Thursday, September 28, 2006

Week 4 Picks

Alright guys, I’m feeling rejuvenated. Not only did I have a winning week, not only did one of my parlays actually not lose (I was STUNNED when I logged in to look at the lines just now and saw that I had money in my account – and that I had actually made money last week, albeit only $45), not only all of that, but this week I have the opportunity to pick against the Raiders again!

Seriously, I am busting. BUSTING! (Hope someone got the Seinfeld reference…)

Also, before I jump into this week’s picks and try to build off of last weeks’ success (7-5-2; not great, not terrible. 21-23-2 so far this year), I wanted to pass along a link to a fellow blogger. His page is officially my new favorite blog that I don’t write, so I might as well let you all enjoy it with me.

Those of you like me that live religiously on have probably seen his “Daily Quickie” on Page 2. He has since left the ESPN family and is blogging daily on every sports topic (and really, every topic) all day long. So go ahead, click the link (you know you want to) and check out

Not like he really needs the boost in readership numbers, but it’s worth the time.

And one last thing on Shanoff’s blog; there’s a Writer’s Series book reading next week in NYC (here’s the link and guest lineup). If you’re a web freak or a sports freak (or both) like me, you’ll like the guest lineup. I’m probably taking some time off work to drive down and have a drink and a listen – might as well join me.

OK, onto this week’s picks:

All Lines from and current as of 8PM on 9-28-06

Colts (-9) over JETS: I can only remember one team in the last 15 years winning the Super Bowl with as good of a passing game and as lousy of a running game as the Colts seem to have this year – The Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis in 1999. But I think the Colts should show some signs of a ground game this week in New York. Look for Joseph Addai to have 90+ and a score, but Peyton should still be Peyton – you know, 280 yards, 2 TDs, blah blah blah…

Chargers (-2.5) over RAVENS: Damn, two straight road favorites… Last week’s game really exposed Baltimore’s lack of an offense, and that was against Cleveland – not exactly a defensive powerhouse. The Chargers defense has looked like it is moving about twice as fast as anyone else on the field. As long as San Diego doesn’t rely on Philip Rivers to win them the game, they should have no problem controlling the tempo and dictating the pace of the game, on both sides of the ball. This will be a fierce, smash mouth game, but in the end, the Chargers’ offense should be able to overcome the Baltimore defense.

Vikings (+1) over BILLS: OK, now a road underdog… I think I may have overestimated the Bills last week. They looked good in Week one against a superior New England team, but lost. They looked outstanding in Week 2 against a comparable Miami team, and won. They looked horrendous in Week 3 against a good Jets team, and got their lunch handed to them. The Vikings have kept every game close, with a total point differential this year of +4 (win by 3, win by 3, lose by 2). This should be a close game, and in that situation, I like the underdog – even if it is only one point.

Cowboys (-9.5) over TITANS: Think about this: the Cowboys are dealing with the whole T.O. situation (and that should be another 3-5 paragraphs in itself, but I refuse), the lack of a reliable, uninjured kicker, Bill Parcells making rumblings about his “deteriorating health” which is usually a precursor to his early departure from a contract, and Drew Bledsoe is still starting under center. So that should tell you just how bad the Titans really are. 9.5 points for any other team (besides Oakland) would be ridiculous. For Tennessee, a 10 point loss sounds about right – though I plan on teasing them waaaaay up, or the Cowboys waaaaay down…

49ers (+7) over CHIEFS: The Niners have held their own against three solid conference teams. Sure, they only have one win to show for it, but they have proven a lot. More importantly, they still have their starting quarterback, and as of right now, their starting running back. Losing Vernon Davis will hurt, but Eric Johnson is a more than capable back-up. The Chiefs are still relying on Damon Huard, but coming off of a bye week, they will at least be rested. Still won’t be enough.

Saints (+7) over PANTHERS: Stupidest line on the board. Actually, second stupidest (we’ll get to that later). Yes, it’s the Saints. Yes, there’s no way they keep this up. And yes, this is probably going to be a huge emotional let down game after the game in the Superdome last week (boy did I screw that pick up - and thanks to my buddy Tim for reminding me of it today with a hearty laugh…) I’m sure the Panthers will look to try and build off of last week’s big win, but I don’t think they can do it by more than 7. Carolina wins, but doesn’t cover.

FALCONS (-7) over Cardinals: FINALLY – a home team! Atlanta got completely embarrassed last week, but you can’t really blame them. That game was so unbelievably hyped up that it would be easy for a team, especially the opposing team, to forget that they were even playing a game. But the Falcons should get John Abraham and Ed Hartwell back this week, and with Kurt Warner under center, get ready for about 8 sacks, 3 picks and maybe even a fumble or two.

Dolphins (-3.5) over TEXANS: This is, by far, the line I feel most uncomfortable with this week. And it involves the Texans. What’s that tell you about Miami? Daunte Culpepper has to break out of his funk this week – if he’s even remotely mediocre in this game, he’s done for good. But I think he’ll break out big time – maybe even up to 350 with 3 TDs. That’s good news for me – I can finally start Chris Chambers with confidence.

RAMS (-5.5) over Lions: This has to be Matt Millen’s final year in the GM’s box, unless of course, he’s the janitor next year…

BENGALS (-6) over Patriots: I really hope you guys are recording this… this is the first time I’ve picked against the Pats since Week 13 last season when they were (-10) over the Jets in Foxboro. It’s not that I think they’re bad (c’mon, I’m from New England – In Belichick I Trust). It’s not that I think this game will be a complete blowout (13 points, max). It’s that the Bengals have looked so damned good the first three weeks that I can’t imagine New England having the horses to stick with them. I feel like this is going to be a shootout type of game, but without any playmaker type of receiver, New England is starting the game behind the 8-ball. One thing to watch for this game – Corey Dillon is returning to Cincy. He is absolutely going to go off. You heard it hear first – if he’s healthy and doesn’t run for at least 125 and a touchdown, I’ll be amazed.

Jaguars (-3) over REDSKINS: The Redskins defense is really overrated this year. They haven’t really contained anyone yet, and their offense needed the Texans on the other side of the ball to finally break 16 points. The Jaguars’ defense is a wee little bit better than the Texans’. And their offense should do just enough to keep them up by more than a field goal.

Browns (-2.5) over RAIDERS: This is the most ridiculous line on the board. The Raiders should not be any less than a six point underdog to anyone besides the Titans or Texans until they actually show up for a game. The Browns have looked pretty feisty in all three of their games, and they haven’t rolled over to an opponent yet, unlike Oakland who has looked like a 1-AA college team in both their games so far.

BEARS (-3.5) over Seahawks: OK, so I wrote my entire pick out for the Seahawks to cover this line and win outright… and then I remembered that Shaun Alexander is out for this game. Whenever a defense can eliminate one entire aspect of the other team’s game, their job is easier. But when the league’s best defense doesn’t have to account for the reigning league MVP, I mean, that’s like a gift from the Gambling Gods. And when the line stays below four this late into the week… hold on, I need to go check my account balance one more time.

Packers (+11) over EAGLES: Green Bay isn’t winning this outright. But the Eagles have this nasty little habit of letting teams back into games late (see, Week 2: Giants…) The Packers will probably get down big early, then throw the ball and try to climb back into the game. This feels like an 8-10 point game to me. By the way – I can’t tell you how happy I am to have Chambers vs. the Texans, Kellen Winslow vs. the Browns, and my choice of Mike Vick against Arizona or Brett Favre when he inevitably has to throw the ball 50 times this week… as long as he keeps it out of Eagles’ hands.

Recap: Colts / Chargers / Vikings / Cowboys / 49ers / Saints / FALCONS / Dolphins / RAMS / BENGALS / Jaguars / Browns / BEARS / Packers

Four home teams. Four road underdogs. I feel like this could end up really, really good, or really, really bad.

We’ll see by Tuesday.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Quick Thoughts while pondering my first winning week of the season...

First things first - the following paragraph got cut out of the picks post last Thursday night. I think I just bumped the mouse on my laptop and managed to delete a paragraph. Anyway, here's what I picked for the Panthers/Buccaneers game:

BUCS (+3) over Panthers: Listen guys, Carolina's run defense is a complete sieve right now. The Falcons gashed them for way, WAY too many yards. The Vikings managed to pull one out of their asses. Carolina is down and out, and I'm not even sure that Steve Smith is the answer for them. Cadillac Williams should finally break the 100-yard mark this week, with a touchdown or two, and hopefully, that's enough for the Bucs, because Chris Simms has looked downright horrendous this season.

Now, in hindsight, the shot at Simms seems ill timed, especially in light of his life-threatening injury. However, at least the pick was right - the Bucs lost, but they covered the three points (26-24). That puts me at 7-4-2 (Jags & Bears both pushed, although both lines had moved by the time I got any money in... more on that later) heading into Monday Night Football tonight. Admittedly, 7-4-2 ain't spectacular, but it'll do.

So what did I see in Week 3? Gee, glad you asked...

n Right off the top, Chris Simms is the definition of a "football player" if he really did play for a quarter with a ruptured spleen and internal bleeding. That's just ridiculous. The problem is, it's not a good thing. There was no reason for him to be playing if anyone had any inkling that something was seriously wrong. My guess is that the team trainer or doctor gets fired over this one.

n The Titans have the #1 pick in the draft just about locked up - there's no way they can beat the Texans head to head, and Houston is the only real threat to Tennessee' pursuit of an 0-16 season. But with Vince Young and LenDale White already in tow, who will they pick? My guess is an overrated wide receiver, an overrated lineman, or a trade for a boatload of picks from a team that could use Brady Quinn or Adrian Peterson. And yes, I'm aware it's only Week 3.

n I had a terrifying though laying in bed at 1:30 this morning, trying to comprehend how lousy of a day I had... the Jets might be the best all-around team in the AFC East right now. Yikes.

n That's not to say the Pats won't win the division - look at their final eight or so games, there's not one game in there that they shouldn't win. Although I'll be a little more hesitant to give up more than three points with them in the future.

n Daunte Culpepper has been sacked 15 times in three games. He's on pace for 80 sacks this year. EIGHTY - Eight-Zero! No way he finishes the season if this keeps up.

n So, a couple of notes on things I wrote in the Week 3 Picks post. The Bears did not dominate, but they did do just enough to win. The Giants did exactly what I thought - had a massive letdown game after that gigantic come from behind farce of a game last week. The Eagles took out their frustrations on the poor 49ers (who managed to lose their starting runningback AND tight end, plus give up a 98-yard fumble return all on the same play.) And the Sunday Night game was a huge statement win... for the Broncos. Nothing like marching into another team's house and shutting them down cold. I still think San Diego's going to win that division, but Denver looked good last night. Let's just see how long they can keep that up.

n As for my "awful day", sure, my picks were above .500 for the week. Problem is, I don't place bets on Thursdays - I wait for Saturday night and Sunday morning for the lines to finally settle and for injury news to be finalized. That's why I got the Bears at (-3.5) instead of the (-3) they were at earlier (loss instead of push), the Jaguars at (+7.5) instead of (+7), another loss that should have pushed. Although it's not all bad - I had money on both sides of the Carolina/Tampa game, with the Bucs (+3, win) AND the Panthers (-2, push). Too bad every teaser and parlay involved one of the losses I got hosed with. Another week, another week without a winning bet. No more real money for awhile; of course I'll go undefeated when I'm not betting with my money.

n One last thought from the Broncos/Patriots game... Seeing that Denver defensive player puke on the field (I can't remember his name, and I'm way too lazy to look it up) in High Definition might surpass the LT/Theisman hit for most revolting thing I've ever seen in a football game. Sure the Theisman hit was much more serious, but you've never seen puke until you've see it in HD. Disturbing.

One quick note from outside of football. I know - you can't focus on any other sports right now. Sorry.

Back in the mid nineties, I started keeping an eye on the San Diego Padres. I had just found out that a distant, distant cousin (like, fifth or sixth, someone I've never met, and probably never will) actually owned the team, so it gave me a reason to pay attention. I already had my National League team to root for (Atlanta, so this season hurts), but hey, it was technically family, so I had a semi-vested interest. (Full disclosure: he now has a large stake in the Red Sox, not that I needed any more reasons to be a fan of them...)

Hearing that Trevor Hoffman broke the all-time saves record last night was great. But they way he did it was unbelievably surprising. He has never been the flashy type of closer. Sure, he's been injured a couple times (what pitcher hasn't, really?) but he's accomplished all of this with a workmanlike attitude, just going in and getting the job done day in and day out. Never spectacular, never terrible (except in this year's All-Star game... ugh), just going out every year and getting his 35-40 saves. This year, he's the NL saves leader with 43 to date, and he's a major reason that the Padres are still in the NL West lead. So congratulations go out to him.

That's all for now. I, along with probably 2/3 of the country, will be watching Monday Night Football tonight. I'm standing by my Falcons (-3) pick. I'm also making a prediction:

Currently, the highest rated cable television program of all time is a political debate between Al Gore and Ross Perot on the pros and cons of the NAFTA bill. That statement is funny enough by itself. I predict that the ratings for tonight's football game will blow that debate out of the water. There's the New Orleans/Superdome rebirth angle by itself, there's two 2-0 teams, and there's Mike Vick and Reggie Bush on the same field. No doubt in my mind - there will be a new #1 cable program of all time tonight.

And the Falcons will win, 27-16.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Week 3 Picks

It’s Week Three of the 2006 NFL season. Usually by now we can tell a few things about a few teams. For example:

n The Packers are bad. Really bad. But not nearly as bad as the Raiders. In fact, if these two teams were to meet on the field (which, sadly, will not happen this year short of a cataclysmic Super Bowl run by both teams), I would expect no less than a 21 point Packers win. And this is the team that just lost back to back games at home to New Orleans (by 7, though it wasn’t that close) and Chicago (by 26, but it wasn’t that close). That’s how bad the Raiders are.

n On the flip side, the Bears, Ravens, Chargers and Bengals are all very good. Of all those teams, I’d take the Bears and the Bengals to go the furthest in the playoffs, and a Chicago/Cincinnati Super Bowl isn’t out of the question.

n Steve Smith might be the most important player in the NFL. The Panthers were the hot pick to win the NFC (myself included). Smith has missed both of the Panthers’ first two games. They lost both, to Atlanta and Minnesota. Now, admittedly, the Falcons look awful good so far. But Minnesota stole a game that neither team seemed interested in putting in their win column. Carolina needs Smith back, and at 100%, or they’re looking at a very, very long year.

n I would not be surprised to see Jay Cutler starting next week. The Patriots have had one thing on their mind since the schedule was released – September 24th, 2006, they can get their REVENGE. Trust me on this one. New England has been looking forward to this game all offseason long. I’ll elaborate more below, but the Pats want this one bad, and if it means making Jake Plummer have a nervous breakdown on the field, then so much the better.

n The Dolphins, Panthers and Broncos might be the most over hyped, overrated teams in years. We’ll obviously know more in two to four more weeks, but for now, they all look bad. Really bad. Not quite in Raiders territory, but still…

n I couldn’t hate the Eagles more after last week’s implosion. They handed that game to the Giants. In fact, just the Rams and Eagles alone cost me over $600 in easy parlays that I should have hit. Four different bets that only missed because those two teams just decided to roll over. And for the record, the Plaxico Burress OT touchdown was Offensive Pass Interference, but the refs were so Gawd-awful in that game that they just swallowed their whistles on the most important play. Naturally.

n I was reminded today by my friend Andy about how badly the Texans botched the draft last year. He mentioned that he thought the Jets should have taken DeAngelo Williams in the draft, but that he couldn’t argue with two stud lineman instead. To which I went into my tirade about how the Jets easily could have moved John Abraham to Houston along with the #4 pick to get the #1 and Reggie Bush. Then Houston could have signed Abraham (for less than they paid Mario Williams) and still drafted either The Brick at #4 or someone else (maybe still Williams) and the Jets could have gotten the best marketing magnet the NFL has seen in twenty years. Plus, I wouldn’t be subjected to roughly 26,174 different commercials this season featuring Peyton Manning. Unfortunately, in the process of writing the e-mail to Andy (mentioning how I made this same argument Back in March/April) I developed this little nervous twitch and couldn’t type anymore… it’s faded away by now, but I’m getting angrier and angrier rehashing this. And I hate the Jets! I need a glass of water…

Now, as for my picks… something might be wrong.

I’ve opened the season with back to back 7-9 starts. 14-18 to open the year. This is not good. I feel all out of whack. I’ve lost my balance, the air smells funny, even food doesn’t taste good.

OK, that last one is a lie. But seriously, I haven’t had back-to-back losing weeks in a very, very long time. For any of you that might read this blog hoping to get some insight on lines that even the pros might miss, I apologize.

In fact, I’m so remorseful that I’m going to offer a full money back guarantee on this week’s picks. If I go sub-.500 again this week, I will refund every cent that you gave me to read my picks.

I’m pretty confident we’ll all make out OK with that deal.

Lines from and accurate as of 7:00PM 9/21/06:

BILLS (-5.5) over Jets: Look, I’m quickly learning to respect both of these teams a lot more than I did just two weeks ago. The Bills gave the Patriots all they could handle, on opening weekend, at Gillette Stadium. New England was lucky to walk out with a win. The Jets made a ridiculous comeback last week, although to be honest, the Pats shot themselves in the foot more than the Jets actually doing much. If not for Jerricho Cotchery’s unbelievable balancing act, that game never gets that close. In this one, it’s simple – for as decent as the Jets have looked in their first two games, the Bills have looked dominant on defense, and competent enough to survive on offense. I’m taking Buffalo on the defense and home field advantage alone.

Bengals (+2) over STEELERS: Wait a second. I’m sorry; did the odds makers not watch the game Monday Night? I certainly did (and sadly, I made an emergency push on the Steelers (-2.5). Oops.) I understand that the game is in Pittsburgh. I understand that Carson Palmer might have a mental block about playing the Steelers (and to be honest, that scares me more than anything). I even understand the whole “bounce-back” factor for the Steelers. But the Bengals have looked damned good this year, admittedly, against Kansas City and Cleveland. The Steelers played very well against an overrated Dolphins team, and then got their lunch handed to them against a very underrated Jaguars team. The Bengals should be able to prove their superiority, and take a stringer hold on the AFC North lead…for now.

Jaguars (+7) over COLTS: OK, Let’s get one thing straight. The Colts are still (sadly) the scariest team in the AFC right now. They have the NFL’s most dominant offense, with the best technical quarterback in the league. Their defense has been holding opponents down in both games this year – the second half of the Houston game was 30 minutes of garbage time for Indy. So why pick Jacksonville, when they are clearly staring a letdown game straight in the eyes? Because they are downright nasty. They are managing the game on offense (the only turnover against Pittsburgh was off of a hell of a defensive play) and they are dominating on defense. Indy might be short their prized offseason signing – kicker Adam Vinateri (gee, that’s a real shame) – plus, Dwight Freeney is a question mark this late in the week. Sure, Peyton will get his yards, but Jacksonville will shut down any semblance of a running game early and often, and show Manning so many different looks he’ll think he’s in Foxboro in a January blizzard instead of Indy in September.

Titans (+10.5) over DOLPHINS: I’ve got no idea here. Tennessee sucks. Miami is overrated, and last weeks fans were actually pleading for Joey Harrington to enter the game. JOEY HARRINGTON! I think Miami wins, but not by 11+.

TEXANS (+4) over Redskins: Finally! A home underdog! Something I can get behind. Here’s the thing – Houston is bad, but not that bad. Again, I use the Oakland Raiders comparison. Oakland could make the Redskins offense look competent. Houston will at least show Mark Brunell some different looks. Besides – the Redskins haven’t broken 16 points on offense yet, including the preseason. That won’t be enough – David Carr has looked pretty good this year, even if hasn’t yet translated into wins.

Bears (-3) over VIKINGS: C’mon, this is a gimme. A lay-up. A… whatever other sports-related analogy you want to use. Chicago is the best team in the NFC right now, even if they’ve had a creampuff schedule. This win puts them at 3-0, with all three wins over division opponents. Sure, Minnesota’s 2-0, but both wins were by a field goal late in the game. The Bears won’t let this game stay close – they’ll be up by double-digits at the half and just extend it as the game winds down.

Packers (+6.5) over LIONS: I know, I know. I keep backing the Lions, and they keep disappointing me. Now I’ll go against them, and they’ll blow out Green Bay. Detroit has the embarrassment factor to drive them; Green Bay is already in the “playing for pride” mode. Personally, I’m thinking Brett Favre can duplicate his huge day from last week against New Orleans – in fact, I’m banking on it. I picked him up for a one week start just to face Detroit’s Swiss Cheese secondary.

Ravens (-6) over BROWNS: Sure, Cleveland fans will be rabid over this game. They’ll be the only ones. For some reason, this is the national afternoon game. I can’t imagine why, if only to try and make the rest of the nation pity the greater Cleveland area. Baltimore – big.

Rams (+4.5) over CARDINALS: I’m completely confused by two games this week. This one and the Dolphins/Titans game. I can’t, in good faith, back a team as crappy as the Cardinals, even when they’re favored at home. Their offensive line couldn’t block pass rush from me and three guys I play football with in the annual Day After Thanksgiving Backyard Game. But the Rams just lost to the 49ers. So, is the NFC West that bad, or was last week just a hiccup for St. Louis? My head hurts.

SEAHAWKS (-3.5) over Giants: Simple – it’s a letdown game for New York, and they’re on the road, cross country, against one of the two best teams in the NFC. Plus, they really were handed that game last week – Seattle will provide a much, much tougher challenge.

Eagles (-6) over 49ERS: This game is going to tell us a lot about both of these teams. An Eagles win (and a dominant one at that) proves that they actually do have a heart, and that they’ve learned from their mistakes last week. If Philly squeaks out a win here or worse yet, allows the 49ers to get back into the game late, then there are going to be a lot of questions surrounding the Eagles. And if the Niners can manage to take this game, then they are officially the team no one wants to play – young, talented, and too damned stupid to know that they’re supposed to be two or three years away.

PATRIOTS (-6.5) over Broncos: Elaborating on what I said above, here are the facts. The Patriots embarrassed themselves in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last year at Denver. Since then, they have had nine months to reflect on what went wrong, and make it better. Moreover, they have had to listen to nine months of “Are the Patriots done?” and “What’s wrong in New England” stories from the national media. Factor in the absolutely insane fans in Foxboro, and the fact that the game is being played on Sunday Night Football in front of a national TV audience, and this might be the biggest statement game a team has ever had.

Falcons (-3) over SAINTS: I really want to pick New Orleans here. All the emotion, all the hype, all the memories that they will be bringing up again and again. But the Falcons just look too damned good, and the Saints are 2-0 against the Browns and Packers, two teams that have yet to win. I’m taking Atlanta, but I’m rooting for New Orleans.

RECAP: BILLS / Bengals / Jaguars / Titans / TEXANS / Bears / Packers / Ravens / Rams / SEAHAWKS / Eagles / PATRIOTS / Falcons


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Week 2 Picks

I’m shell shocked. I just had my first ever below .500 Week 1 (7-9), not to mention the first regular season losing week I’ve had since Week 14 of last season. I’ve completely lost my fastball here. Seriously guys, I’m not sure I can make it through another week.

Alright, I’ll admit it. Those first three lines were my original introduction to this post. Then I looked at the betting lines for the week. My spirits rose, the rain clouds cleared up, the sun shone brightly on my face, and I regained all feeling in my lower extremities. This week is like a Tim Wakefield knuckler that just doesn’t knuckle – you get it anywhere close to the plate, and I’m knocking it out of the park. There are five games with double-digit lines this week, and five more that are six points or higher. This should be a cakewalk.

Now all I have to do is not go 9-7 or worse…

All lines current as of 6:15PM on 9/14/06. Taken from

(Just a quick aside... if anyone reading this would like to sign up for and get a fairly decent bonus, and help out a struggling writer by adding a small token to his account, please e-mail me before you sign up. If you use my referral information, we both get a bonus. Simple, efficient, a real win/win. OK, no more pimping... back to the reason you're here.)

RAVENS (-12) over Raiders: Well, might as well take the worst game of the day off the board right away. The only concern I have about this line is that the Ravens will probably have a huge lead at the half and start pulling starters out of the game. Oakland could easily put up some garbage points late and crush that line. Let’s put it this way – I’ll be much happier teasing this to RAVENS (-6) than I am leaving it at (-12).

COLTS (-13.5) over Texans: Last year, I took Houston against the spread in both games against the Colts, and split the season match-up. Both times, I also teased Indy down and teased Houston up, and won both bets. What do you think I’ll be doing this week? Indy (-7.5) and Houston (+20.5)… almost makes me drool.

BENGALS (-10.5) over Browns: Notice a theme here? Three straight double-digit lines, early in the season, and I have no problem taking all of the favorites. You know why? Because I’m convinced that Indy, Cincinnati and Baltimore are going to be three of the four AFC teams left in the second round of the playoffs, so they should all dominate, at home, over the dregs of the league.

DOLPHINS (-6.5) over Bills: OK, now we might need some type of an intervention… four straight home favorites? Well, following some sage advice, I don’t think any of the road dogs will win outright, so I can’t rely on any of them to even cover. By the way – every game so far is much, much better in a power-packed 6-point teaser, on either side.

Lions (+9) over BEARS: Hey, Roy Williams has guaranteed that they are going to win this game. Who am I to argue with one of the best college basketball coaches in history? Wait... wrong Roy Williams? No, that can’t be true. Why would the media mislead me like that? Lions could win this outright – hey, they shut down Seattle, and Chicago’s offense is nowhere near as good as the Seahawks’. But I’ll feel better about a (+15) tease, just to be safe…

VIKINGS (+2) over Panthers: This is going to depend on whether or not Steve Smith plays. If he does, the Minnesota secondary has no answer for him. If he sits again, Carolina’s ground game doesn’t look like it can carry the team, and Keyshawn hasn’t been a true #1 guy for a few years. Basically, wait for the final word on his status before you decide which way you’re going with the bet.

EAGLES (-3) over Giants: And it’s not even going to be close… provided Westbrook & McNabb can stay healthy for four quarters. If they play the whole game, Philly wins by 10+.

Buccaneers (+5.5) over FALCONS: This game hurts my head. In my main fantasy league, I have both the Atlanta D and Cadillac Williams. Atlanta’s D is missing at least two big players (Hartwell & Kerney), and John Abraham might sit with a bad groin. But Cadillac is battling back spasms. I’m lost. Right now, I’m sitting both the Defensive unit and Williams, but I’m not happy about either decision. Basically, I’ve picked this line assuming Abraham & Cadillac play. I just hate Mike Vick that much.

Saints (-2.5) over PACKERS: What does it say about the state of the Packers that they are home underdogs to the Saints? Well, it’ll say a lot more when that line jumps to (-4) or higher… Green Bay needs this win to save them from a disastrous downward spiral of a season (Their next three games are brutal). New Orleans could start the season 2-0 before heading home for the most emotional home game since the first NFL games in New York after 9/11. This is big for both teams, but the Saints are, gulp¸ better…

Rams (-3) over 49ERS: Wow, the first line I feel completely comfortable with. This is a great example of the idiocy of the first two weeks of the NFL season. Arizona was picked to be a solid team, maybe even a Wild Card contender in the NFC. So they nearly choke away a game to the wretched Niners, and suddenly San Francisco is getting respect around the betting circles? St. Louis absolutely handed Denver their lunch (the game wasn’t as close as the score), and they’re only 3-point favorites? I’d be comfortable taking the Rams as high as (-10) in this game, so jump on the (-3) if you can still get it.

Cardinals (+7) over SEAHAWKS: Arizona has a lot to prove after the gag job they tried to pull in Week 1, at home, against the Niners. Seattle has a lot to prove after letting them be shut down by Detroit. This has all the makings of a shootout, and I like the Cardinals passing game much better than the Seahawks, at this point. I’m thinking a final of something like 37-34, and that’s a nice area for a 7-point line… By the way – the current Over/Under is 47… I think you know which side of the fence I’m on there.

Patriots (-6) over JETS: I already know this pick is going to come back to bite me in the ass, but I’m making it anyway. The Jets’ defense got a gift in Week 1 by playing Kerry Collins. Let’s see how bad a real quarterback can make them look…

CHARGERS (-12) over Titans: Ah, there it is. The return of the double-digit point spread. Look, Aaron Brooks is a better quarterback right now than Kerry Collins, and LaMont Jordan blows Travis Henry and Chris Brown out of the backfield. That should tell you all you need to know about this game.

BRONCOS (-11) over Chiefs: It’s almost unfair to make the Chiefs even show up for this one, but that’s why they play the games. Look for Larry Johnson to touch the ball 40 times, either on runs or passes. Look for Damon Huard to have ice covering every square inch of his body after the Broncos pummel him into the ground many, many times. Look for the scoreboard to read something like “Denver 38, Kansas City 13” when the clock hits triple zeroes.

Redskins (+6) over COWBOYS: Sure, Terrell Owens will go nuts all over Champ Bailey. Maybe he’ll even run to the Star at midfield again, this time to a standing ovation. But when it comes down to it, Drew Bledsoe is on his last legs as a starting quarterback in this league, and the Redskins’ defense might just be the one that knocks him out of the job for good. Either way, it’s going to be a crappy game to watch Sunday Night.

Steelers (-2) over JAGUARS: I saw all I needed to see from the Steelers when they were able to dismantle a highly-touted Dolphins team without their starting quarterback in black and gold. Now that he’s back, I’d be surprised if they didn’t win this game by 10 or more.

RECAP: RAVENS / COLTS / BENGALS / DOLPHINS / Lions / VIKINGS / EAGLES / Buccaneers / Saints / Rams / Cardinals / Patriots / CHARGERS / BRONCOS / Redskins / Steelers

Also, as a public service, here are the best bets for the week:

Ravens, Colts, Broncos, Bengals & Dolphins all teased down by 6 points.

Raiders, Texans, Browns & Bills all teased up by six points.

Rams, Steelers, Patriots and Eagles are all locks (injuries not withstanding).

Some sort of parlay involving all five of the double-digit favorites could be a HUGE payout, but there’s a real risk of losing the lines in garbage time.

That’s it and that’s all. Back Monday/Tuesday with a Week 2 recap.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years...

“So, where were you?”

Those four little words today threw me completely off-kilter. The question came from so far out in left field that it might as well have been a Manny Ramirez relay throw to the plate.

I was leaving my office, completely oblivious to just about everything around me. I got on the elevator to go to the parking garage, when a mid-40’s woman, the only other passenger in the elevator car with me, turned around and simply said “So, where were you?”

The funny thing is, it only took me about half a second to understand what she was asking me. Where was I on September 11th, 2001? It took me even less time to answer.

“I was at work just outside of Boston. At a natural gas facility. Probably the safest, and the scariest place I could have been, short of the top floor of the Hancock Tower. You?”

“I was here (Rhode Island Hospital), working. No one knew what to think, so we just prepared for the worst.”

Then the elevator doors opened, and she turned and wished me a good night, and walked away. I actually stood in the elevator for a full thirty seconds before I realized that the doors were closing and I was going to have to ride back down to the basement again.

No bother. I had a lot to think about.

Back in 2001, I was a junior in college in Boston. I can remember just about everything about that morning, even though the day really affected me very little, aside from a national sense. I didn’t know anyone in the Towers or the Pentagon. I didn’t know anyone on the planes, though there was one person from my hometown who had the misfortune of boarding American Flight 11 at Logan. My only connection to the day was watching it all unfold on a TV screen from the warehouse platform in the facility I was working at.

9/11 was an absolutely gorgeous morning in Boston. My normal workday routine at the time was to wake up and find out which facility I would be needed at, then get showered, dressed and head out. That morning, I was scheduled to be in West Roxbury, at the Keyspan Gas Main Facility. That meant that my morning commute would take me through Copley Square in Boston, out to the Orange Line on the T, and then through Forest Hills and West Roxbury on multiple buses. Later in the afternoon, I would begin my first day of classes at Emerson College, after transferring there in the summer of ’01, meaning I would make essentially the same trek back to the city. It was a commute I despised, but that morning, I didn’t mind it. It was a nice day, and the walk wasn’t bad.

I got to Copley just before 8AM. As I exited the Green Line station to walk to the Orange Line, I looked up at the Hancock Tower, where my cousin works. There was a perfect blue reflection bouncing off the side, with an airplane, newly departed from Logan, passing behind the tower and mirrored in the glass. I remember thinking to myself that it would make a spectacular photo, and I kicked myself for not carrying my camera that day, even though I would probably have found a great use for it in class.

Later that night, I did the math on the timing, and figured out the direction of the plane. More than likely, the plane I saw was one of the two that ended up bringing down the Towers.

I got on the Orange Line and picked up a copy of the free daily paper – The Metro. I did my usual routine of scanning the bland headlines and quick hit styles of reporting. Midway through the paper, a small sidebar note caught my eye. There was a “This Day in History” type of column that mentioned that September 11th had been dedicated as “World Peace Day” to commemorate some peace treaty signing somewhere in the past (I think it was Israel and Egypt).

Immediately, I thought to myself that something bad was going to happen. If you had asked me at the time, I probably would have told you that I was about 80% certain that a major building was going to be destroyed that day. As soon as I got to work, I tried to find the nearest television to see what was going on in the world. No news at the time. That was good news. I retreated to my office to start with my normal tech-wizard responsibilities.

About a half hour later, I heard Howard Stern on the radio in the room next to mine say that a plan had hit the World Trade Center. A few people gathered around the radio; I headed for a television and immediately reached for my cell phone. The day was not going to be good. I called my mother, an elementary school nurse, and told her to turn on a television as soon as possible, because some bad shit was about to happen. She didn’t believe me.

After the second plane hit, I called her and told her to find a TV immediately, and that I might need a ride out of Boston before the day was over. She started paying attention at that point.

When news of the Pentagon attack hit, I was still on the phone with her talking about the fact that Mass. State Police had already locked down my facility, and that I wasn’t going to be able to make it out of the building in time to get to class. Not that I was terribly worried about classes.

Finally, when the fourth plane was brought down by some of the bravest and most selfless people that I never had the honor to meet, the State Police left our site, but told us that no one was to enter the premises – once you left, you were gone for the day.

I packed up my backpack and headed for the bus station.

Two things will always stick with me. First, the fact that I was the only person on my bus, the only one on my subway car on the Orange Line, and the only person – as far as I could see – to exit the Back Bay Orange Line T station when I finally arrived there at about 2PM. Boston was nearly deserted – I found out later that the Hancock and Prudential towers, as well as a few other buildings around town had all been evacuated by noon.

My cousin – who is in charge of building maintenance and security, among other things, for his company in the Hancock – was one of the last people to leave the building. He’d never say it in public, but he told me a few months later that that was the most terrified he’d been in his life.

The second thing that struck me that day was the silence. Not just from the lack of people, but from the lack of aircraft overhead. On any given day in Boston, there are about 15 planes flying over the city at varying altitudes at all times. Some are landing, some are leaving, but there is always the noise of jet engines in the background.

But not that day. And not for a few days afterwards either. I remember the first time I heard a plane it was a fighter jet making a run over the city at about 11PM the next night. It was so startling that I got out of bed and went to the window, just to be safe.

As I walked through Copley and made my way to the Green Line, I decided that I didn’t want to go to my apartment. I lived alone that year and I didn’t feel like sitting on my couch, staring at the news reports, by myself. I instead decided to go to my friends’ place at the Ashford Village in Allston to take up residence on the big blue couch and stare in disbelief at what we were watching.

About an hour after I got there, someone remembered that the father of one of our mutual friends worked for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter on the top floor of 2WTC. We were all too petrified to call and see if there was any word yet. Luckily, a few days later we found out that he had transferred offices just a few months earlier to avoid the commute time.

I finally made it home, though there was really no point. I wasn’t in a mood to eat. I didn’t really want to watch anymore TV. The Internet was so bogged down by everyone searching for updates that surfing the web or playing a game was completely out of the question. I decided to just lay in bed and listen to the radio. I flipped on WBCN just in time to hear the DJ tell callers that they were going all-request, so long as no one requested any of the songs that the FCC had put on a “no-play” list. Things like “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”, for obvious reasons.

I don’t think I slept that night, and not much for the following two or three nights. I had class the next day just before noon, and when the sun climbed up into the sky, I got out of bed and turned on the TV. I just had to make sure it wasn’t all one really, really bad dream. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

So why am I writing all of this? Why now, five years after the fact, am I relaying my experience on September 11th? Well, for a couple of reasons. First, in 2001, I didn’t have this type of an open forum to discuss whatever I wanted to. I had my voice, and whoever was unlucky enough to be within earshot or me when I went on a rant. And that was it.

Today, I realized that I never really talked about the day, except in general terms. In fact, the only person that had ever heard an account of the day from my perspective was my mother, and only because I was babbling at a hundred words a second on my cell phone as the day was unfolding.

Very little affects me in this world. I’m about the most laid back person you’ll ever meet, and I’m pretty apathetic about just about everything going on around me. Most world events; if they don’t affect me directly, I usually don’t form an opinion, and frankly, don’t care. Shallow, sure. But I have a nicely insulated little bubble carved out for myself in this world, and if I can use it to protect me from the horrors and tragedies of everything outside, then I am going to stay warm and comfortable and forget about anything else.

But this wasn’t something I could ignore, and it’s certainly not something I can, or will, forget. Usually, I use this space to crack lousy jokes and poke fun at overpaid athletes who I would trade places with in a heartbeat. Today, that just didn’t feel right.

Sure, there’s a football game on the TV, and another on the West Coast that I’ll watch highlights of in the morning. But I’m just not interested. Today was a day I spent reflecting on the biggest story that will ever happen in my lifetime, and probably the last one that will effect me in no way whatsoever, other than in my heart.

So, that begs the question.

Where were you?