I do the resolutions thing, and it's your task to see which ones are legit. Or, you know, just click and giggle.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Halfway through the third quarter tonight in Utah in a game that the Sixers needed to avoid what will wind up being a pretty awful road trip, second year man and future franchise hope Thaddeus Young got the ball in the open floor with his team down eight. Driving down the left side with men on his wings, he faked a behind the back pass, drawing the defender to the passing lane, then brought the ball back and windmilled it for the jam. It was a "Woo!" moment, a basket of startling body control, and something I've never seen before; pure highlight candy. The reaction shot of the Sixers bench saw the reserves erupting.
And two second later, the Jazz had thrown the long outlet pass to the frontcourt to Deron Williams, who worked Andre Miller into the air for his fourth foul, hit the shot and the free throw. Boom, door closed, nine point lead and the Sixers without their assist guy. I'm still watching the game as I'm writing this, but I'm confident that the Jazz won't trail again in this game -- and no, it's not because my team will have quit. It's just that the Jazz win games like this, year in and year out, by simply taking your heart with execution.
It's not enough to get them in to the true upper echelon in the Association. Heck, the Spurs do the same thing with dramatically better bigs, and when they face a team with a truly good defense, rather than just a willing one, they aren't going to score enough unless Deron Williams does something spectacular. But in terms of simply knowing how to play the game and manage momentum, they get everything from their talent. And to think that Jerry Sloan has never won Coach of the Year...
Who will get the top spot? Well, I went strictly on a dollar for dollar basis, though I'm not sure how much the top guy took off the table. And if I'm really lucky, one of these fine entities will sue and really drive the ad revenue up...
Final record ATS: 133-112-7, with an 11-5 final week.
Bankroll if I had bet every game the same, with the standard 50/55 win/loss sportsbook vig: Up $490 for the year.
One fantasy football championship in head to head, one fifth place finish in another head to head, and a particularly bitter fourth place finish in the points league, which is the very worst place to finish, given that you make no money and have a fairly crappy draft position next year.
It's hard to be too bitter, given that it was Cowboy Elimination Day...
So this was the inspiring Brett Favre pre-game speech to his Jets teammates in a game they had to win to get into the playoffs. I'll set it off in text and provide the video.
"Hey, if it works out, it works out. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I love you guys."Seriously, if you were one of his teammates at that moment, wouldn't you be tempted to just clothesline his ass and give yourself a chance to win without some weepy has-been more or less making sure that you had No Chance?
I realize it's all about Queen Brettmadala, but... um... actually... IT'S FREAKING NOT. Your love for a bunch of people who have been carrying your ass all year is not relevant. Your seeming ambivalence or lack of confidence that your contribution to the game will be anything beyond random...
Well, I'm thinking those FAVRE jerseys can be had for very, very little. And that J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fans is home beating the wife, dog, sister or cousin...
Today's list focuses on what true Eagle Fans are thankful for, and no, it's not another year of the Don N' Andy Show.
It's the simple joy of ending the Cowboys season, honestly.
That doesn't make the year a success -- they'd need at least one more win next week to even think about that, and it's going to take a lot to make me forget Cincinnati, Baltimore or Washington.
But that doesn't take away from the greatness of Cowboy Elimination Day, especially when it was coupled with Patriot Elimination Day, and Favre Elimination Day...
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saw "The Spirit" with friends this evening, and Oh, My.
If you're looking for anything beyond visual spectacle and Good Dumb Fun, stay very far away.
On the other hand, if you can handle Eva Mendes and her absolutely perfect ass, so much so that it becomes a plot device... or Scarlett Johansson's magnificent chest, complete with loads of fetishy fun in Geisha, Nazi and Wicked Scientist costuming... and that's not even counting a very large amount of emergency back-up poon from at least three other A-level hotties... well, to quote the movie, "They are just equipped."
Oh, and it doesn't hurt that Samuel L. Jackson is having a very good time, and the fantastically funny "AND THAT'S FOR MUFFIN!" vengeance line from the hero will stay with me for, oh, the rest of my life as What To Say Before A Futile Attack.
Anyway, go see it, on a screen worthy of Mendes and Johansson's, um, talent. Yes, that's right, talent...
All over my Internets tonight, nothing but Human Cock Fighting. And heavy on the cock, really.
I get that people like to see people beat the crap out of each other; hence the big "Woo!" noises when a safety lays out a receiver, independent of the outcome of the play. I'm not above watching a good boxing match myself, especially if the fighters either have some personal venom in it, or there's some historical merit to the proceedings: Ali-Frazier fascinates me on a near Trickster Mythos level.
But really, are we all so immune to the charms of The Association (or non-March college basketball) that we're rather watch two guys in shorts wrap their legs around each other's necks until one of them says Hello, Sailor?
Tonight in hoop, there were two double-overtime classics, with the Spurs outlasting the very game Grizzlies and the Rockets taking out the Jazz. The Grizz took the elder statesmen of the league to the limit at home, with rookie OJ Mayo looking like the game's next great player; only a very hot Tony Parker could save them. The Rockets rode Ron Artest (!) to 28 points to win despite missing Tracy McGrady; the Jazz are missing Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Ronnie Milsap.
This, from a league with perhaps the biggest talent base of any sport outside of soccer, and the only thing I've done in the last two paragraphs is make 70% of the readers bent that I'm talking hoop again.
But anyway, back to the human cockfightery.
There's something going on here, and it's not just the Nature Abhors A Vacuum moment of boxing opening the door wide for a competing thrill. It's that, with the utter abandonment of the playing field by pro wrestling for safe bloodsport thrills, and the increasing pussification of the NFL (don't hit the quarterback in 40% of his body, don't pull the ball carrier down from behind by grabbing inside the shoulder pads from behind, don't hit the ball carrier out of bounds even if it's damn near impossible to pull up on the off chance that he cuts it back inside)...
Plus, with the Web's always-on and always-available fountain of video goodness that used to make us feel bad, until seeing so very much of it made us all lose whatever shame we still had around...
Well, maybe I'm just old school for not being more into Human Cockfighting. But, um, still. This is, really, what you want to watch?
Just because the Yankees are spending like drunken sailors in a time when everyone else in baseball is thinking about cutting the Big League Chew back to Bush League Gristle, does not mean anyone outside of your perverted fan base likes you.
Or feels sorry for you, since you have to compete with those Big Bad Meanies with Money.
You see, your team... isn't poor. By any measure of the imagination.
Nor are your players Lovable Downmarket Guys Who Just Try Real, Real Hard. In that, well, damn near every team in baseball has those guys. It goes along with the ever-increasing whiteness. (Shh. Baseball's talent is getting better and better and better and so long as we keep saying this and ignore the fact that the truly explosive guys are getting few and far between, along with stolen bases, triples, and defensive highlights that are really all that breathtaking, WE'LL ALL BE JUST FINE.)
Nor is it, you know, possible to see your team play at home for the sake of those of us who enjoy going to different parks for less than a mortgage payment. Though that experience, to be fair, is less than appealing, given that you're surrounded by Red Sox Fans. Just like at damn near every other stadium in the country, really. It's so much fun to be in your world! Really it is!
So, um, the Yankees making you feel all inadequate about your $150 million-plus payroll? I can see some upside to it. Maybe you'll jack up your seat prices again so I can hear your fans cry even more about it. Perhaps you'll go make some panicky free agent signing of your own -- I bet Manny would come back if you only paid him so much that he'd never, ever quit on you like a dog. Again. He can play first since David Ortiz is aging very fast, with nagging and persistent injuries. (Gosh, it'd be a shame if people, you know, drew conclusions from that sort of thing.)
And in the best-case scenario, the Rays win the division again, and your little Coke and Pepsi border war ends up in two 85-win clubs that miss the wild card to Central Division Team Runner-Up. (Yes, I know, the World Series ratings would suck, because it's your world. But only, shh, when you're winning...)
Because, dammit, with the Eagles still technically alive for the playoffs, we could all use a stinky French frog to take us away from all this. Or, for that matter, a slow-thinking weapons expert, or some form of Ultimate Persuasion. (And if you are looking up Dyna Pink's skirt, you are special blogfriend Tracer Bullet. Qu'elle pain!)
Consider this my late Christmas present to all you lovely people.
Also, that I might not have your best interests at heart. (I keed, I keed. Joe Newman, the single person behind this amazing Zappa-esque weirdness, fills my heart with blood.)
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Yes, it's the return of the quick hitting thoughts based on nothing more than what's been floating around my head while I'm not really doing The Job, since I'm traveling. But here goes anyway.
1) Coach Has To Go: When you actively consider the bright side of any team's loss being that Coach might get canned from the loss.
So any Eagles Fan who is keeping Andy's Done in the back of their mind in the lead-up to tomorrow's Eagles-Cowboys game... yes, this is for you. Lions Fan who want to be sure that Coach Rod is on his face for failing to avoid Immortality, here it is. Cowboys Fan who dreams of Coach Wade taking the Switzer Bullet (um, it'd help if they had someone with a pulse, but really, your problem is your owner), same story.
And if you're really rooting for the loss, without any kind of fantasy football payoff or against the spread bet coinciding... well, let's just say that you're beyond the pale with Old Coach. You might start hoping he never existed, or something.
2) If you root for the team with the best record in the league and pule about the officiating in any game that isn't an elimination playoff experience, you are officially a Douchebag For Now And Ever, World Without End, Amen. (And yes, I'm talking about the Bad Tooth again, who couldn't take the Christmas present to a struggling nation that is his team losing. Though to be fair, I liked the follow-up loss to the Warriors -- the Warriors! -- more, just because the Lake Show's fans are also not far from Eternal Bag Status.)
3) With Randy Johnson's one-year deal to get his 300th win and then go away in San Francisco, can we officially designate the Giants as the Vienna of MLB? In that it's a pretty place to visit, history happened here, but it's otherwise irrelevant to, you know, actually important things happening?
Realistically, there are two uniform possibilities for The Unit to make his 300th look like anything but a stagger over the finish line: Seattle and Arizona. Given that he went 11-10 with a tolerable 3.91 ERA last year in the desert, and needs just five more wins to get the green jacket... seriously, Arizona, why couldn't you be the one to get this done? He's going to look silly doing this in SF. Well, OK, not as silly as Barry Zito continuing to work for the worst contract in MLB history, but close.
Oh, and SF? One year for $8 million here is a lot of cheddar in a bad economy for a guy who wont' really sell a lot of seats for you in his chase for the record. Why not, you know, buy a farm system that actually produces a tolerable position player instead?
4) Sammy Sosa says he's not ready to retire from MLB. Um, can someone tell these roid rock heads that if no one is giving you a job, your reluctance to retire doesn't much matter? I really don't want to have to write the same jokes again, and you don't want to read them...
5) A Houston hospital is changing its name from the Roger Clemens Institute for Sports Medicine to the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute.
In its statement, the hospital said the decision to take off Clemens' name was made "to better reflect its commitment to all sports and athletes" and that "the move reflects the desire to promote the broad range of sports medicine services and programs offered by Memorial Hermann."
In that shooting a cheating sack of crap who is well on his way to becoming the pitching equivalent of Pete Rose in terms of Hall of Fame estrangement in the ass with roids is, admittedly, a *very* narrow service...
Friday, December 26, 2008
Let us not let these brave stalwarts of suck to pass into the history books without note, my friends. (Oh, and don't think that the lack of Eagles on this list is because I still have some faith that they'll be playing games next week. It's just that I won't miss them. And neither will anyone else in town.)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
A special holiday link for your gift giving perusal, and a slam dunk for the Pats fan on your list. Of course, this assumes that you have a Pats fan on your list, or should...
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The Week 17 picks are, perhaps, the hardest ones to write for the year. You get to do them in the midst of your Christmas routines, which is to say, when you barely have enough time to wipe, let alone think. Your money will be on teams with nothing to play for. The temptation to just take a knee and come out firing on Wild Card Weekend is strong.
But let's face it. People boo teams that just take a knee with money on the table, and they should. Play the game, not the clock.
I mean, so what if my 15 games over .500 record over 16 weeks just gets me a few hundred bucks from the sportsbook? It's the principle of the thing, the dream that my year's record will be something I can feel good about, along with the warm feeling you always get when you beat the odds and take the money home. So let's buckle the chinstrap, pay back the bastards that ruined us in head to head fantasy football leagues, and go to the FREE NFL Picks! (Lines provided by BetUs.com.)
New York at MINNESOTA (-6.5)
With last week's lucky but good overtime win over the Panthers, the G-Men clinched home field through the playoffs, and have little to play for this week. Some folks will think that Tom Coughlin will emulate last year's winning play against the Patriots by playing his starters, but I'm not one of them. Last year's team was an underdog that was in a historical situation of trying to knock off an undefeated team; this year's has everything it needs already, along with banged-up running backs that it will absolutely need to win in January.
Meanwhile, the Vikings, thanks to the Packers El Foldo on MNF (and what a fine year the brain trust in Wisconsin is having), are still at risk for losing the division and home field next week. At home, on a fast track, they'll get it done, provided Tavaris Jackson doesn't put it on the ground... and seeing how he's fairly nimble and the Giants won't care enough, that's not going to happen. Plus, any game where you might see David Carr is a game the G-Men aren't winning.
Vikings 27, Giants 17
Chicago at HOUSTON (-3.5)
Not sure why the home team is getting the favorite status here; you'd think that the Bears would be attracting more money, especially since they've got something to play for. The Texans also don't really create confidence after failing to take out the Raiders in Oakland last week. You can even make the Team Of Destiny talk happen for the Bears, since their season was saved on a chip-shot field goal block.
But what's tipping me to Houston is (a) the fact that the Bears have no one that can stay with Andre Johnson, which means the Texans will be at least 100 yards better on Sunday than they were last week against Nmandi Asomugha, (b) Kyle Orton suddenly looks like Kyle Orton again, (c) Matt Forte looks run down, and (d) home teams with the short MNF week are never a good idea the next week on the road. Even when they have something to play for.
Texans 27, Bears 20
Carolina at NEW ORLEANS (+3.5)
Will the #2 seed in the NFC really go into the post-season with back-to-back losses against a team with nothing to play for? Yes, if only because the Saints will be fired up to try to get Drew Brees his single-season passing yardage record. Also, it's high time that Jake Delhomme gave the world a crap game to scare money away from them. Also, the Saints are OK at running the ball in the red zone now that they've moved away from the big names (Reggie Bush, Deuce McCallister) and to the people who can actually do it (Pierre Thomas, Aaron Stecker).
A final aside: the Panthers have something to play for, but the NFC South home teams are 11-0 this year. So when this pick goes bad, as nearly all of my Panther picks do, you won't be surprised, right?
Saints 31, Panthers 24
St Louis at ATLANTA (-14.5)
A huge number to put down for a team that might not have too much to play for, but this Rams team is so close to the Quitting Line, they might not even line up for the second half. Expect Michael Turner to make his claim for the #1 RB in fantasy football after another 150 to 200 yard day here, and for the Falcons defense to reward Week 17 players with their waiver wire grabs. Heck, the Falcons might even wind up winning their division and the #2 seed. For a franchise that looked done for a decade from the Vick Debacle, it's beyond amazing.
The only chance the Rams have of covering this number is if Stephen Jackson cares and plays four quarters, which is to say, if he does something he didn't do in the entire year. The Rams lose their 10th straight with this one, which should cure the world of any inclination to hire Jim Haslett in a football-related capacity.
Falcons 31, Rams 10
KANSAS CITY (+3.5) at Cincinnati
This, in a nutshell, is why people hate fantasy football: the fact that an ungodly amount of money is going to be swayed by the likes of Tyler Thigpen and Cedric Benson. I like the road team to cover here, if only to continue the Ohio Misery. Also, the Bengals ran Benson 40 times last week, and that kind of workload kills good backs. What it does to a piece of crap like Benson won't be pretty to watch. (And yes, if you're betting this game hard, it's more Gambling Anonymous grist.)
Chiefs 24, Bengals 20
OAKLAND (+13.5) at Tampa Bay
Courage, gamblers. The Bucs have everything to play for. The Raiders are a terrible team with no functioning coach. The Bucs are in a good division; the Raiders, a terrible one. So why am I thinking the cover will happen? Well, the Bucs have been terrible against the run for weeks now, ever since Monte Kiffin told them that he wouldn't be back next year. Jeff Garcia never puts up a ton of points, and his best WR (Antonio Bryant) will go poof in this game against Asomugha. JeMarcus Russell has actually been tolerable for the past month, and Zach Miller is the best TE in the NFL that no one knows about. I'm not really expecting the upset here, but a cover is very possible.
Bucs 24, Raiders 17
Detroit at GREEN BAY (-9.5)
Independent of where you come out on the rooting side of a Winless Lions Season, the simple fact is that this Packers team is a *lot* better, and playing at home against a road dome team. Aaron Rodgers wants to make sure he has this job next year; the only loss of the year to the Lions is not the way to write the story of how 2008 really wasn't his fault. (And if you look at the 2007 13-3 Packers team, it's clear that they used up all of the 2008 team's luck. That, and it's cornerbacks. Someone needs to tell Al Harris about that fork in his ass.) Calvin Johnson being hurt doesn't help much, either.
Look for the Pack to get up early, probably on a Detroit turnover (the defense is quite good at scoring points, which makes their won-loss record even more inexplicable), and for the home team to feed Ryan Grant a lot in the second half. When it's all over, we'll finally be able to put away that Tampa '70s B-roll footage, too. Someone please find those guys and let them know that the media won't be plaguing them any more...
Packers 34, Lions 16
Tennessee at INDIANAPOLIS (+3.5)
Jim Sorgi! Vince Young! A bunch of running backs that normally return kicks! The payoff game for my cursed ownership of Anthony Gonzalez! Can you just smell the disappointment coming out of the NFL telecast booths that this game will mean squadouche, and that both coaches should play it accordingly?
Neither team can change their seeding in this; they can only get hurt and/or tip their hands for a possible second or third round matchup. So we should get a game that resembles August, and in that kind of contest, you're insane to put money down. Or to bet the road team. (The Colts also get the Chargers-Broncos survivor next week, so they're going to be very interested in making sure they're comfy in the hot tub on Sunday night.)
Colts 24, Titans 20
Cleveland at PITTSBURGH (-10.5)
I realize that every time I bet the Steelers and they lose, it's all my fault. But for heaven's sake, I like this number for the home team just on defense. Cleveland just went scoreless against the Bengals, for heaven's sake. And they are starting Bruce Gradkowski. On the road. The over-under in this game should be for the defensive team's points.
If you were Romeo Crennel, would you even show up for this game? You could get the jump on the airport traffic, and have the same impact on the contest, by just putting up a cardboard cutout and having some assistant move it with the line of scrimmage? You'd be warmer.
Steelers 31, Browns 6
NEW ENGLAND (-6.5) at Buffalo
Oh, the puling. You think Patriots Fan has been insufferable, folks? Just wait until his precious little 11-win team that played a kitten-soft schedule doesn't get their ticket punched for the postseason. I'd normally feel some sympathy, given their injury woes and the simple fact that more Chargers/Broncos football is really not good for anyone... but frankly, Pats Fans, your tears are SO YUMMY. (And this game will be closer than anticipated, just because after last week's "contest" against Arizona, they'll need some adjustment time for playing a team that cares a little. Fred Jackson also wants this job next year.)
Patriots 27, Bills 20
Seattle at Arizona (-6.5)
Crappy Redemption Time for the Cardinals, who want to avoid the monicker of Worst Team Ever to Host A Playoff Game. They get the Seahawks, who won their going-away game for Walrus Holmgren in the home snow against the reeling Jets. This week, the Cardinals will "muscle" up and Holmgren will lay down. The Cards will be up enough to bench their "stars" late, just to put the final dagger in the back of fantasy football owners. I'm angry just thinking about it.
Cardinals 31, Seahawks 20
Washington at SAN FRANCISCO (-3.5)
Two teams with nothing to play for, one team with a coach that will be there next year. The 'Skins come off a satisfying spoiler win against the Eagles at home, while the Niners pulled out a late win in St. Louis. So long as Shaun Hill doesn't turn the ball over, I like the home team to win a game that history will little note, nor long remember.
Niners 24, Redskins 13
MIAMI (+2.5) at New York
Oh, J-E-T-S- JETS JETS JETS Fan. The Favre Era hasn't gone well for you, has it? And to think, no one could have seen this coming, that a 40-year-old turnover machine with a terrible recent playoff record might (a) fade down the stretch, (b) annoy you with retirement talk, and (c) get recognition that he doesn't deserve (a Pro Bowl berth, when he should have lost his job).
The Dolphins have some issues here; they are a warm-weather team on the road, and they have less talent than the high-salaried home team. But they also have the better QB in Prodigal Son Chad Pennington, who will manage the game, hand off to their talented running backs, not make the killer mistake and win the game. The bitterness from J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan should be something to see, and the booing will be legendary.
Dolphins 24, Jets 20
Dallas at PHILADELPHIA (-1.5)
So here's how this works. Since this is the 4:15 game, the teams will know if the game means anything, depending on the outcome of Bears-Texans and Raiders-Bucs. However, this won't matter at all to the outcome of the game, because it's that kind of game; hell, I expect the Eagles to be *better* if the game is meaningless, since that's the kind of perfect Screw Your Draft and Keep Your Cancerous Coach outcome.
Besides, it's a pressure situation, and I think we've proven what Tony Romo does in that kind of situation. (And with Marion Barber and Jason Witten still banged up, the Eagles defense will be much better than last time, and it'll be cold and nasty to keep the points down.)
Oh, and here's a fun fact: 1996 was the last year in which Dallas had a winning record in December. From hell's heart, I stab at thee, Cowboy Fan.
Eagles 24, Cowboys 20
Jacksonville at BALTIMORE (-12.5)
A lot of points to lay on a home team with a rookie QB, but the Jaguars are without top corner Rasheed Mathis, and the Ravens need the game for the playoffs. Baltimore might be a bit of a paper tiger, with an 0-5 record against playoff teams... but the Jags aren't a playoff team, and the Ravens are. Look for 200+ yards rushing and a defensive score, as David Garrard's season of misery finally ends.
Ravens 24, Jaguars 10
Denver at SAN DIEGO (-8.5)
The final game of the season is a play-in game for the right to host the Colts, and the Chargers will win this one easily, just to suck in a lot of money on people thinking they are (finally) on a roll.
If you are tempted to take the Broncos just because the Chargers are that kind of awful tease, consider this: Tatum Bell is the last healthy Denver running back. Don't expect much.
In a shootout (because Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal will produce), look for Jay Cutler to turn the ball over more, and for LaDanian Tomlinson to make tens of millions of fantasy football owners curse bitterly as he finally has a breakout game in 2008.
Chargers 34, Broncos 24
Last week: 9-7
Year to date: 122-107-7
Series of shots of various streets and buildings in the town of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The streets are deserted, and snow is falling.
It is Christmas Eve. Over the above scenes we hear voices praying:
SHOOTER'S VOICE: Dear God, I promise to stop strangling hobos if you fire Andy Reid. Amen.
BULLET'S VOICE: Joseph, Jesus and Mary. All would do better than Andy Reid. Take him home, dear God.
MRS. REID's VOICE: Help him finally eat so much that he explodes tonight.
GARRETT REID'S VOICE: He never makes the right decision, God. That's my pop!
BRITT REID'S VOICE: I need more drugs, dear Lord. Fill up my anus with drugs. Oh, and kill Dad, since I can't seem to do it myself.
DONOVAN MCNABB'S VOICE: Please God, give me some wideouts that actually catch the ball when I throw it to them. Oh, and if you want to lose Fatso, that works for me.
BRIAN WESTBROOK'S VOICE: Please, God. Something is wrong with my legs. Help.
ZUZU'S VOICE: I'm just a fictional character that's designed to make you cry like a 12-year-old girl, and even I know he sucks eggs. Please keep Andy away from all of us, God.
CAMERA PULLS UP from the Reid home and travels up through the sky until it is above the falling snow and moving slowly towards a sky full of stars. As the camera stops we hear the following heavenly voices speaking, and as each voice is heard, the various stars twinkle brightly.
JEROME BROWN'S VOICE: Whassup, Joseph. Tell me again why I haven't gotten wings yet?
JOSEPH'S VOICE: Jerome, we've talked about this. No matter what Eagle Fan thinks, you don't get into heaven just from being really good at football and dying for no good reason.
JEROME'S VOICE: That's cold.
JOSEPH'S VOICE: Looks like we'll have to send someone down -- a lot of people are asking to be rid of a man named Andy Reid.
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: Andy Reid. Yes, tonight's only his 40th crucial night in the last three years. You're right, we'll have to send someone down immediately. Whose turn is it?
JOSEPH's VOICE: Well, that's just the thing. No one wants to go. I've asked everyone, and no one wants to have a thing to do with him anymore. You'd think that, with all of us being beatific beings, we'd be on this as part of our duty, but no one wants to get near him, on the off chance that failure and fatness is contagious.
JEROME'S VOICE: Dammit, I know what all a y'all are going to do. Send the brother on the fringe. Like I want any part of his fat ass.
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: Jerome, please. You're fairly large yourself.
JEROME'S VOICE: Not like him! For God's sake, I could move! I got quarterback pressure! I was absolute misery on screens!
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: Yeah, but look at you now. Getting that Eternal 15 and then some, aren't you?
JEROME'S VOICE: Screw you, whitey.
JOSEPH'S VOICE: Jerome, look, we'll make this simple. At exactly ten-forty-five PM tonight, local time, Andy Reid will be thinking seriously of throwing away God's greatest gift.
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: Mostly when the outraged townspeople throw him off a bridge.
JEROME'S VOICE: Dude, have you watched this man work or eat in the last five years? There's nothing new to this thought process.
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: Jerome's got a point.
JOSEPH'S VOICE: Look, do the right thing, you get your wings.
JEROME'S VOICE: Finally. It's worse than Canton up here.
CAMERA MOVES TO REID HOUSE, FADES INTO CLOSE SHOT OF ANDY REID
ANDY: God... God... Dear Father in Heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and you can hear me, show me some more hot wings. I'm fresh out.
JEROME enters, breaking down the door with a quick shoulder burst.
ANDY: Wow. You're big, fast, strong. I'd hire you in a second to play defensive line for my team. But you're too big. I only like lineman that are built like linebackers. Small linebackers.
JEROME slaps ANDY hard.
ANDY: I'm sorry. That was my fault.
JEROME: Shut up.
ANDY: I've got to do better.
JEROME: You want me to slap you again?
JEROME (visibly disgusted): Look, you fat tub of goo, I've watched you for the last ten years, along with everyone else in Philadelphia.
JEROME: I'm your guardian angel. And not in a faggy New York way, either. I'm more dead than your playoff hopes.
ANDY: Well, you look like the kind of angel I'd get.
JEROME slaps ANDY hard.
ANDY: I'm sorry. That was my fault.
JEROME: Anyway, no one else wanted to be seen with your sorry ass, and the Turk in the Sky is going to give me my wings if I turn you around.
ANDY: OK. You wouldn't happen to have any wings on you, would you? I'd also take Krispy Kreme.
JEROME slaps ANDY hard.
ANDY: I'm sorry. That was my fault.
JEROME: S'alright. I've had worse days. (thinking) So, you think eating yourself to death, chronically mismanaging your talent, blowing every close game and becoming the division's bitch would... aw, hell, I don't know why you'd do that.
ANDY (dejectedly): Oh, I don't know. I guess you're right. I suppose it would have been better if I'd never been born at all.
JEROME: Done and done. (Lowers himself into a three point stance, then pops out and flattens ANDY like a pancake.)
ANDY (bleeding): Why did you do that?
JEROME: My hands were starting to hurt from slapping you. Anyway, you've never been born. You don't exist. You haven't a care in the world.
ANDY feels his stomach as JEROME talks.
JEROME: No worries - no obligations - no Philadelphia sports fans and media to placate with the same cliches that you've said a thousand times before. No kids in prison. No nationally televised Terrell Owens de-pantsing in a few days.
ANDY: Look at my feet!
JEROME: What about them?
ANDY: I can see them!
JEROME: Yeah, whatever.
WIPE TO: ANDY and JEROME outside a local sports bar. ANDY is hesitant to go inside.
JEROME: What's the matter?
ANDY (reluctant): Well, if I go in there, they'll throw rotted fruits and vegetables at me. And I'm kind of liking this ability to see my feet.
JEROME: Just get your ass in there.
WIPE TO: INTERIOR SPORTS BAR
JEROME: That's all right, no one's going to mess with you if you are with me.
CROWDS OF SPECTATORS: Holy crap, it's Jerome Brown!
JEROME: See? Now sit your less-fat ass down.
ANDY: But won't the bartender spit in my drink in front of me?
JEROME: Why would he do that? You never coached the Eagles. You never lost three straight NFC Championship Games, two of them at home. You never traded for Lorenzo Booker, drafted Jerome McDougle or Freddie Mitchell in the first round, and reached for Kevin Kolb to create a constant swirl of speculation around your star quarterback.
ANDY: Damn, I sucked.
JEROME: I'd go on, but I don't have to. You didn't exist.
ANDY: How did they do without me?
JEROME: Hell if I know. Ask the bartender. I just got the last ten years of my afterlife back.
ANDY: OK. Hey, bartender, how have the Eagles done in the last 10 years?
BARTENDER: Don't ask me. I'm a Bengals fan.
BARTENDER: Sure, ever since the Eagles passed on Donovan McNabb for Ricky Williams. What that man has done in the Natti, with those wideouts, is just amazing. And to think, they could have been stuck with Akili Smith.
BARTENDER: Well, I'm from Ohio originally anyway, so I might not be the best guy to ask. Why don't you talk to that guy down there, in the WAYNE jersey. His name's Doug.
ANDY: Thanks. (Slides over.) Hey, the bartender tells me you're an Eagles fan. This will sound odd, but can you tell me how the team has done in the past 10 years?
DOUG (shrugging): Well, Ricky Williams and Jim Haslett looked like they'd be good for a little while, especially when they added the best wideout in the history of the franchise in 2001 with my man Reggie. But they were never able to find a decent QB after passing on McNabb, and after Ricky got caught with the weed, they really fell apart for a while there. I'm still amazed that Ryan Leaf took the Cowboys to a playoff game.
ANDY (grinning): Gee, that's too bad.
DOUG: But then we got Troy Polamalu in 2003, and watching him and Brian Dawkins kill people for the last five years has made me happier than you could imagine. And I'm really excited about when Felix Jones comes back next year.
DOUG: It's just football, you know? The Eagles go up and down, but so long as it seems like there's a plan and positive growth, I'm a pretty happy fan. And now that we've got Coach Spagnuolo and this local kid Joe Flacco, I really think we're going to be good next year. Besides, the rest of the division is made up of big money fools.
JEROME: Heard enough?
ANDY: I think so. Let's get out of here.
WIPE TO REID'S HOUSE
JEROME: So, that's what the world would have been like without you. The Eagles never sign Terrell Owens, because they have Reggie Wayne. They still haven't won a Super Bowl, but they also haven't had the ridiculous drama of the past few years. And I'm still dead, which really sucks.
ANDY: Yeah. I think I'm going to want to live again, though.
JEROME: Dude, why?
ANDY: Well, I still get to make McNabb throw it 50 to 60 times a game, and that's got to work eventually.
JEROME slaps ANDY hard.
ANDY: Also, there's the eating. I wouldn't want to miss the eating.
JEROME slaps ANDY hard.
ANDY: I'm sorry. That was my fault.
JEROME: Yes. Yes it is. Son of a bitch.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Not inspired, in any way, by watching the Packers spit the bit in tonight's MNF game, or what it means to the Shouldn't Exist Eagles playoff hopes. (Oh, and Pack? Thanks so much for not using Ryan Grant when you needed a touchdown in the fourth quarter. I'm glad you lost, you pukes. Or, well, not.)
In two weeks, there will be NFL playoff games happening in the home stadiums of the Arizona Cardinals, and the survivor of next week's San Diego Chargers / Denver Broncos slugfest. You will hear some limited knob sucking of the home teams, some shots of their fans whooping it up, and perhaps some discussion of the wildly more deserving #7 team in each conference that would have put up more of a fight when the home team goes down by two touchdowns in the third quarter.
It doesn't need to be this way.
Imagine, if you would, if there were only two divisions. So we move the North and East teams together, and the South and West as well. You'd then have home and home games for 14 of 16 games, and then -- and here's the magic part -- we expand the regular season to 18 games by losing the pre-season.
Then, and here's the real winning part -- we go to a playoff round where it's just division winners and two wild-cards. No byes, no tie-breakers, no off weeks making the top seeds more or less auto-wins in their first home game.
We get more games that matter. We lose the pre-season games that everyone hates, and the real players avoid. Your fantasy season gets longer and more interesting. We also have
I also give you the following games twice a yaer:
> Steelers-Patriots - an absolutely dynamite rivalry
> Ravens-Jets - train rivals, easy hate
> Buffalo-Cleveland - nearly on top of each other, both with issues
> Broncos-Colts - an awful playoff history for the Broncos to overcome, and the chance to do it
> Bears-Giants - Old-school NFL rivals in an obvious network big money rivalry
> Cardinals-Cowboys - Regional rivals, nearly, with the best moments in recent Cardinals history all involving beating back the Boys
> Eagles-Packers - Another old-school rivalry, with many noteworthy moments in the past
> Redskins-Lions -- Maybe if Detroit plays them twice a year every year, they can finally get a win
It also means a lot less travel, especially for the North/East matchups, and more Road Fan Nation experiences.
All of this is better -- a lot better -- than what we've got right now. And there's no chance in hell of an 8-8 team getting to the playoffs. Let's not let the Cardinals/AFC West thing ever happen again, folks.
Today's list is a festival of teeth grinding hate for the things, that, well, make your teeth grind. Or would, at least, if you are anything like me, which as always, I hope you are not.
Seriously, though... maybe this is just a function of increasing age and all, but the older I get, the less tolerant I am of the whole NFL announcing profession. Either you've got some absolute hate from the ex-Cowboys out there, or unrepentant tired shtick from the Personality Types. I just want the game, people, preferably from some uber-nerd that knows something of advanced statistics or unrepentant film study. Tell me something I don't know, rather than what's obvious to anyone with a pulse and eyes. You're certainly getting paid enough.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Well folks, you can probably guess that I owned most of the people on this lists today, and yet I still won my head to head matchup. It was a pretty bad league as leagues go, but a win is a win is a win, and it makes FFL a profit for the year.
And yes, I'd exchange it for one more yard for Reggie Brown and an overtime score, even though in the long run, anything that gets the Fat Turd off the Eagles sideline is worth it. Not that he's going anywhere, of course...
Sunday, December 21, 2008
So, my fellow Eagles Fans, did you watch the whole thing? After all, they were only one play away for five straight drives, and the fact that four of them were three-and-outs didn't dissuade any hopes, did it. The Eagles had the ball 12 times today; 5 times they went off with alacrity, and only the final doomed drive got into double figures in plays. The finale, to Has To Be Gone WR Reggie Brown being the Kevin Dyson Yard away from sending it to likely overtime.
In trouble on the road, Fat Man Reid did what he always does; throw it a million times with utterly unimaginative playcalling and put everything on Donovan McNabb. He better keep him next year, because if he tries this nonsense with Kevin Kolb, he'll lose double-digit games. I'm also fairly sure that if he could have been eating during the game, he would have.
Showing that there is no mercy on this side of the grave, the loss doesn't eliminate them from playoff contention. They no longer control their fate, having disliked that kind of responsibility for the three hours of this game.
A hidden bummer factor before the game were the injuries to Kevin Curtis and Hank Baskett... which led to more of Brown and DeSean Jackson, who had four drops today, including one in the last minute that would have tied things. DJ's still the keeper in the unit, but he's clearly hit the wall this year, and when the talent is this underwhelming, going to the backups is not a recipe for success.
In the wreckage, take one moment of appreciation for the defense, which gave up their only touchdown on a short field after a fumble, and refused to quit late despite the offense giving them every reason to. Of course, they also forced no turnovers, but when you give up 10 points on the road, you should win.
I'm not sure what needs to happen here, talent-wise. Some people want a new TE, since LJ Smith is horrible and Brent Celek probably isn't good enough for full-time duty. Others want a new RB, since relying on Brian Westbrook to be healthy is right up there with depending on your 401K to retire -- previously sound, and now, not so much. Defensively, it'd always be nice to have a true two-gap defensive tackle for once, to actually make run stopping a matter of course, rather than concern. Others want the QB gone.
But there isn't anyone that I know that wants to see Reid on the sidelines again next year. The team is just too maddening to deal with in its current incarnation, too wasteful of talent, too deficient of planning. Even if they win next week, get into the playoffs and win games when they are there, it's just... well, let's put it this way. None of us are too shocked by today.
Leave, Reid. Whether by fork lift or cargo net is up to you, but it's Time. To. GO.
Tonight, I endured hours of NFL Network's online coverage -- and no, it's not something you want to put up with -- to see perhaps the most fun game in the history of Texas Stadium. It'll also be the last.
For the first three quarters, the game was a defensive struggle, and that included watching it... or the bits that NFLN chose to show online, as part of their intermittent "Contractual obligations that we, um, wrote, prevent us from showing you the entire game" live cuts into the action. But when it came down to crunch time, we were riding on most of the live action, and what was shown was chuckle-tastic.
On back to back Had To Have It Plays with their offense finally making plays, and just needing the ball back for the late Houdini score and win, the Cowboy defense gave up kitten-soft long touchdowns to Willis McGahee and LaRon McClain. And just like that, a lock-low under bet went out the door, along with the likely Cowboy playoff hopes.
On the first to McGahee, he went up the gut and was more or less untouched. On the second, McClain arm-raped (because, well, stiff-armed just doesn't do justice for it) Ken Hamlin. The Ravens had 265 yards rushing -- 160 on the last two carries. As Don Meredith wound sing, turn out the lights, the party's over...
The Cowboys are now on the outside looking in in the NFC. Hell, for good measure, the Patriots also got boned, since the Ravens are ahead of them in the wild-card race, and are only a home win against the Giving Up Jags from being a six seed that will likely end the season of whoever survives the AFC East.
In the late going, Tony Romo picked up enough fantasy points to give me a shot in my head to head league, and justified my last-minute move of benching the Ravens defense in my points league. We've even got the goodness of two quick wins in the picks column, and the mild happiness of avoiding a Marion Barber start that would have completely boned me in the head to head match.
Special ups for this game go to Derrick Mason, who shook off a nagging shoulder injury to haul in the first and most important Ravens touchdown with his left arm dangling like a dead thing. If there's a tougher wideout in the league, I haven't seen him. And the balls of brass go to head coach John Harbaugh, who dialed up a perfect fake field goal call in the third quarter to set up the Mason touch.
For the Cowboys, where to start? Despite getting yards from backup Tashard Choice (17 for 90 yards and a touchdown) for most of the night, they showed no confidence in the running game, choosing to run draws from shotgun on 3rd and inches or scramble outs on 3rd and 1. They might have the worst #2 WR in the NFL in Roy Williams, who still brings the big celebration moments for every play he makes -- and considering he had three catches for 12 yards tonight, that kind of thing is noticeable. He also had the final offensive play in the stadium's history for the home team, as he was tackled for a loss on a 4th and 1 pass (and yes, yet again, throwing in short yardage situations).
Romo was fairly horrible in the first half especially, with two picks to Ed Reed in deep heave forced balls to Terrible Owens; he was also out of sync with any receiver not named Jason Witten. Owens did get a touchdown in the late going, but he also quit on several balls and lost another one in the lights. And just when they thought they had something to hold on -- a run defense that had made McClain look like just another back -- they fell apart. They now need the Falcons and Bucs to stumble tomorrow (because, well, neither of those teams is losing in Week 17), and a win on the road in Philadelphia next week. (Sorry, Birds Fans, but since they'd win the head-to-head tie-breaker, the Eagles need wins in their last two games no matter what.)
Given that they couldn't get it done tonight in their house with all of their alumni present, it's a little hard to see how they do it next week, on the road. But that won't stop Eagle Fan from thinking I'm jinxing things if I stay down this path, so I'll just be on my merry little way. My very merry little way...
Updated: Share in the merry!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Tonight while the Colts were covering the spread by the hairs on their chinny chin chins despite Peyton perfection, your bloghole provider was in a West Village Italian restaurant's basement, periodically checking the score on his Blackberry and trying to get as much wine down as possible without imperiling the food. Yes, it was a Work Holiday Frivolity Thing, which led to the 1 am train ride home, and because I'm awake and not nearly impaired enough, you get to hear about it. Curse these observational powers. Fans of Teh Wanking, today is your lucky day.
The place turned out to be less than a block away from a place my band played in New York at least a half dozen times, The Spiral on Houston Street. I thought I recognized the neighborhood -- it's quite close to the East River, near the corner of Houston and Avenue A -- but it's not like we were ever walking around the neighborhood on those nights; we were playing, schmoozing, roadying and then getting the hell home, because the gig was always on a weeknight and we were staring down the barrel of a 3 to 4am bedtime with work in the morning. Just like, well, tonight.
It also never seemed like the nicest place to be; for Manhattan, it was downright seedy, and we always worried a lot about the security of the vehicles. Walking around it tonight, it seemed like little had changed, except for the fact that I was walking the scene of the crime some 10 to 15 years later. It made me want to email old friends for no reason, but luckily, that's just the wine talking, and it won't talk very loudly in the morning. Nothing will.
New York, it is true, never really stops or closes, but it does certainly have thinning traffic. Upon exiting the restaurant around 11:15, hoping in vain to get to Newark in time for the midnight train, I eventually was able to bring down a cab for one of those Only In New York reckless driving / bad shocks Wee! Wee! WEEE! experiences. Six minutes and a dozen traffic lights later, I was at my PATH station, which always seems dirty and compromised late in the evening, though it never really gets to Unsafe. (That's because I'm a white male, and just this side of invisible in my nondescript workaday trudge. Or so I like to think, rather then give in to the fear.)
Forty five minutes later, I'm in Newark, waiting out the 40 minutes until the next hour's train. Inside the station is a 6/7 (out of 10) Asian woman who is well shy of five fett tall, and only getting that close through the use of spiky little stiletto heels. She walks with the confidence of someone who does this every day, and all I can say is it looks like it hurts. Nope, not a sex worker.
The train turns out to be the same double-decker bit of utility that I usually ride six and a half hours earlier in the day, and I'm even able to get one of those Privacy Ensured single seats with the dedicated luggage spot in the front top section, otherwise known as the one you really want and never get.
I sit down to write and get blasted from 30 feet away by an incredibly loud guy who is treating what seems to be the entire train to the spellbinding tale of how juicy his Thanksgiving turkey was. Adding to the, um, merit of the conversation is that he's punctuating his conversation with five-year old African-American slang for no good reason at all. On the plus side, he keeps me awake, despite the cold medicine and wine, for five not terribly pleasant minutes, but his is not a consistent superpower, and at this hour, the train stops at every damn milk stop on the way to its final destination...
and I jerk to a start fifteen minutes and four stops down the line, with 30 more minutes to go. As Satchel Paige once said, "The social ramble ain't restfull," right before he weighed in on the merits of fried foods that anger up the blood.
With fifteen minutes to go, the train picks up snapping with-it girls that can't possibly be riding the rails for a good reason at this hour. We make New Brunswick and the micro-sleeping gets worse. And I get to do this all over again, albeit for the last time in 2008, tomorrow. And as the last dregs of battery life in the laptop and brain life in me trickle out, it's just one station left to go and Publish.
See you again, too soon.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tonight's list was far, far too easy to write. Use that knowledge in my intervention, after I talk myself into a prop bet for a wild card NFC East team to win the Super Bowl with three straight road wins for the second straight year.
Did you know that we are already in the Age of the Robot? And tellingly, it's not cool sexy pleasure bots like Seven of Nine or even wise-cracking human-haters like Bender Rodriguez; instead, it's sickening little pukes like the Roomba vacuum cleaner and assembly-line retards that do nothing but cause good men to lose their jobs. As with many things that The Future was supposed to provide us -- hello? where is my damn flying car already? -- I'm feeling powerfully ripped off. (But not by the great forgotten band "Rise Robots Rise", who, by some miracle, actually have a video on You Tube. Get down with your bad robot self. Plus, there's some legitimately nice poon.)
Where, for instance, is the cybernetic man-machine that can finally rid the world of quarterback meatbags like what's afflicting the entire state of O High O? Tell me, Bengal or Brown Fan, once you've gotten your head out of the oven that you can no longer afford to heat, what you'd rather see at this point: Ken Dorsey, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jordan Palmer, Joshua Cribbs or Evil Otto from "Berzerk." None of them seem to have any kind of arm to throw the ball, but at least Otto has a chance at making a blitzing cornerback sorry.
(You can, if you must, play the game here. No download needed, since the memory required to run this thing now fits in an earbud. An old earbud.)
(As a final aside before we reel this thing back in... have you ever met anyone who didn't think the Fox Robot was, at best, worthless? Wanking in public while your paid mouth jobber chats up the clever people who designed the wanking is, well, wanking. It's time for New Austerity, people. Scrap that thing, unless it's taking time away from Tony Siragusa. Hell, given both of those options, show me another ad instead. I hear that Toyota needs to publicize its financing offers.)
It's also not helping matters that Vegas has (a) come to grips with the fact that home field advantage is no longer a league-wide phenomenon, since Rich and Worthless People go to the games and don't take their man-servants to cheer for them anymore, and (b) many of the teams in the league are trying to get their coaches replaced with every level of quit that they've got in them. Once again, I'd like a stern robotic overlord to get the next chance at motivating the troops. A fiery toaster or hard-assed answering machine with something to prove just might be just the change of pace that their players need after the horror of Crennel/Lewis. They couldn't really do any worse.
So after a tie-fest and the continuing horror that is the Carolina Panthers, we lost a little ground last week, but remain solidly above .500 for the year, and will make some sportsbook pay dearly for trifling with the likes of us. But soon, we'll be making all of our picks with the massive and frightening GAMBLOR3000 Betting Robot, who cries surprisingly lifelike tears when suck-out covers happen in garbage time. If only I could have it play for me at the poker tables in Atlantic City, and have some WRITERBOT3000 write this here blog, then I'd have time for the finer things in life. Like, oh, gambling and writing.
And with that... on to the FREE NFL Picks! (Lines provided by BetUs.com.)
* * * * *
INDIANAPOLIS (-6.5) at Jacksonville
The Colts own one of the least impressive seven-game winning streaks in NFL history. Seriously, if you throw out the Houdini Act that they pulled on the Steelers in Pittsburgh, it's a run that would leave them lower in the BCS standings then when they started. The final two weeks at least brings us back to something approaching NFL football, as the Jaguars usually give them a fight and the Titans might still be in Caring Mode for Week 17, especially after Tom Coughlin showed the world that trying in Week 17 isn't a bad idea last year. (I can not tell you how much it hurts me to have something to thank Tom Coughlin for.)
The Jags come off a surprising win against the best awful team in NFL history, the Green Bay Packers, in which Maurice Jones-Drew finally cast aside his Fred Taylor shackles and made all of his fantasy owners realize what they've been missing all these years; namely, five to ten more touches a game that will eventually result in an increased injury rate and lower productivity. Take it from a guy who was very excited to get Marion Barber in two of three leagues, and not so excited to have him in the fantasy playoffs last week. Woof.
Anyway, back to this game... Peyton Manning has gone to Throw It To Everyone Mode, which makes the Colts harder to defend since they actually have all the same level of receiver now that Reggie Wayne has become fairly ordinary. Last week, he zeroed in on Dallas Clark; this week, it will be some guy you've never heard of, just to make you hate yourself for drafting Wayne, Harrison or (I'm still very, very angry) Anthony Gonzalez. For the Jags, expect a spirited first half as David Garrard targets Dennis Northcutt on the theory that he (a) knows what he's doing, and (b) actually gives a damn, unlike the other Jaguar receiving slugs. Someone will eventually get something out of Mercedes Lewis, but it won't be Jack del Rio. The Colts should win big, since they have something to play for and the Jags are kind of awful, but they won't, because they are the Colts. If I could bet on a spread of my blood pressure rising, I'd take the over here.
Colts 27, Jaguars 20
RAVENS (+4.5) at Dallas
Will the Ravens come into this game with useful anger over blowing the home game they had to have against the Steelers, or useless anger that they direct at themselves and the referees? It's Trial Time for rookie coach John Harbaugh, who has to be better than predecessor Brian Billick with much of the same talent that went down the Anger Hole last year after the Patriot Screwjob.
Helping matters is the fact that he's (finally) just doing the useful thing and giving the ball to LaRon McClain, who will have one of the more satisfying five-year careers in recent NFL history. If you liked Christian Okoye -- and who didn't, really? -- you're going to love McClain, especially while they still have Lorenzo Neal to block for him. It's just shy of 600 pounds of runaway hate, the way that God intended football to be, and guaranteed to be four of the more satisfying yards you'll ever see, especially if you like to see pretty-boy corners hurt in run support. But the visitors are really going to need a useful road game with minimal mistakes from rookie QB Joe Flacco, who has to avoid sacks, turnovers, and red zone field goal attempts if the visitors are going to pull off the upset. I think they'll get there, but it won't be easy.
For the Cowboys, they're doing it with mirrors now, as the five to ten plays a game that Tony Romo improvs into something very useful have become the sum and substance of the offense. Gone are the 10 and 15 play drives where the Cowboys move the ball from Owens to Witten to Barber to Misc. Wideout, with nary a third down, dropped pass or look of bewilderment from an increasingly overmatched offensive line.
In other words, it's December. And the Ravens need this game as much as the Cowboys, which makes it a de facto playoff match up... and we all know that Mssr. Romo doesn't really excel in those, does he?
The Cowboy defense has been playing better, but after 25 carries from McClain, they won't be. Flacco will look just fine when he play-action passes against a 10-man run blitz.
Ravens 20, Cowboys 18
PITTSBURGH (-2.5) at Tennessee
The Steelers finally catch a break in scheduling, at least relatively so, by catching the Titans when they are down. Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vander Bosch will both miss this game for the Titans, which means a world of difference to Somewhat Quick Willie Parker and his overachieving backup, Mewelde Moore. It will also mean that Big Ben will be upright and looking for his full complement of receivers (read: Heath Miller gets to play in this game), rather than just Holmes and Ward in double coverage.
Look for the Steelers to hold the ball for up to 35 minutes, keeping their defense fresh and snarly for the Titans' suddenly meager attack. Unless Chris Johnson has a 20 carries for 150 yards kind of day in him, I can't see the home team winning this game... and frankly, I'm surprised the number is this low. Yes, the Steelers have been lucky in pulling off the last few weeks of wins, but they are also good, and the Titans are a touchdown or more worse without two of their three best defensive players on the sidelines.
Steelers 27, Titans 13
MIAMI (-4.5) at Kansas City
A scant five years after his sell-by date, the Chiefs have left longtime GM Carl Peterson go, meaning that we only have two more games of Herman Edwards Playing To Win The Game left to savor. One hopes that Chiefs Fan, assuming that he's still able to walk upright after last week's last-minute reaming from the Chargers, will note the passage of time. Had Peterson's Chiefs managed to break through and win a Super Bowl in their years of high competence, many tragic NFL lives would have been changed. Marty Schottenheimer wouldn't be a punchline, Priest Holmes would have been recognized as the truly great back of his age, and Niner Fan would have been much more bitter about the end of the Montana Era. But, alas, all that Peterson will have to console himself with will be his USFL Championships, when he even made Jim Mora a winner. Yes, Virginia, there was a league where Jim Mora and Carl Peterson were big winners.
For the Dolphins, this falls into the classification of another road game against a turd team where they will make it look hard, because when you start Chad Pennington at quarterback, life is just hard. They'll squeak out a cover here, because Lo, The Chiefs Have No Defense, but it won't be by much.
Dolphins 27, Chiefs 21
Arizona at NEW ENGLAND (-7.5)
If this keeps up, the Cardinals could be the first touchdown-plus home underdog in playoff history. Seriously, let's imagine the line where the Cardinals lose out and have to face a winning-out Eagles, Cowboys or Falcons team. Now, add in the inevitable heartbreaking injury to Kurt Warner. It could easily be a double-digit line. Hope you enjoyed the wait for your first home playoff game in forever, Phoenicians! It's what you get for naming your stadium after just anyone with money.
(And hey, speaking of such things... does anyone else remember when Amway was a cult, and not a proud NFL sponsor? I'm officially creeped out by that. What's next, taking the Mormom Moolah to tell me how many NFL players really hate the idea of gay marriage? Maybe some Indian casino can buy stadium naming rights, now that all of the banks have gone kerflooey. Chico's Bail Bonds can definitely get some branding presence on the laundry. And you thought that sports in a recession wouldn't be fun?)
Back to the game... Matt Cassel racks up a billion fantasy points, you lose unless you own him and fellow waiver wire bait Pierre Thomas, Warner's touchdowns are vultured by random running backs and there's absolutely no bitterness from his fantasy owners. None. AT. ALL.
Patriots 34, Cardinals 24
San Francisco at ST. LOUIS (+5.5)
A classic NFC West matchup is... not something that's going to happen in this decade. So make do with this instant test of whether you have a serious gambling problem. Since I clearly do, I'm going with the team with the coach that will have a job next year -- that'd be Mike Singletary's Niners, who've been downright frisky for weeks now -- instead of the home team, who can't protect Marc Bulger, and probably shouldn't. (Though if Stephen Jackson actually runs with passion, I'll probably regret this.)
Niners 24, Rams 17
CINCINATI (+3.5) at Cleveland
Part Two of the You Have A Gambling Problem test is this classic turd battle of the AFC North, where Ohio's shame will be broadcast to all. There's no coach, quarterback or running back that should be employed, and the best wideouts are also hopelessly overrated. Picking a winner is strictly for dart board enthusiasts and Cedric Benson fans, which is to say, two groups of people who don't exist. I'll go with the road team, mostly for the idea that when your teams are this bad, count on the home fans going home unhappy. Again.
Bengals 24, Browns 20
SAN DIEGO (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
Do you go with the underachieving team with no running game, or the overachieving team with no running game? The Chargers come in after an escape act in Kansas City that was nearly short-circuited by the breathtaking stupidity of QB Philip Rivers, who didn't know to go for two after going up late, and contributed to a near breathtaking collapse that was only missed by a 50-yard field goal miss. Had the Chiefs converted that, the Chargers would be over and their fans would be relieved, but the torture is going to continue for one more week, because the Bucs just can't score right now, or tackle. They're also likely to start Brian Griese, which is like Rivers in ten years, after all the hope is gone.
Chargers 20, Bucs 16
NEW ORLEANS (-7.5) at Detroit
Just one more week, Detroit, and it will all be over, except for the decades of stock footage that you'll come to loathe. What will be the defining moment? I'm thinking it will be when Dan Orlovsky ran out of the end zone for the worst safety in NFL history, followed up by the winning field goal in the Minnesota game, then a reaction shot from Matt Millen, and finally a slow pan of misery from costumed Lions fans, perhaps at the Thanksgiving game. And if you think it hasn't already been made, you're fooling yourselves.
In this game, Drew Brees could throw a mess of picks while Orlovsky, Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson have career games. But what will really happen is that Pierre Thomas will continue to punish the living and the dead, and Brees will shamelessly pump up his yardage numbers in an attempt to make Dan Marino even more bitter about life. Not possible, really.
Saints 34, Lions 20
NY JETS (-5.5) at Seattle
Oh, once again with the Jets going west to play a team they should throttle, but probably won't. They received an early Christmas gift from the breathtakingly awful J.P. Losman last week, which allowed them to win while failing to tackle Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson worth a damn. Brett Favre continued to provoke buyer's remorse while actually getting the ball to his wideouts, and the team continued to not run the ball enough. You have to admire coach Eric Mangini's commitment to not giving the ball to Leon Washington, no matter how good the results. Washington just made the Pro Bowl despite touching the ball only 104 times in 14 games. No, seriously. He's averaging 6 yards a carry and 24 yards a catch, and the Jets can only get him the ball 8 times a game. Words fail.
For the Seahawks, Seneca Wallace and Deion Branch have provided some late season goodness for fantasy owners, which has helped to distract Mike Holmgren from the fact that they've been slowly decreasing the salmon ration. Soon, they will all shun him, and he will sadly shuffle off to the coast to swim away. Do not look him in the eye.
Jets 27, Seattle 20
Houston (-7.5) at OAKLAND
The Texans continue their late-season run towards being overrated in 2009 by having their second straight impressive win, this one a single point victory over the Titans. Credit goes to the suddenly stout defense and the continuing excellence of Steve Slaton, who now ranks seventh in rushing for the whole danged NFL. The fact that he's gone for 200 yards against the Titans, and didn't have anything much going on in the first month... well, my man crush is just getting embarrassing, so I'll stop.
The Texans are a big favorite here and a true darling of the late-season big money suicide pool bet, since you don't have to worry about burning them out before a playoff. Against the Raiders, they may provide for some uncertain moments, since Nnemdi Assomugha can make Andre Johnson disappear, Darren McFadden has given them a little juice lately, and JaMarcus Russell has actually gotten tight end Zach Miller to the point of ownabaility... but when you've been as bad as the Raiders have for as long as the Raiders have, the home field doesn't help. At all.
Texans 24, Raiders 16
BUFFALO (+7.5) at Denver
This is a horrible prop bet. Basically, it means that you're taking the Chargers to win in Tampa (yikes), so that the Broncos actually care enough to play this game... and then still lose.
Why I'm going for the upset is as follows.
1) The Bills should get back Trent Edwards, and will be able to move the ball on the ground against the Broncos.
2) Their special teams are very good, and could take advantage here.
3) The Broncos are capable of losing to any team at any time, and are down to their 8th or 9th choice at running back. At some point, that's got to matter.
4) Dick Jauron is, in all likelihood, nearly on his last game, and while he probably doesn't deserve to keep the gig, they do play hard for him. I think they'll try.
5) The Broncos are doomed to make the Week 17 game against the Chargers meaningful, and a shocking home defeat will complete the journey to two 8-7 teams fighting for a four seed. On the plus side, it will lay the seeds for the two division league that will eventually save us from this nonsense.
Bills 24, Broncos 21
PHILADELPHIA (-5.5) at Washington
So, is this Eagles team actually for real? There are reasons to be skeptical. Every team of any quality -- which is to say, any team that isn't in the NFC West -- is crushing the Cardinals. Once Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs went down, and Antonio Pierce became ineffective, the Giants became pedestrian on offense and exploitable on defense, particularly for Brian Westbrook (and last week, Tashard Choice).
But the more realistic notion is that in the NFL, peaking in December is a very good thing, and that's just what this team has done. They are getting more out of the running game. Donovan McNabb might have been his most accurate last week against Cleveland. The defense has been very effective against the run, and ever since they de-emphasized Lito Sheppard, the pass defense has also been much better. Hell, even LJ Smith and Nick Cole have been effective, which also wasn't on the program. Now, if they could only get over that Disastrous Last Play of the First Half problem, it's all gravy.
For the Redskins, they are a five-car pileup of misery right now, with head coach Jim Zorn doing everything he can to mock those mid-season Coach of the Year ideas. The feud with Clinton Portis led last week to not giving him the ball on the goal line, and the juice has run out on the wideouts. Protection problems from the inevitable Chris Samuels injury has also made Chris Cooley stay in, making them even more punchless. They'll still get up for the hated Birds, but they don't have the talent to stay... and the Eagles know how bad Andy Reid is in close games, so they'll do what they can to make sure he doesn't get the chance to blow out. It's one more reason why he needs to resign.
Eagles 27, Redskins 16
Atlanta at MINNESOTA (-3.5)
A de facto win and you're in game for both teams, and probably the most entertaining game on the docket. Expect lots of flashback moments to that Gary Anderson Disaster NFC Championship, otherwise known as the game that kept Randall Cunningham out of the Hall of Fame. That won't matter at all to this game, though it won't keep Viking Fan from feeling miserable throughout the entire ordeal.
The Falcons come in after a huge overtime win against the Buccaneers, which would have been more impressive if the Bucs weren't starting Brian Griese and reeling hard from the Panthers loss a week before. The Vikings come in after their feel-good win of the year, where they took the Cardinals apart at the seams in the desert. They even feel good about Tavaris Jackson, which seems almost impossible, but the Cardinals are powerful things.
The Falcons also catch a break with Pat Williams being on the shelf, which makes the Michael Turner / Jerious Norwood duo much happier. But I've got the feeling that the Vikings are playing too well in their pass defense -- honestly, they beat the stuffing out of the Cardinals line, and kept Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston well under wraps -- to make either aspect of the Falcons offense play well enough to win this game. Suddenly, the Vikings are looking like a much more formidable #3 seed, and if the Giants continue to stumble, might even get a bye. I think they've got too much to play for to blow this game, and the Falcons just aren't ready to make the final step.
Vikings 21, Falcons 17
Carolina at NEW YORK GIANTS (-3.5)
A suddenly compelling game, if not a real artistic triumph. The Panthers come in with the hottest running game in the NFL, Steve Smith on fire, and a defense that's doing more than enough to win. The Giants come in with one offensive touchdown in their last 8 quarters, and that was in garbage time against the Eagles. It's hard to see, on some level, how the home team wins this game.
Except... that the Giants are better than this, especially against the run. They can take away Smith; they haven't been, for the most part, victimized for big passing games from star wideouts. When you put a strong pass rush on Jake Delhomme, very bad things happen. Derrick Ward is due for a better game than he's had recently. And the Giants are too well-coached to just fall apart like this, even if they aren't particularly convinced that they need the #1 seed to make it back to the Super Bowl.
Giants 24, Panthers 20
Green Bay at CHICAGO (-4.5)
The last game of the week is one of those Grudge Matches were the records of the team's aren't supposed to matter, and that's good, because if the Vikings win on Sunday (and they will, of course, since I've picked them), this game won't mean a thing to anyone. Give me the home town Bears to continue the Packers' season of misery, since Ryan Grant won't run like he did against them in Green Bay, and the Packers' secondary has been giving away yards like government cheese. Well-aged, stinky, government cheese...
Bears 31, Packers 24
Last Week: 5-8-3
Year to date: 113-100-7
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A labor of love tonight, friends. Pull yourself up a good sore throat remedy and mull over your options for the next event you go to. (Hint: you get much more bang for your buck with youth sports. Plus, you toughen them up for later!)
Monday, December 15, 2008
The perfect Philly Fan moment -- with 7:33 left and up 20 points on a dead to the world Browns team, there's booing. The booing was for Kevin Kolb, who to be fair, deserved it, having thrown a TAINt and a number of battered balls.
Takeaways from the game were relatively few. Donovan McNabb was as sharp as he's been all year, except for the red zone. They didn't need that much from Brian Westbrook (16 for 53 on the ground, 3 for 14 in the air), which was nice, considering how much work he had last week against the Giants. Jason Avant had a career day, mostly because McNabb decided to throw it to him whether he was open or not.
The Browns are a terrible team with Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson; they are monumentally terrible with Ken Dorsey. The game was garbage time in the third quarter. The announcers didn't talk about the game for most of the last hour. It rained. The most interesting play might have been when Asante Samuel almost pulled a DeSean Jackson on his 50-yard TAINt.
You'd like to think there could be a better signature play for this roster, but they were clearly into the confetti bucket part of the program by this point. That, combined with the asinine DJ pick in the red zone, is all that the Reid Resign crew had to go on. (Don't get comfortable, Fat Man. I like you better in the dog house; you eat less.)
And none of it means a thing unless:
1) They win in Washington next week, and against Dallas at home the week after, and
2) The Falcons spit the bit in Minnesota next week, or the Bucs gag at home against the Chargers. (No, neither team is losing in Week 17 against the Rams and Raiders, respectively.) And with Minny missing half of its Williams Wall, that line just got a lot tighter.
But still, hard to be bitter about a drama-free 20-point win at home. They did what they had to do, no one got hurt, and if they had been sharp in the red zone and didn't give Kolb time, it would have been a 35-point win. Moving on.
This just in from Los Angeles... according to a paparazzi who had the pleasure of photographing The Home Run Thing, Senor Bonds is not going to retire from MLB.
Um, Barry? If no one is employing you -- and why they'd do that now, as opposed to last year -- you can retire or not retire all you like. I'm not retiring from MLB either, and you, Dear Reader, also won't give up The Dream. Send us all some pension checks now, please.
Tonight's link will make some of you nod your heads and say, "See, that's why I don't play fantasy sports. I'm not a sellout degenerate gambler like you are, Shooter."
At which point I'll congratulate you on your virtue, and hope like hell that I'll see you at a poker table. Soon.
(Insert E-Vile laugh here...)