Breaking even does nobody any good. Basically what breaking even means is that you wasted a whole lot of time; and as we all know, time is money. When going to the betting window, it’s even worse because the casino does take their cut. So, much like TBS gave a sigh of relief when Raul Ibanez mistook the final four innings of last night’s ALDS game for home run derby, preventing a Baltimore/Oakland ALCS match-up and a TV rating of 2, my bank account was pretty happy when I went 10-4 last week.
Worried about the substitute refs that were relieved of their duties after three weeks? Are they emotionally scarred and wish they hadn’t done it? Lance Easley, the man who called the Inaccurate Reception, faced the press on CBS Sunday morning and said he do it all over again. (Doesn’t Einstein have a saying dealing with doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results and insanity? Do the replacement officials really think they did a good job?) With the economy in the dumps, will it be hard for them to find jobs? It took them less than a week to cross train, and last Friday you could see a few of them in action umpiring in the outfield of the Atlanta/St. Louis MLB wild card game. MLB caved and the next day signed with the Outfield Umpire Union to a 10 year contract. But don’t feel bad, the replacement officials are now available for you to hire if you are having problems with your salary negotiation with your boss.
The big story in the NFL from this past week…The Kansas City Chiefs are a T.O. signing away from sealing a deal with TMZ and MTV for a show that will start Dec 31st. You have Jersey Shore (drunk fans cheering that one of their own is hurt), the Real Housewives of xxxx (Eric Winston throwing fans under the bus, fans furious with coaches and management for not backing them up), and Survivor (the Matt Cassel and Chiefs bandwagon is disappearing as fast as the Matsing tribe.) All that was missing from this week was this T.O. press conference. Besides, he has experience from producing his own reality show that lasted three years. GM Scott Pioli would love that kind of security right now.
(The pick is in bold. Green is a winner. Red is a loser. Black is a tie or not played yet.)
Minnesota @ Washington (Give 2.5) - One reason for this pick: “Cobra” Kai Forbath. All five games the Redskins have played have been decided by one possession. The Shanahan Clan figured out that if they are going to continue to play close games, then it’s best not to employ Scott Norwood, or anyone else that kicks under pressure like him. These two teams are pretty evenly matched, but with RG3 scheduled to play I do give the edge to the home team with a QB who can avoid the rush and make plays with his legs, as long as he slides or runs out of bounds this week.
Pittsburgh (Give 6) @ Tennessee – Fact: Tennessee has lost it’s four games, in which they didn’t score 21 points on returns, by an average of 24 points. Now you are asking them to prepare for a team lead by the Pirate (Roethlisberger) with newly reacquired weapon Rashard Mendenhall in three days? Unless Tennessee can preform three more miracles at home like they did against Detroit, which remember included a snap that was never supposed to happen, then this game will be over at half-time. Some might worry about Troy Palamalu’s injury and losing his run support. The only person Chris Johnson is keeping up late at night now is his wife with his snoring. Defensive Coordinators have kept the “star” running back from any rushes over 19 yards, and has only gained 25 yards in a game once this year.
St. Louis @ Miami (Give 3.5) - Brian Hartline through five games is not only 100 yards from breaking his best season in four years, but he is leading the league in receiving yards. Did anyone tell Miami that they don’t have any wide receivers on their team? Hartline will forever be associated as someone that went from 0% owned to 100% started in fantasy leagues without the benefit of an injury to a starter. Add in Reggie Bush being in the top ten in rushing yards, and Ryan Tannehill has some weapons to ease the pressure off of him and his defense. This is a team that is two overtime loses away from being 4-1. The Rams have the exact opposite problem: they just lost their own best receiver for the next six weeks in Danny Amendola, and they don’t play well on the road losing 11 of their last 12.
Detroit @ Philadelphia (Give 4) - Yes, my mantra has been “if Vick keeps giving up the ball, then I’ll keep taking the points.” Well, that doesn’t count against teams that don’t play very well. Detroit has given up five returns for touchdowns in their last two games, and Matt Stafford has regressed some this season. In addition, Michael Vick has a QB rating 30 points higher at home than on the road and will have all of his weapons back at full strength with Maclin and Jackson not even noted on the injury report this week. Bonus prediction: Eagles fans start throwing beers on the field during warm-ups and we will see signs of “We Booed Santa.” Philadelphia has to answer the call and show they are the rowdiest, and Braves and Chiefs fans are quickly stealing their title.
Dallas @ Baltimore (Give 3.5) - I’m really flattered. Greg Garber at ESPN must be reading Riggo’s Rag. Baltimore is currently the toughest palce to paly in the NFL. Baltimore has not looked like the fourth best team as I have them ranked, but they win, and that’s what matters. What matters more is they will be playing at home against a quarterback that instead of concentrating on how to play better than the last time we saw him (five interceptions against the Bears), Tony Romo will be practicing how to hold for their kicker. Really, how hard is it for a punter to not get hurt? Now this team might have three punters on its roster? Punters hurt and struggling QB’s practicing their holds. Not a combination I’m looking for when I pick upsets on the road.
Oakland @ Atlanta (Give 9) - Rule number 1 if you remember: Don’t bet on a West Coast team playing at 10am Pacific Time unless you have a good reason. Rule number 4: Don’t give up two scores unless you have a good reason. The only reason I can think of for the former is if Sabastian Janikowski can now kick 90 yard field goals. He can’t. As for the Falcons, their offense is firing on all cylinders and are going up against the 28th ranked passing defense that is dealing with injuries. If the Grey (they have lost the shine of Silver) and Black haven’t had an interception in four games (including one against interception prone Tannehill), chances are they won’t pick off Matty Ice.
Kansas City (Take 4) @ Tampa Bay – With one play, the Chiefs eliminated 14 of their 19 turnovers. If Kansas City does turn things around, the AFC West will be sending Haloti Ngata coal for Christmas for injuring Matt Cassel. (It might be O.K. since Chiefs fans have already sent him thank you letters.) Tampa Bay now has to face a team that is second in rushing, fourth in offense and tenth in total defense. Two things travel well. Rushing and defense and the Chiefs have both. Previous teams overcame being out-gained each game due to Cassel turning the ball over 2.8 times per game. Yes, Brady Quinn is a backup quarterback, but even backups can hand off the ball without losing it at the goal line. The Chiefs come out and play inspired football to make sure the choice is hard for Romeo Crennel to play Cassel again.
Cincinnati (Give 1) @ Cleveland – Cleveland still hasn’t figured things out. You can’t be spotted with a two score lead and then watch it evaporate before the end of the first half. There are two big hesitations for me on this game though. A.J. Green is listed as questionable to play on Sunday. Second, Joe Haden is quietly becoming a shut down corner for the Browns. However, if A.J. Green does play, Haden can’t cover him and Andrew Hawkins. And although the Bengals have an average running attack, the Browns have one of the worst rushing defenses in the league.
Indianapolis (Take 3) @ NY Jets – The Jets made a game out of Monday Night, but lets recap. The Texans ended the first half at the three and due to time were forced to kick a field goal. The Jets scored a touchdown on a kick return, and most of the Jets fans weren’t there to boo Mark Sanchez off the field because they were at the Yankees game. For the Colts, the “Suck for Luck” campaign has already paid off dividends. For a rookie, he is already showing signs of a quarterback you don’t want to have his hands on the ball late in the fourth quarter if you are a fan of the other AFC South teams. The Colts also have more talent on each side of the ball, but the clincher for me is, if the Jets have a slow start in their third straight home game, the chants for Tebow will start, who isn’t even taking snaps in practice this week.
New England @ Seattle (Take 3.5) – Seattle is a tough place to play. As the year gets late and the weather deteriorates in the Northwest, the crowd feeds on it and it becomes a hostile place to play. If this game was in New England I’d give two scores, but I hate giving points in Seattle. This is a team that took out a well favored Saints team in the playoffs two years ago after going 7-9! New England’s running game is good enough to go on the road and win, but Seattle’s defense is number three against the run. That means Brady and the passing game will have to deal with the noise and the rain that is expected.
Buffalo @ Arizona (Give 4.5) - I love optimism. Buffalo saw what San Francisco did by staying in the East in between road games out there and won the second of two road games. Chan Gailey then took notes from Jim Harbaugh and is trying the same thing this week out West. Yes, that’s the reason the Niners win games, not the fact they have the best defense since the 2001 Ravens. Also a little note, teams that travel to the West don’t have the problems that teams from the West have when traveling East. West coast teams playing early games play at 10am according to their body’s clock. That’s probably the toughest part of the road trip. Getting your body to go full tilt when its still used to still warming up at that time. Plus they are the Bills, even Arizona will probably put up 20 points this week.
NY Giants (Take 6.5) @ San Francisco – Eli Manning is just as sharp as anyone in the league and this is not a defense that will be blown out, even on the road. For San Francisco, they have to play a professional football team this week. I expect the Niners to fall behind by two scores while they get readjusted to a team that plays at an elite level. They may come back from behind and win the game, but this is too many points for me to give up to a G-Men team that beat the Niners in the same place last year for the NFC Championship in overtime. Expect this game to be low scoring, well under 45.5, lots of defense, and a kicker to win this game.
Green Bay @ Houston (Give 3.5) - Houston’s rushing defense took a major blow when Brian Cushing was lost for the season. The good news for them, is that they will have an extra week to figure out how to deal with that problem. Green Bay is reeling, and needs to figure out how to play offense for more than 20 minutes per game. The past two games, they have come out scoring in bunches. Then this attack dog that was allowed to roam freely last year is yanked by its chain that is tied to a tree, and teams come back little by little and steal the win.
Denver (Take 1.5) @ San Diego – San Diego is now 3-1 against teams that are 4-15. In their other game, they were blown out at home against a passing team like Denver when they faced Atlanta in week three. For once, Denver will figure out that this game isn’t played in a park, and that “Last score wins” is not in the NFL rule book. I don’t expect Denver to fall asleep in the first three quarters as they have done in each of their three loses. In the battle of quarterbacks, everyone loves Philip Rivers, but San Diego is ranked 23rd in offense, and five interceptions in five games is not exactly what they Chargers were looking for when they asked for Rivers to improve upon his 20 from a year ago. Peyton Manning starts playing 2 1/2 hours before the game starts so he is in 4th quarter condition for the entire game, and Denver wins late off of a Philip’s pick.
Last week: 10-4 (Against the Spread) Did not pick an O/U
Season: 41-35-1 (Against the Spread) 1-3 (Over/Under)