescribably anticipatory of a reconciliation. Eat fourth brat of the trip. And a cheeseburger. (No pictures because I’ve already shown you enough red meat.) Drink a 10% ABV beer. At some point, someone comes by and hands us all whiskey-infused pudding shots. I’d say is the Sconniest thing ever except for the fact that this tailgate also had a cornhole set that was adorned with old Brewers baseball cards:

cornhole

11:15 – Due to a variety of syndicates and assorted inheritances, our family friend Rob has eight season tickets at Lambeau. This is no small feat for a team with a wait list of over 80,000 people and about 30 years. We are very lucky he is so generous with them, although they are not necessarily an asset for him today. The initial asking price from some scalpers is as low as $50. It would appear as though some people are not profoundly psyched for the Seneca Wallace experience.

Directly related to that, it is pretty agreed upon in our group that we would prefer if Brett Favre were starting today. Like, not even with a week of practice. The sort of situation where some sad soul refreshing FlightAware.com notices a private jet charted from Hattiesburg, MS to Green Bay, Favre hops off, scribbles his name on a 10-day contract, starts 90 minutes later, and Jim Ross goes crazy. Even if he didn’t end up playing well (an overwhelming probability), he Lambeau might break the sound barrier if it happened.

Obviously, this hypothetical scenario is completely implausible. But what if it weren’t?

12:30 - All of a sudden Scott Tolzien is in for Seneca Wallace and nobody can figure out what’s going on. Wallace couldn’t possible be benched already when he didn’t throw any incompletions — when T F did he get hurt? All we’re told by the stadium PA is that Tolzein’s in, nobody’s phone is picking up data to check Twitter, and finally someone behinds us gets a signal and finds out that Wallace injured his groin.

I spoke to the head of stadium technology for the new 49ers stadium about stuff like this a few months ago and it’s pretty necessary for NFL teams to catch up on technology sooner than later. It is not a sustainable business practice for the biggest fans to remain the least informed on game days.

lambeau

1:30 - It must be noted that the discussion inside football stadiums is nothing like the ones I read and write in the media. Throughout the weekend, there are no references to Richie Incognito or concussions. People are just super-stoked to be consuming copious amounts of red meat and beer and not be at work. Until another sport can even come close to engendering this mass jolly community, football’s not going anywhere.

1:45 – Is Lambeau the only stadium in the world where the beer vendors also carry 18-inch beef sticks?

2:15 - A punt that was downed inside the Eagles’ 5 is somehow spotted on the 16-yard line with zero explanation from the refs. LeSean McCoy busts a long run and then Nick Foles underthrows a double-covered Riley Cooper, who adjusts to the ball while both defensive backs lose it in the sun, for a touchdown in a sequence that embodies the entire game.

Green Bay would later come within a bobbled Jordy Nelson reception of being down just a touchdown with nine minutes to play, but the breaks just wouldn’t their way. With Detroit and Carolina now surging, the Packers find themselves with a tremendous uphill battle to make the playoffs with their gutted roster.

It’s difficult to put my finger on the reason why, but I’m less stung by this series of events than I would normally be. It might be because I’m a generally happier person than I’ve been in the past, and that I’ve somehow become conditioned to put the relative unimportance of sporting outcomes into perspective, but I don’t think that’s the primary explanation.

I think the biggest reason that I’m comparatively OK with everything is that it’s hard to pinpoint anything the Packers organization should’ve done differently to avoid the dark place they now find themselves in. The roster was well-assembled at opening day, there haven’t been any glaringly erroneous coaching decisions, and the players are discernibly giving it their all.

You could gripe about the lack of an adequate back-up quarterback, but those don’t exactly grow on trees. Some teams don’t even have adequate starters — there’s not this well of men who are physically capable of this immensely challenging job. Furthermore, we don’t know how Seneca Wallace would’ve done if he finished the game after his full week of practice and Scott Tolzien was pretty serviceable considering his lack of preparation in both practice and the offseason.

And, yeah, I’d certainly prefer if the secondary were better but two of the three big plays they gave up yesterday were a fluky ricochet and a ball that got lost in the sun. I’m not quite sure how you can guard against stuff like that from happening.

To a pretty reasonable extent, therefore, the Packers have controlled the things they’re able to. They’ve had some enormously bad luck, and getting devastated about those sorts of things doesn’t seem like a very smart way to go through life.

All in all, it was an outstanding weekend with my Dad and our friends Rob, Max, Kevin, Kevin, Blake, Ryan, Patrick, and Ryan. To the extent that it was in our control, it was perfect.


November 8, 2013

Week 10 NFL Picks + 10 Thoughts About Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin

Dolphins

In no particular order, these are my thoughts about all this Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin stuff:

1) Jonathan Martin apparently did not pan out very well as a football player for Miami. This obviously does not mean that he somehow deserves to be tormented and extorted by his teammates, but this would be the primary reason for that to be the case, as opposed to anything about his reserved temperament or elite education.

2) The idea that he should have responded to any purported bullying “like a man” by punching Richie Incognito in the teeth is completely moronic. (Hi, Mike Ditka.) Are we really supposed to believe that he would have garnered more respect if he had thrown a punch and subsequently gotten the shit kicked out of him? Or, what if the violence escalated and a gun came into play?

3) Noting again that advocating violence is aggressively stupid, there are indeed ways to directly handle these situations “like a man”. None of us know what really went on behind the scenes, and this may have happened, but suppose that Martin pulled Incognito aside and said to him, “I don’t think that this is your intent, but the way that you treat me makes me feel like I am not a valued member of this team. We all want to protect the quarterback and win games. Knowing myself as only I do, the buttons that you are pushing are not going to have an optimal effect.”

This could have been a private, one-on-one interaction before also trying to enlist the support of sympathetic allies on the team (if there were any) in a respectful, but confident manner. Again: we have not heard one way or another whether Martin tried this or not. If he did, and it failed, then everything is even more troublesome.

4) It seems like extortion of exorbitant amounts of money is commonplace in the NFL. Dez Bryant had to pick up a $55,000 tab. Rich Gannon and Nate Jackson have talked about similar, but less egregious, occurrences. This practice obviously need to end, and this situation will probably be the Bountygate-like catalyst for that.

5) After everything that’s come out in the past week, I wouldn’t be too psyched to go to Vegas with Richie Incognito, either. It would probably be one of my least favorite things to do. He seems like the type of person who would spend 72 consecutive hours force feeding you jager bombs and cocaine, get you kicked out of multiple establishments, and coerce you into getting sleeves of regrettable tattoos.

6) The extent to which the Dolphins players have come out in favor of Richie Incognito, and therefore tacitly against Jonathan Martin, has been astounding. They haven’t even been bland or PC about it. They’re all in. This means that this situation is either something like Penn State where an entire micro-society is bonkers and has no perspective on right vs. wrong, or that perhaps there are still layers to this story yet to be explored.

7) As Tim Keown wrote, Richie Incognito’s characteristic brand of sociopathy is a valued commodity in NFL huddles. Just as Martin’s subpar play is probably the reason he was picked on, Incognito’s violent, uncaring tendencies are why his teammates want him with them in the trenches.

8) With this story and the health issues of John Fox and Gary Kubiak fresh in mind, working in the NFL in any capacity seems like it would be a wholly miserable existence. Why on Earth would anybody want this shit to be his career?

9) I have a much bigger problem with DUIs and domestic violence — from football players, as well as the general population — than anything specific that Incognito has been accused of so far with regards to Martin. Like, isn’t the fact that he allegedly rubbed his dick on a woman at a team golf outing, and the accusation that team officials did nothing about it, the single most concerning detail we’ve heard so far? It is very odd where we decide to focus our collective outrage.

10) The biggest blame in all of this lies institutionally with Dolphins leadership. Without taking more of your time hashing specifics, they were aware that Incognito behaved like a criminally rabid animal for a sustained period of time and took no corrective action because they needed his help to (not) win (that many) football games.

So that was fun! On to the picks:

***

Just kidding, I’m gonna ask you for money again first. I’ve been stalled for a few weeks at $3,305. With the Will’s Northwoods Inn keg party (I think happening next Friday), I should be able to at least get to around $3,500. I am within striking distance of my $5,000 goal — also the amount at which I will ‘Office Space’ my printer — and would greatly appreciate any and all support towards getting there. Again: My PayPal is email hidden; JavaScript is required and you can email me if you would prefer to mail me a check.

It takes a lot of work to make these, so if you enjoy them please consider contributing to their continual existence.

***

Ok, really this time:

Ryan
Last Week: 6-7
This Week (so far): 0-1
Season: 68-62-3

Asif
Last Week: 5-8
This Week (so far): 0-1
Season: 72-58-3

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-13)

Ryan: Tied with the Dolphins and Chargers, the Titans are just a half-game behind the Jets for the sixth-seed in the AFC. Jake Locker is 4-2 as a starter this season, and he ranks 11th in Total QBR — ahead of people like Tony Romo, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson. Considering that they really should have beaten Houston in Week 2, Tennessee is a little bit better than people realize.

Everybody is well-aware of how terrible the Jaguars are, but this line still doesn’t seem high enough to even consider picking them. Titans cover.

Asif: Vintage Chris Johnson second straight week, here we go. Titans cover.

Philadelphia @ Green Bay (-2.5)

Ryan: I had honestly forgotten how life-altering a particularly brutal football loss can be until Monday night. It is absurd how much of my personal happiness — and even self-esteem — is tied up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but being aware of that oddity doesn’t mean that it is something I can control. When he went down, no Seneca Wallace Uncle Rico dropback ever felt like it would go for positive yardage, and the defense wore down and started missing an abominable amount of tackles, my mood sunk like the Titanic. I had to take a two-hour nap in the middle of Tuesday afternoon because I had just no hope of functioning like a real human being.

I don’t think Seneca Wallace will be as bad this week — how could he be? — but I would genuinely and sincerely feel better about the team’s chances if Tim Tebow or Brett Favre were starting on Sunday. That barometer represents the ultimate vote of no-confidence in your quarterback, and it is one that Packers fans have been supremely spoiled in largely avoiding the past 20 years. (Obvious caveat: I’m talking about 2013 Brett Favre, not any previous incarnation.)

Clay Matthews should provide a jolt to the D, but it was alarming that they were gashed up and down the field by a McCown brother. As a whole, the unit ranks 28th in the NFL in takeaways — they simply must force more turnovers.

Vegas clearly thinks that Nick Foles’ explosion on Sunday was an aberration, and I’m inclined to agree, but have some real structural concerns about the Packers headed into this week. Eagles cover.

Asif: The Packers offense looked abysmal without Aaron Rodgers last week. Eagles cover.

Continue reading Week 10 NFL Picks + 10…


November 7, 2013

Quick Pick: Washington @ Minnesota

Washington (-2) @ Minnesota

Ryan: More and more, the move is just to avoid watching these Thursday night games entirely. If we know they are going to be sloppy sludge fests because players’ bodies haven’t fully recovered from the week before, and watch them anyways, then we are complicit and can’t really complain.

I have a theory that I’ll explore in depth at some point, but I really think that the NBA is going to syphon off a lot of market share from the NFL. Even though there are a million games and the regular season is of very little importance, I’d much rather watch Clippers-Heat than this garbage. Even just a year or two ago, this would have seemed unfathomable to me.

Redskins cover, but who really cares.

Asif: Agree totally, these Thursday games are abysmal, and I don’t see a reason for them to exist. Redskins cover.


Twitter @sportsrapport

    It's crazy when everyone on Twitter is watching a game you have no access to because you're stuck in never-ending LSU traffic.36 minutes ago
    This meatball stew at an LSU tailgate is so big it had to be stirred with a canoe paddle. http://t.co/DhU6zqhfx09 hours ago
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