Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take Your Pick: Week 8

In a hotel room in Norman after watching Oklahoma beat Colorado 43-10.  I didn't submit my picks before leaving town, so here is a quick version this week.

Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Dolphins (+1) cover

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys (-6.5) cover

Washington Redskins vs. Detroit Lions: Lions (-2.5) cover

Buffalo Bills vs. K.C. Chiefs: Chiefs (-7) no cover

Carolina Panthers vs. St. Louis Rams: Rams (-2.5) cover

Green Bay Packers vs. New York Jets: Jets (-6) no cover

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers: Broncos (+2.5) cover

Tennessee Titans vs. San Diego Chargers: Chargers (-5) cover

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Arizona Cardinals: Bucs (+3) cover

Minnesota Vikings vs. New England Patriots: Pats (-5.5) no cover

Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders: Raiders (-2.5) cover

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints: Steelers (+1.5) cover

Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts: Colts (-5.5) no cover

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Take Your Pick: Week 7

Week 6 was quite the bounce back week for me.  I went 11-3 and was pretty accurate picking scores.  This week is much more challenging.  There are several road teams and underdogs I like, so I will look very smart or very dumb.  According to Vegas, I like no less than seven underdogs this week.  I think I might be smarter than Vegas because they have the Chargers as a favorite over New England.  How can I have faith in a system that gives points to Tom Brady against a 2-4 team?  I hope they're right, but I don't see it.  Here's my picks.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Bengals season needs a shot in the arm.  They looked like they might get things on track after beating Baltimore, but went on to lose against Cleveland and Tampa.  A win in Atlanta could help a sputtering team get some confidence.  Atlanta became the toast of the NFC (strangely) after posting a 4-1 record.  They have had as much good fortune as any team in the league.  Philadelphia exposed them last week so the Falcons need a bounce back at home.  Most seem to like the Falcons but Cincy had a bye week to prepare.

Cincinnati: 30
Atlanta:       27

Washington Redskins vs. Chicago Bears

The Redskins have gone from below average to scrappy with McNabb.  They have a chance to win any game they play.  The Bears are 4-2 but couldn't be less impressive in the process.  If the Bears can't get their protection issues fixed, there won't be too many games they win, even at home.

Washington: 20
Chicago:        17

St. Louis Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After beating San Diego, the Rams season got serious.  They now stand at 3-3 with a winnable game that could vault them to first place in the conference.  The Rams are looking for their first road victory this season.  Much like the Rams, the Bucs have played over their head this year.  They got a dose of reality courtesy of the Saints last week.  They are also 1-2 at home.  I'm taking my third upset and third road team in three chances.

St. Louis:    23
Tampa Bay: 21

San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers

The Niners hammered out their first win last week and have a great chance to make it two in a row.  They still didn't look dominant in any fashion, but they came away with the W which should provide some momentary reliefI'm not sure there is anything to say about the Panthers.  Okay, here's something...They had a bye last week.  Fourth straight road team.

San Francisco: 27
Carolina:           17

Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens

The real tragedy of the Buffalo Bills is that they don't have Carolina on the schedule this year.  That is a game I think they can win.  The Ravens lost a heart breaker to the Patriots last week.  They have played a very tough schedule so far this season and get a break this week at home.  I would not want to participate if I were the Bills.

Buffalo:      13
Baltimore: 34

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tennessee Titans

This could be one of the best games of the week.  Both teams are coming off big victories, and both stand at 4-2.  The Eagles have the edge with quarterback but the Titans have arguably the best running back in the league.  This game will most likely come down to defense and turnovers as good games often do.  Here is one unbelievable stat: Both teams are 3-0 on the road and 1-2 at home this season.  By that pattern, the Eagles look good here.

Philadelphia: 24
Tennessee:      22

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The Jags were embarrassed at home against the Titans last Monday night.  Now they travel on a short week to Kansas City where the Chiefs have been surprisingly good.  Whenever I talk about the Chiefs at home I have to give their fans credit because they enjoy one of the two best home field advantages in the NFL.  Even though they lost in Houston last week, I am starting to believe this is a serious playoff contender based on their division.

Jacksonville:  17
Kansas City: 26

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins

Regardless of who's taking snaps, the Steelers will be favored in 90 percent of their games thanks to the defense.  They are playing Steelers formula football and pounding out wins each week.  The Dolphins are a solid team but are still seeking their first home win.  No one knows exactly what kind of team Miami will bring to the stadium.  Whichever team shows up, they won't be good enough to beat the Steelers.

Pittsburgh: 27
Miami:        14

Cleveland Browns vs. New Orleans Saints

The Browns have three quarterbacks that I wouldn't ever bet on.  Their best player is out with a concussion, and they have to travel to New Orleans.  The Saints got back on track after smoking Tampa Bay.  The Browns haven't been pushovers, but I don't see any way the Saints lose this game.  Of course, I didn't see how they could lose to Max Hall and the Cards in New Orleans either.

Cleveland:       16
New Orleans: 31

Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks

The Cards are coming off a bye week where Max Hall was able to get lots of reps in practice.  I really don't think much can help the Cardinals other than playing in the worst division in the NFL.  That being said, one of the few teams the Cardinals should beat is the Seahawks.  The game is in Seattle where the Seahawks are always a threat.  They are right up there with K.C. for best home field advantage.

Arizona: 13
Seattle:  17

New England Patriots vs. San Diego Chargers

The Pats established themselves as a top team (once again) after beating Baltimore last week.  New England and Tom Brady just knows how to win.  Even when the Chargers were good they couldn't get it done against the Pats.  This year they are not good and find themselves in a pivotal game.  Last year it was a win in New York that sparked a playoff run.  Could it be a win against the Pats this year?  No way.

New England: 35
San Diego:       20

Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos

Oakland strengths: Running the ball, defending the pass.
Denver strengths: Defending the run, passing the ball.
Oakland weaknesses: Passing the ball, defending the run.
Denver weaknesses: Defending the pass, running the ball.
Oakland is 0-3 on the road.

Oakland: 20
Denver:  28

Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers

Only a sex scandal could derail the fanfare around Favre returning to Green Bay.  The Vikings seem to be slowly coming together, but Favre has to get going.  Adrian Peterson has been productive, but not as effective as he could be if the passing game could loosen up defenses.  The Vikings need Favre and Moss to develop some chemistry.  The phrase most commonly used when describing the Packers is, "decimated by injuries."  There really isn't much teams can do about a rash of injuries to key players.  Not to the degree the Packers have been hit.

Minnesota: 27
Green Bay:  24

New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys

At 4-2 the Giants are getting comfortable which is never a good place for them to be.  They have been great on defense and put together some nice offensive games.  The Cowboys are beyond desperate and another loss at home could mean Wade Phillips' job, regardless of what Jerry Jones says.  It would also cost them their season.  Aside from eliminating penalties, the Cowboys have to run the ball better.  It is do or die (again) for the Cowboys.  I'm not confident, but they need this game so much more than New York.

New York: 17
Dallas:      21

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fixes Needed in Baseball

While the popularity of Major League Baseball diminishes, I wonder why they continue to allow their season to bleed into football.  Ratings for the divisional rounds of the playoffs were painfully low and baseball continues to compete against a far more popular sport.  A change is needed and it seems a change in scheduling could have a positive impact.

The month of August is ripe for baseball.  Moving the playoffs to begin in mid August rather than October would boost ratings.  I realize struggling owners would lose money in the short term by reducing the regular season, but increased popularity should translate into profits. An ultra long regular season is a big factor why sports consumers are turned off by baseball.  By the time August rolls around all sports fans want is for football to start.  If baseball would replace the arduous wait of August with playoff baseball, fans would have a reason to stay interested.

There is nearly no benefit for MLB to go against the NFL.  Once football starts, if your team is not competing, you're not watching.  The numbers don't lie.  By shortening the regular season and moving up the playoff schedule, the divisional round could be extended to a best of seven series.  A five game series seems too short after a painfully long regular season.  Playoff baseball has a much better chance of capturing the casual fan than any regular season game.  Baseball has fallen into a pattern of increasing revenue around the stadium, but not growing the sport around the country.

So how can they execute the plan without disrupting the competitive balance?  Start the season two weeks earlier and cut out interleague play. Competitively, the schedule would never miss it.  Regular season baseball games become so devalued in a 162 game season, the only people watching interleague games are fans from the participating regions.

It's time baseball started paying attention to trends and adapting.  Instant replay is another example of baseball's refusal to change.  There is no reason not to implement a form of instant replay when you can get accurate calls immediately.  By the time it takes a manager to come out of the dugout to argue, a booth umpire could already have the accurate call.  It's not like they're cranking a Betamax in the booth.  There's another league using technology and it's pretty popular.  I have always supported tradition, but replay is not an issue to hide from. 

Baseball should suck it up and accept the fact that football is King.  There is nothing wrong with scheduling around them.  When given the choice between football and baseball, fans are going to choose football.  Other than revenue loss, I can't see why owners would be opposed to shortening the season.  Purists can't use the statistics excuse when being reluctant to change.  Baseball's magical numbers are all tarnished, and maybe that's a blessing.  They don't have to be held back with the belief that they will disrupt the historical significance of certain stats because steroids already took care of that.  Instead, it should be viewed as promoting a wonderful sport that the majority of American sports fans aren't interested in.

The game needs a breath of life, and I believe keeping it away from football can administer some of the resuscitation.  It's a start.  Is anyone going to miss 18 games or be disappointed actual games start earlier in the year?   I realize there are some weather issues in colder areas of the country early in the season but there are plenty of regions to schedule games in. 

There is no reason to believe baseball will change.  If they are going to, the time to act is now.  Baseball's popularity can spike if there is an NFL lockout next season.  There will still be college football (thank God), but without the NFL more fans will pay attention to baseball to fill the void.  They have a year to showcase the sport, then adjust the calendar.  It's obviously not a simple process when millions of dollars are in question, but baseball has failed to adjust while other American sports continuously change and surpass them in popularity.

The bottom line is there is no reason to go against football.  No one cares about baseball because no one looks forward to the World Series anymore.  There are football games to watch.  Baseball is so regionalized, I feel strange expressing passion for it around other sports fans.  Unless you live in a baseball city, there's not much interest.  When the United States doesn't care about post-season baseball, something is very wrong with how it's delivered.  Without change, baseball faces a fate similar to hockey.

The Giants, Phillies, Yankees, and Rangers all moved on to the Championship Series.  I had three of the four, and was pleasantly surprised to see the Rangers advance past the Rays.  As I stated last year, I don't think there is any reason to believe we won't have a repeat of the Yankees and Phillies.

San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies

This series pits two of the best starting rotations in baseball.  The Phillies garner the bulk of the attention with Roy Halladay.  All the guy did was throw the second no-hitter in post-season history in his first playoff game.  But the Giants have Tim Lincecum who can go pitch for pitch with Halladay.  Saturday could quietly be one of the best pitching matchups in baseball history.  The depth of the Phillies rotation is more accomphlished, but the Giants have three guys that can take the mound and beat anyone.  The difference should be the Phillies lineup in a series where runs will be at a premium.

Phillies win in 6 games

New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers

The Yankees entered the playoffs as the Wild Card team, but as long as they're in the post-season, they're the team to beat.  They swept the Twins and now take aim at the Rangers.  They will have to go up against Cliff Lee who has an unbelievable post-season resume.  The Yankees have the best lineup in baseball, but the Rangers have more pitching depth.  The Rangers are capable of scoring runs against Andy Petite and Phil Hughes so they definitely have a chance to compete in this series.  In the end, the Yankees are going to be much more comfortable with the atmosphere of the ALCS.  This is their time of year.  The Rangers are coming off their first playoff series win in franchise history and it's possible the moment will rattle them.  If people were watching, they would see a great series.

Yankees win in 7 games

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Take Your Pick: Week 6

Boy, did I pick the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.  Last week was quite possibly the worst week I have ever had picking NFL games.  The upsets I thought would hit, missed. The games I thought would be easy, became upsets. And then there were some absolute shockers, one of which knocked me out of a pick 'em league.

How in the world could New Orleans lose to Arizona?  The only offensive touchdown the Cardinals put on the board was a fumble recovery.  Then you had Dallas, San Diego, Cincinnati, and Green Bay giving their games away.

Oh well, just like Brett Favre throwing an intercepted text message pass, I have to forget about it and move on to the next week.  I can promise my reader this, I'm going to do better than I did last week.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears

The Bears were one of the wins I had last week and they find themselves in a similar matchup against a weak team.  With the way the Bears play defense, it should be a similar outcome.  The Seahawks don't have any firepower on offense other than special teams scores.  Even if they get one, I still think the Bears will get it done at home.

Seattle:    13
Chicago: 21

Miami Dolphins vs. Green Bay Packers

This one is difficult to call this early in the week.  The Packers have been decimated by injuries already this season, and last week was devastating (not only to them, but also my fantasy team).  Until we know whether or not Aaron Rodgers is going to play, this one is a coin flip.  Both teams need this win badly, and without Rodgers, I think the Dolphins will bounce back after getting smoked by New England. 

Miami:       20
Green Bay: 17

San Diego Chargers vs. St. Louis Rams

The Chargers have shown they are a completely different team on the road this year, and their special teams have cost them two wins.  The Rams got a dose of reality courtesy of the Lions last week.  I don't see the Chargers losing back to back games against inferior opponents.  This is the part of the schedule where rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle.  Not good news for the Rams who also lost Mark Clayton for the season.  Tom Brady would struggle with the receivers Bradford has to work with and Steven Jackson can't do it on his own.

San Diego: 34
St. Louis:    16

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots

This is a great matchup considering they're playing in New England.  Baltimore seems to be finding their offense courtesy of Ray Rice, but New England is coming off a bye week after dominating Miami in impressive fashion.  The Pats re-signed Deion Branch to take over the role formerly held by Randy Moss, formerly held by Deion Branch.  One thing I do know, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have not forgotten about the beating Baltimore put on them in Foxboro last year, in the playoffs. This one should be fun.

Baltimore:        27
New England: 28

New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Well, I never thought I would have to do serious consideration to pick the winner of this game, but that is where the Saints are this year.  The Bucs actually sit half a game ahead of the world champs in the standings.  They haven't played a great deal of offense en route to their 3-1 record, but neither have the Saints.  I feel like New Orleans will get on track sometime this season and Tampa Bay is usually a good place to fix an ailing offense.

New Orleans: 31
Tampa Bay:     23

Detroit Lions vs. New York Giants

The Giants have suddenly emerged as one of the hot teams in the NFL with a blowout win in Houston.  Hakeem Nicks has been the most productive receiver in the NFL and their pass rush has been on fire.  The Lions took out some frustration against the Rams last week notching their first victory of the season.  I think the Lions might cover the 10 point spread, but not win.

Detroit:       21
New York: 30

Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Falcons are extremely fortunate to be 4-1 this season after stealing games against San Francisco and New Orleans.  For that matter, they were losing against the Browns last week before they knocked Seneca Wallace out giving way to Jake Delhomme the interception king.  The Eagles have also been inconsistent this season, but they gave a good effort on the road against a desperate 49er club.  Kevin Kolb should have a bit more confidence after the win, and I imagine the Philly fans will give him a boost when he takes the field.  I like the Eagles here.

Atlanta:           24
Philadelphia: 33

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is back just in time for this once great rivalry.  No matter what the casual NFL fan might think of Cleveland as a franchise, this game still means a great deal to these two fan bases.  The fact is, the Steelers look overpowering on defense and the Browns are flirting with starting Colt McCoy.  In Pittsburgh.  Not good.

Cleveland:   10
Pittsburgh: 37

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans

This is most likely a game of find the fraud.  It's still hard for me to believe the Chiefs are good, but they sit atop the AFC West even after a loss to Indianapolis.  I have questions about their passing game, and I don't think they are a good road team.  Houston was flat out embarrassed by the Giants last week.  A bounce back game is needed badly.  They have been successful running the ball in their three wins and if they can do that against KC, they should come away with the victory.

Kansas City: 20
Houston:      28

Oakland Raiders vs. San Francisco 49ers

Come on San Fran!  This thing has gotten out of hand.  You guys are a better team than you have been showing, and you just need something to go right for you.  If you are going to salvage your season, this is the week to do it.  A winnable game against a weaker opponent.  Granted, the Raiders are coming off a home victory against the Chargers to snap a 13 game losing streak, but I know you have it in you.  You are three mental errors away from being 3-2.  Let's get it done this week.  The conference is still up for grabs!

Oakland:            16
San Francisco: 24

New York Jets vs. Denver Broncos

The Jets look to be about the best team in the NFL so far this season.  They are a top three defense and have found a nice burst with the resurgent Ladainian Tomlinson.  They are going on the road after a short week which is never good for an NFL team.  Meanwhile, Josh McDaniels looks like an offensive genius.  Well, passing game genius.  He has turned Kyle Orton into the most prolific passer in the NFL through five games and all without the benefit of a running game.  After watching Favre rack up the yardage against the Jets, I think this could be a very interesting game.

New York: 24
Denver:      21

Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings

Two teams that had Super Bowl aspirations before the season started now find themselves in a do or die game against an equally desperate opponent.  When is the last time the most interesting game of the week pitted two one win teams?  The question for the Cowboys is whether or not they can stop Adrian Peterson.  I honestly feel like (and I can't believe I'm saying this) Tavaris Jackson would give the Vikings a better chance to win this week than a hurt Brett Favre.  I like the Vikings better as a team, but I like Romo better as a quarterback.  Minnesota plays better defense, and they're at home.

Dallas:         24
Minnesota: 27

Indianapolis Colts vs. Washington Redskins

Thanks NBC, for making this the Sunday night game.  There are eight games I'd rather watch than this one.  Oh well.  Nothing against either team, but they really aren't exciting.  Manning is the most over exposed quarterback in the league and the Skins play ugly football.  I have nothing against it, it's just not fun to watch.  If there is a blue print to beat the Colts, it's to run the ball. But the Skins are certainly not proficient on the ground.

Indianapolis: 24
Washington:   19

Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Thanks ESPN, for making this one the Monday night know the rest.  Can you believe this matchup?  What were they thinking when they made the schedule?  Is this a last ditch effort to get Jax some attendance numbers, or do they want the fans in Los Angeles to get a preview of their future franchise?  Why not play this one in London?  That makes as much sense as making it the Monday night game.  Uggghhh.  Looks like Monday will be board game night.  I'll take Jax in the mini upset.

Tennessee:      20
Jacksonville: 21

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pissing Off the Wasps

A squint-eyed seven year old boy stands on the side of a canyon in Southern California surveying the wilderness stretched endlessly across the horizon.  A ranch is hidden in the brush less than a mile away from the side of the hill the boy stands.  The uncultivated terrain shows signs of history long forgotten.  The remains of a mostly rotted, wooden cattle fence sits in the basin of canyon.  Rusted barbed wire edges the earth between fence posts, most of which are knocked down.  The few that remain upright are dilapidated and filled with holes from years of exposure to the elements.  The myriad of historical possibilities that occurred there is nearly mystical.  Thoughts of caballeros and ranch hands working the land and driving steer across the open terrain fill his head.  The only signs of progress and cultivation is a single neighborhood and a two lane road bisecting the enormous canyon.  It is a blank canvas for the boy to play and imagine, but he has only one objective.  A bond with his surroundings is instantly formed and he is convinced of his purpose.  He absolutely must throw rocks at the standing fence posts until he knocks one of the decrepit structures down.  The boy is blessed with a lively arm and there is an unlimited supply of ammo.  This is where the conflict begins.

Once the first rock accurately strikes the fence a colony of giant red wasps is awakened.  Fearless and undaunted, the boy continues to take aim at the post deriving immense pleasure in disturbing the stinging inhabitants.  Each strike generates a frenzy of activity and the colony becomes the boy's nemesis.  Eventually the game loses its luster, and as seven year old boys are known to do, he searches for amusement elsewhere giving no thought to his previous exploits.  The wasps swarm around their bombed-out fence post now leaning at a 45 degree angle.  The incident will never be forgotten, but its significance was not realized for years.

Two boys stand at the base of a concrete sewer tunnel adjacent to Central Oklahoma backwoods.  Armed with football helmets, tennis rackets and sunglasses, the young men size up their foes.  They are prepared to do battle with a colony of frenetic wasps swarming around their fallen hive near a sewage run-off.  The battle plan?  Simple.  Approach the swarm and start swinging.  What could go wrong?  Several wasps were injured or killed but the boys did not walk away unscathed either.  They retreated furiously after the swarm turned their full attention to the attackers.  Each boy emerges with a welt on his leg worn proudly as a battle scar.  They brag to each other that they hardly felt the sting.  On that day the boys considered themselves victorious despite the injury received.  The battle was over and forgotten for the boys, but the wasps would not forget.  The boy was marked as an enemy that day, a tag wasps throughout the country would respond to.

Several neighborhood children sit high atop a hill in Southern California playing a game of truth or dare.  The most daring and outspoken boy of the group believes a small hive found on the hill is dormant.  It lays on the ground devoid of activity providing no signs of life.  When the dare is made to sit on the nest the audacious child accepts pretentiously.  Six other children eagerly watch the boy approached the hive.  The boy was no stranger to stings and was not shy to brag about it.  What's the worst that could happen?  A furious vibration on the boys rump indicated the hive was very much active.  In seconds the boy's face and head were covered with yellow wasps stinging relentlessly.  The neighborhood children hollered with laughter as the tear-filled child ran down the hill.  The wasps had their revenge.  A surprise attack left their victim with over a dozen stings.  The tides of the conflict had turned.

A young man in Northern Florida stands by a backyard swimming pool.  He had grown since his horrific hillside attack, but he was not at peace.  He had been repeatedly stung playing basketball in his front yard and various other occasions.  The pool became a haven when escape was necessary.  The young man begins the process of pool cleaning by pulling equipment out of a storage box.  Pool toys are tossed aside until a giant orange and yellow wasp emerges from under the box taking dead aim for the young man's mouth.  As a reaction he snaps his mouth shut with the wasp inside.  The aggravated wasp stings the roof of the his mouth and makes its way to the esophagus.  Using two fingers the young man rips the wasp off his epiglottis and throws it aside.  A burning welt on the roof of the mouth stands as a reminder that the wasps were not one for treaties and that disaster was narrowly escaped.  They were the aggressors now, and their sniper proved the young man would have to be constantly at the ready.

A college student sits in the passenger seat of a dirty truck in Central Oklahoma while his friend is inside a local convenient store.  A yellow wasp enters the truck and lands on his bare knee.  The student has a reverence for winged beasts of all varieties developed from a lifetime of hard lessons.  His heart beats rapidly as he carefully attempts to open the passenger door.  Unable to move his right leg the student decides to swipe at the wasp while simultaneously bounding out of the car and into the street.  The student's friend watches confused from the window of the checkout stand as his friend flails wildly outside the truck.  Convinced the wasp had taken refuge behind the passenger seat, the student refuses to reenter the truck until the problem is eliminated.  The students friend is near hysterics as he tries to convince him there is nothing to be worried about other than looking like a madman in the middle of Campus Corner.  In an attempt to ease the student's concern the friend drops the passenger seat to discover the wasp waiting patiently to strike again.  The wasp flies directly for the accomplice's face causing a similar reaction seen from inside the store.  Both student's take to flailing together in a ridiculous public spectacle.  No peace in sight.

A 27 year old man lays in bed with his wife on a Sunday morning in Central Texas.  Years of peace had been enjoyed between the man and the wasps.  Some close calls here and there, a few jittery responses to nearby stingers, but years of welt free life followed his college years.  The man gets out of bed and dodges an ambush meant for his face.  The wasps penetrated his home.  A lifelong conflict followed him all over the country, but for the first time the battle was taking place on his turf.  They had not forgotten, they had simply evolved.  Years of peace meant solely to put the man at ease only to attack when he least expects it where he least expects it.  Safety was simply a myth.

A 31 year old man sits on the sofa blogging about his lifelong skirmishes with an insect.  Half a dozen wasps circle violently outside as they tend to their newly constructed barracks on the man's porch.  Ticking sounds like bullet casings hitting the ground occur rhythmically as the wasps bump into the glass, hungry for a confrontation.  A war rages on that the man declared finished twenty years prior.  Retreat is not a word these miscreants are familiar with.  They only understand revenge, malice, evil, unrelenting retribution.  They have no concept of maturation.  They don't understand the acts of a seven year old child do not accurately reflect the feelings of a tired combatant.  A man sits writing, forcibly entrenched in a war that has no end in sight.  The only lesson learned: Don't piss off the wasps!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Take Your Pick: Week 5

One of the reasons the NFL is so special is the parity.  There is never a single week that there aren't upsets, especially at the beginning of the season when every team thinks they have a chance to make the playoffs. That was particularly true last week when, once again, there were some completely unpredictable outcomes.  I know that no one outside of Florida had the Jaguars beating the Colts much less the Broncos beating the Titans in Tennessee.  Screwball did okay going 8-6, but it was a week I thought I might hit 100%.  That is why the NFL is great.  No matter who you watch there is always potential for drama.  Here we go again...

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills

The Jaguars are coming off a huge win at home against a superior team to even their record.  Now they face an inferior team on the road.  The only highlights for the Bills this season are putting up 30 against New England in a loss, trading Marshawn Lynch, and releasing Trent Edwards.  Not exactly the stuff Jim Kelly is putting in his scrap book.  The Jaguars were able to put up points against a Colts defense that is not much better than Buffalo's.  I don't see the Bills losing every game this season, and if that's the case, this is a week they could notch their first win.  I know it's crazy to pick the Bills, but I think I will this week.

Jacksonville:  20
Buffalo:         21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bucs have a winning record but it is in jeopardy after their early bye week.  The last game they played they were blown out by Pittsburgh.  That in itself is not a terrible loss considering the Steelers have looked like the best team in the league.  But I am not about to say that Tampa Bay is anywhere near a good team.  The Bengals have been mysterious this year like many other 2-2 teams.  They were able to get T.O. the breakout game he needed to stay happy, but they have yet to put up the offensive numbers many expected.  Coming off a terrible loss to Cleveland and playing at home, I think they will come away with a good win.

Tampa Bay:   17
Cincinnati:   28

Atlanta Falcons vs. Cleveland Browns

The Falcons are starting to get some attention after beating New Orleans two weeks ago.  The problem is they should've lost that game, and they should've lost last week against the 49ers.  They have won one game soundly this season against the Cardinals.  I said last week the Browns have been in every game this year and they got their first win.  Can the Browns keep the momentum and put up back to back wins?  Probably not, but I am feeling risky.  After watching the numerous upsets last week, I am in a mood to pick some more. 

Atlanta:      19
Cleveland: 23

St. Louis Rams vs. Detroit Lions

I have taken the Rams three times this year, and twice they have come through.  The positive attention their franchise has received is enough to make Marshall Faulk blush.  Sam Bradford has re-energized this franchise and there is a palpable excitement surrounding their future.  The Lions, on the other hand, are still looking for someone to get them out of their slump.  If you polled the experts last year on which franchise had more promise, Detroit would have been picked across the board.  Despite missing their #1 quarterback, the Lions have managed to stay competitive in a couple games this year.  If I was picking with my head I would take the Lions at home in a close one.  In fact, they are a three point favorite.  Since I have never really done that, I am taking the Rams to get an incredible third win this season.

St. Louis: 29
Detroit:     20

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Chiefs are currently the only undefeated team in the NFL.  Yeah, that's right.  How long could that possibly last?  I don't care about their fast start and upgraded weapons, I still refuse to believe the Chiefs are a playoff team.  The Colts are definitely hurting.  They can't run the ball and they can't defend the run.  With any other quarterback, the Colts would be helpless.  Lucky for them they have one of the best regular season quarterbacks to ever play the game.  They are a franchise that is used to winning, and I can't believe after a loss in Jacksonville they would allow themselves to lose at home to the Chiefs.  If the Chiefs can pull this one off, I might have to amend my position on them.  I don't think I'll have to.

Kansas City:   26
Indianapolis: 34

Green Bay Packers vs. Washington Redskins

Green Bay is suddenly under scrutiny after being the popular pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  They have been a one-sided offense after Ryan Grant went down, and neither the offensive or defensive line has been impressive.  They beat themselves against Chicago and barely escaped against Detroit at home.  The Redskins are coming off a huge win in Philadelphia.  Donovan McNabb should be feeling good about himself.  Clinton Portis is hurt but that might prove to be a blessing.  I see this game being competitive, but I still can't bring myself to pick the Skins in this one.

Green Bay:   24
Washington:  16

Chicago Bears vs. Carolina Panthers

Bears fans are holding their breath despite a 3-1 record.  After suffering a loss to the Giants where Jay Cutler had seemingly more sacks than completions, the NFL community is wondering if the Bears are a fraud.  The Panthers are definitely not a fraud.  They are terrible and they are not afraid to show it.  I'm not sure if Jimmy Clausen will get the start again, but no matter who takes the field there isn't much hope for the Panthers.  Still, they are winless and that makes them dangerous.  I think the Bears will get the win thanks to their defense.

Chicago: 17
Carolina: 14

Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens

Denver has been resilient this season, but they are far from good.  Despite an excellent win last week, I have no confidence the Broncos can continue to beat teams they shouldn't.  I have to admit that Kyle Orton has done a better job than I thought he would.  The Ravens are trying to find their groove, but they are still winning games.  They have two excellent wins against two of the most impressive teams in the league.  I can't see the Broncos winning on the road two games in a row even with the Ravens coming off a hard fought win.  There are enough veterans in Baltimore to take the Broncos seriously.

Denver:      18
Baltimore: 22

New York Giants vs. Houston Texans

I accurately predicted the Giants would get their first win against undefeated Chicago last week.  They looked dominant on defense and played as if their season depended on a win.  It did.  This week they have to take that same intensity on the road against a better team.  After the hot start, the Texans have not looked particularly dominating.  A lot of that can be attributed to Andre Johnson being injured.  They are still getting lots of production from Arian Foster and their running game, but it feels like they need a big win to establish themselves as the real deal.  Although the Giants are still desperate, I think they will fall on the road.

New York:  21
Houston:    31

New Orleans Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals

The Saints are banged up and playing like it.  They are still the Super Bowl champs and have started 3-1 this year.  That aside, if anyone is going to beat the Saints, now is the time to get them.  The Cardinals are fast becoming the punching bag of the NFL.  They have been dismantled by the two good teams they have played this year.  Despite the injuries, I would still consider the Saints a good team.  The Saints should win this one.

New Orleans: 30
Arizona:          19

San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders

The Chargers have beaten the Raiders 12 games in a row.  That is a misleading stat when you look at some of the close games these two have played, especially in Oakland.  San Diego is coming off their biggest win of the year against the Cardinals, a team that won in Oakland a couple of weeks ago.  The Raiders are nursing injuries and don't look to be as competitive as some thought they would be.  They still look dangerous on paper, but without coaching there isn't much hope.

San Diego: 29
Oakland:     20

Tennessee Titans vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Titans are coming off an ugly loss to the Broncos.  Not only did they get beat at home, but Broncos coach Josh McDaniels basically called them out for being a dirty team.  Chris Johnson has not been the threat he was last year, and if I'm not mistaken, they still feature Vince Young as the starting quarterback.  The Cowboys got their first win just in time for the bye week.  I'm not sure what the lay off would do to a team like the Cowboys, but if they share the same passion their fan base does, they understand the urgency of their situation.  Both teams need a win badly, but the Cowboys are a better team and playing at home.  That doesn't always mean something in Dallas, but I think they will get it done.

Tennessee: 17
Dallas:       31

Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers

The Eagles lost both Michael Vick and Lesean McCoy last week in a home loss against the Redskins.  Kevin Kolb looks like he is uncomfortable throwing the ball downfield and now he is without his excellent pass catching running back.  The Eagles defense looked soft early but was able to tighten up in the second half.  The 49ers are one loss away from playing themselves out of the playoffs in the worst division in the NFL.  I know I said I wouldn't pick the 49ers again if they lost last week, but I'm not sure the Eagles can overcome their injuries to beat a terribly desperate team.

Philadelphia:     13
San Francisco: 21

Minnesota Vikings vs. New York Jets

A bye week might be just what the doctor ordered for Brett Favre and the Vikings.  The running game and defense are where they should be to this point in the season, but the passing game has been non-existent.  That is unless you count passes to the other team.  So how do you fix passing issues?  Trade for Randy Moss.  It will be very interesting to see what that does for Favre and the Vikings.  Unfortunately, they have to face the Jets in New York who have looked powerful.  Ladainian Tomlinson is having a resurgent season, and Mark Sanchez appears to be more comfortable in the offense.  The Jets also get Santonio Holmes back from suspension, and we all know what their defense is capable of.  It will be tough sledding for Adrian Peterson if Favre and the receivers can't loosen up the defense.

Minnesota:  23
New York:  26


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