Dec 4, 2016

NFL Week 13: September 8, 2002

Year 4 of the re-birth started with plenty of promise. After the first two seasons of 2-14 and 3-13, we were competitive in Year Three, with a young coach plucked from the college ranks (Butch Davis) and some young talent on both sides of the ball.

We went 7-9 in 2001, with one of those losses highlighted here before (the Chicago) and another heartbreaking, undeserved, stolen loss to be detailed later. So there was reason to believe that this team was truly an 8-8, 9-7 team that would only get better in 2002.

Our opener was a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Many recall that the early 2000s Browns were filled with QB controversies, with Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb battling it out for years for the starting spot. For the start of 2002, Timmy got injured and Kelly was our started for week 1. The Chiefs' QB was Trent Green, himself a victim of a QB controversy over in St Louis as Kurt Warner replace him.

Anyway, this was a shoot out for the ages. We had no running game, so all we did was pass; Kelly had over 350 yards and 3 TDs. Priest Holmes had 4 TDs, I believe. Down 37-36, we kicked a FG with :20 sec to take the lead, 39-37. Now, if we can only hold on for the last 20 seconds....

The Chiefs got the ball to about their own 40 with :02 on the clock. Time for one last play for them. Green went back, hoping to have enough time for a Hail Mary - but the Browns rush came on too quick. Green was grabbed,spun around, and looked like he was sacked.....the clock hit :00.... Dwayne Rudd was the primary player that grabbed him.

However, Green was not down. He managed to lateral the ball to one of his offensive linemen, who had plenty of running room. Jon Tait was the lineman - and he got the bal around the KC 40 - he ran (slowly) to his left - to the the 40. There are no Browns in the picture......

I was screaming and panicking at that moment. Where the hell is everyone????? Where's the defense?
Finally - some help came around the 30 yard line, and Tait was pushed out at the 25. Ball game. We win the opener!

Or do we ? All Browns fans know that the game is never over when the clock hits :00; it's not even over when the clock is at :00 and the refs are in the locker room.....

A flag is seen on the field - and by now, many of you know what had happened. Rudd, thinking that Green had been sacked and down, started celebrating and took off his helmet. He didn't realize the play was still going on - and Tait was running down the field......Taking your helmet of during the play is an automatic penalty - 15 yards.

Here is Chris Berman giving highlights for that play.....

The game can not end on a defensive penalty * - so the 15 yards was tacked on to the end of Tait's run; the Chiefs ran an untimed down from our 12, where of course they lined up for a field goal - and Morten Andersen made it. Final (for good this time), Chiefs 40-39.

Most NFL teams will never experience an untimed down; for Browns fans, we have lost 3 games to an untimed down over the past 15 years:

2002 - The Helmet Game
2008 - The Brady Quinn game in Detroit, where Quinn threw for 4 touchdowns;
2015- The San Diego game where we jumped offsides on a missed field goal; the Chargers got a second chance and made it on an untimed down.

This doesn't even include the fiasco two weeks ago against the Pittsburgh where the Steelers got TWO untimed downs at the end of the first half; with :02 left and the Steelers at our 1, they threw an incomplete pass but we were called for holding; on the untimed down, we were called for another penalty. The Steelers got the touchdown on the 3rd try. I'm sure that's a record - most untimed downs in one half.

* - We now know that a game can not end on a defensive penalty, but it CAN end on an offensive penalty - thanks to John Harbaugh. I had the Ravens -4, so that safety did not hurt me.

All finished ok in the Browns 2002 season, however; even with that loss, we ended up 9-7 and won a massive tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.

To the games:

Atl 24, KC 16. I believe there's got to be some hangover effect for the Chiefs, and the Falcons can't afford to lose.

Bal 20, Mia 13 Bal's defense is excellent against the run, so that forces Miami to pass - and I dont' trust Tannehill on the road.

Chi 30, SF 20. Barkley actually looked good last week. I have faith in him.

Phi 23, Cin 20. I think the Bengals are ready to quit on the season. Will be interesting to see the line next week when they go visit Cleveland.

GB 31, Hou 20. Maybe last week's Packers' game is a mirage. But boy, are the Texans awful on offense.

Den 20, Jax 10. How exactly are the Jags going to score?

NE 27, LA 20. I really didn't like the way Brady looked lat week vs. the Jets. Of course, he will prove me wrong and come out firing for 500 yards today....

NO 31, Det 23. I still think Detroit is a fraud...

Oak 23, Buf 20. Speakig of frauds, here are two of them. Or maybe they are above-average teams that know how to beat inferior opponents.

Az 23, Was 16. I think there is one last stand in store for Arizona. At home, vs. a road-weary Redskins team....

Pit 27, NYG 23.  I so want to go against the Giants here, but folks - something is off with Pittsburgh. Their defense is shaky and they only have one receiver.

SD 27, TB 20. Why can't the Chargers run the table for the rest of their games?

Sea 27, Car 13. The Seahawks, at home, in a prime time game, coming off an embarassing loss? Yes please.

NYJ 20, Ind 17. Looks like the Colts are regressing this year. I fear for Luck with that line vs. the Jet's rush.

Best bets: 16 of them. Last week: 7-6-1; overall: 71-67-7.
Atl -5.5
KC/Atl under 50
Bal -3.5
Mia/Bal under 41
Chi +2
SF/Chi over 43,5
Phi +1.5
GB -6.5
Den -3.5
LA +13.5
Az -2.5
Was/Az under 48.5
SD -3.5
Sea -7.5
NYJ +1.5
Ind/NYJ under 48.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 2-2-1; overall: 29-29-2
Az -2.5
Atl -4
LA +13.5
Sea -6.5
NYJ +2

Our combined Supercontest picks: last week: 3-1-1; overall: 29-27-4
Phi pk
Oak -3
SD -3.5
Az -2.5
NYJ +2

Nov 27, 2016

NFL Week 12: January 11, 1987

Hello there - We now resume regular blogging after a November filled with the election, anniversary and holiday travel. Just got back last night from the east coast - avoiding Pennsylvania turnpike traffic on the Sunday after Thanksgiving is a must. I've done that drive many times on the last Sunday in November and I have waited 60, 90 minutes at toll booths...never again.

Anyway, had a chance to drive by the old high school in Maryland for the first time in 7-8 years. Several additions have been made and some of the parts are not recognizable. However, the New Gym is still there - and that's the site of one of Cleveland's greatest (and infamous) sports memories.

( I will still refer to that gym as the "New Gym", even as it was in use when I was there; I think it opened in 1982 or 1983 and is now almost 35 years old. I wonder what is in place of the "Old Gym" now....)

The day was Sunday, January 11, one day after I turned 15. I had an indoor soccer game that afternoon, The Browns were playing in their first AFC Championship game vs. Denver, who at that time were not considered evil just yet. A week ago, we had a home playoff game vs. the Jets and was down 10 with 2 minutes to go; we somehow tied the game - sending it to overtime; the game went to double overtime and we won it on a Moseley field goal. People talk about the Miami/San Diego playoff game in the 70s to be the greatest game of all time; I think this Browns/Jets game from the '86 playoffs is better and should be #1.

Anyway - one week later we host the Broncos in the AFC Championship. Due to the soccer game, I set my VCR (just like the week before) in order to watch the game after my soccer game.

(By the way - that indoor season pissed me off. You know how there are always individual starts in rec league that always beat your team, and they seem to be on the teams that are 12-2, or 11-1, or whatnot? Yeah - we had one kid in our age group like that. And on this team this year, I was actually randomly drawn to be on his team! Awesome....until we ended up going 6-6 or something. The one time I get to be on the same team as the star, we go .500..... It can't be me, can it? Don't answer that).

The game was 3 pm or 4 pm or something like that - late in the afternoon. I do remember someone - maybe the arriving team of the game after us? - saying loudly: "the Browns and Broncos game went to overtime!". Well, gee thanks, thanks for ruining the suspense for those that have it taped.

So we go home - the game was over by then - and we rewind the tape; I watch the Browns score a TD with 5 minutes left to go up 20-13. Since I know we went to overtime, I just fast forward through the next 5 minutes, since I know what happens. Of course, that's 5 minutes of the most painful football in Cleveland memory, as Elway led the Broncos on the Drive.

I stop at the coin toss and watch it live; we win the toss. Great!

And then we go 3 and out.  Punt it away.

The Broncos then got the ball, moved down the field, and their drive stalled around the 15. Rich Karlis came out on 4th down to attempt the kick.....

the video of the field goal is here. .

Look, I thought he missed it watching it live (on tape). The fact there there has been no discussion of this - ever  - is certainly fishy. All Browns fans I know that watched this game are convinced he missed it.

The fact that I have to go to some second-rate website to even find the video is telling. Why is the NFL erasing the tapes from the kick?

I will go to my grave believing these 2 facts...and no one will be able to convince me otherwise:

1. Ross Perot would have won the 1992 presidential election if he did not drop out, and
2. Rich Karlis missed his overtime kick in the 1986 AFC Championship game.

That is all......let's go beat the Giants today.

To the games:

Min 27, Det 16. I can't believe the result of this game...
Dal 31, Was 23
Pit 27, Ind 10 
(these are the predictions I made Wed night).

Atl 24, Arz 16. Wow, I am starting to come to terms with the fact that the Cardinals' O is bad...really bad.

Bal 23, Cin 13. Cincinnati looks like a team that knows its window has closed and their 5 year run is over. Thank goodness for us Bengals haters in SW Ohio.

Buf 27, Jax 16. At this point, what can you say about Jacksonville? They will always give the game up when needed.

Ten 28, Chi 27. I can't trust this Tennessee defense to stop anyone. Even Matt Barkley....They can score, sure....

Hou 23, SD 20. SD off a bye, where their offense was clicking; the bye will take them out of rhythm.

Mia 23, SF 13. San Fran is the opposite of Cincinnati/Jacksonville; they seem to be improving as the season goes on here....

NO 24, LA 17. I guess we will give the rams 17 points...that loss last week was bitter.

Sea 27, TB 24. This will be a good test of how good Winston is vs. a decent pass defense.

Car 26, Oak 23. I'm still not sold on this Oakland team. They can be beaten by a team with a decent defense (check) that does not turn the ball over (uh, Cam?)

NE 31, NYJ 17. Why stand in front of the Pats' bus at this point?

KC 20, Den 17. I believe last week's hiccup for the Chiefs was a lookahead game to this game. What is the Denver offense? The Chiefs will limit them.

Phi 27, GB 20. The Packers are the 3rd team that I think are imploding. Their whole body language says they are finished.

Best bets: 14 total for the week; last week: 8-6; overall: 64-61-6
Min +2.5 (L)
Pit -3 (W)
Pit/Ind under 50 (W)
Atl -4
Az/Atl under 50.5
Bal -3.5
Chi +6
Ten/Chi over 41.5
Hou +2.5
SF/Mia under 46
Car +3.5
NE -8
KC +3.5
Phi -3.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 2-3; overall: 27-27-1
KC +3.5
Min +2.5 (L)
Car +3
Bal -4
Hou +1.5

Overall combined official Supercontest picks: last week: 1-4; overall: 26-26-3
SD -1.5
KC +3.5
Bal -4
Car +3
Min +2.5 (L)

Nov 20, 2016

NFL Week 11

No time for a writeup as we are headed to the airport....


Buf 27, Cin 24
Dal 20, Bal 14
Jax 27, Det 24
Ten 30, Ind 20
KC 23, TB 13
Min 16, Az 13
NYG 27, Chi 16
LA 23, Mia 16
NE 27, SF 10
Sea 17, Phi 13
Was 31, GB 20
Oak 26, Hou 16

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 8-6; overall: 56-55-6
Buf +2.5
Bal/Dal under 45
Jax +6
Ten +2.5
KC -7
TB/KC under 44
Az/Min under 40
NYG -7
LA +2
NE -11.5
NE/SF under 51
Phi/Sea under 42.5
Was -3
Oak -6

I have 5 unders and zero overs. Don't like that.

Personal supercontest picks: Last week: 3-2; overall: 25-24-1
Buf +2.5
Jax +6.5
Ten +3
LA +2.5
Was -2.5

Combined official supercontest picks: Last week: 1-4; overall: 25-22-3
Ten +3
Jax +6.5
LA +2.5
GB -3
Oak -5.5

Nov 13, 2016

NFL Week 10: November 8, 2016

Hello everyone. What a week of intrigue, chaos and unpredictable results. And now we have no idea what's going to happen in the short term.

But enough about college football. I want to take some time and move away from sporting memories to put down some thoughts on the presidential election. This will be a bit of a post-mortem, there will be some perspective from my viewpoint, and an idea of where we are going in the future. I welcome any discussion in the comments. We've had civil arguments before on this blog - I'd love to return to those days!

Anyway, some key thoughts floating around in my head after the election on Donald J. Trump to the presidency.

1. Political Messaging counts. And this was Hillary's Achilles' heel in the end. I think I read that Hillary's team tried 75 different possibilities for a single message - before deciding on 2 that were seen throughout the campaign:

- "Stronger Together" - we'll get to that in a moment, and
- "Love Trumps Hate".

If you think about it, those two messages contradicted each other. "Stronger together" implies that we, as a nation, would be better if we all come together.....which sounds great.....except when you hear the second theme. It seems they want the nation to come together except for the "haters". And haters can be defined very loosely.  So which is it?

The Love Trumps Hate has got to be the stupidest message in the last 50 years for America. We have real, serious problems in the US - and this is the answer. It's like we are living in "Aquarius: the Sequel" in Broadway.

ISIS Violence? No problem, if we just "love" them, it will go away.
Gun violence/regulation ? Those in favor of the 2nd amendment are just people who hate.
Illegal Immigration? Let's just "love" those that come here illegally, and all the problems will go away.

Of course, I'm not saying Trump has the solutions for these with his motto....but Hillary's message is dated. It's a very idealistic goal for a very realistic time. Completely 180 from what the electorate wanted.

2. The "hidden Trump vote" factor is real, exacerbated by bullying. In 1982, Tom Bradley won the election for mayor of Los Angeles over a African-America candidate; the African-American was leading in the polls until the end when Bradley pulled off a win. Political scientists (I studied this!) postulated abut the "Bradley effect" - that people may not tell pollsters their real intentions in a voice poll, but will certainly reveal their intentions at the ballot box. In the Bradley case, the theory was that a certain part of the electorate was racist that told pollster one thing but voted for  Bradley.

 I do believe this effect was in play for the 2016 election. For many reasons, it has become "unfashionable" to out yourself as a Trump supporter. "Are you an idiot?" is a popular question I hear of people that are thinking of supporting Trump. There's no debate of the's simply "groupthink". If the popular culture is all for Hillary, then you are a rube for thinking otherwise!

That's dangerous. And that just pissed people off.

One great example is HB2 in North Carolina. Look, I feel like I am socially moderate. (I have moved to the left, like the nation, on several issues socially). I'm for gay marriage and abortion.

But HB2 - the transgender bill in North Carolina - I'm sorry, I don't understand it. What's the point of the bill? How will this affect businesses? How many people does this affect? What's the impact to the population? I'm open to it, I just want to understand it better. I think there are legit concerns that some mothers have of men coming into women's restrooms. How to alleviate that?

Again, I'm open to hear arguments - but there were no arguments. It was "shut up - if you oppose this, you are a bigot. Sit down and shut up". Seriously! And the NCAA goes in and takes away tournmanet games...on the basis of a law where (I am guessing) 80% of the people are genuinely on the fence about. That's bullying. That's political bullying, and I think voters sent a message that they won't be bullied.

If you can't argue a position (besides "you are a hater"), that's a red flag.

This British comedian has the best explanation for Trump's rise - and the fault of the left for making this possible. I urge everyone to watch this so we all - left, right and moderate - don't fall into the same trap again....

3. It is unfathomable how the Clinton campaign did not know how to campaign to maximize electoral votes. I know this has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.... but not going into Wisconsin and Michigan (until the very end) was malpractice.  They should have seen that McCrory was in a dead heat in North Carolina, so the "bigot"/"love" argument may not be working in North Carolina. They should have seen the countryside in Ohio, Pennsylvania, even Virginia (as reported by a reader here) and the mass amount of Trump signs.

They were focused on turning people out- but the people they turned out didn't matter. They lived in 7-8 states, states that were so dark blue it wasn't needed. The people influenced by this message as something to vote "for" lived in CA, WA, NY, MD, DC, VA. All states that were already in the bag for Hillary. Running up the vote there did not matter. At All.

There were plenty of anti-Trump ads from Hillary here in Ohio. That's fine.....but she never had a message for swing state voters to vote for her. Why should a middle class housewife in Dayton vote for her? Why should a union member from Youngstown vote for her? These are people that voted for Obama twice.....

The campaign never realized that these voters are the ones that swing the election, rightly or wrongly. And they never played to them.

The electoral college is the method to pick our president. The Clinton campaign acted if the popular vote determined the winner. The electoral college is why Trump when to Green Bay, WI, Grand Rapids, MI and Scranton, PA at the end of the campaign. If the popular vote decided the election, the Trump campaign would have had a much, much different strategy.

I remember a Browns game in the early  90s when we beat the Bengals 14-13. it was a weird game - Matt Stover (!!!) had four field goals and we had a safety; that was just enough to beat the Bengals' more conventional 13 points.

Many "whiners" sound like the Bengals fans from that game. "but you didn't even score a touchdown! You don't deserve to win!" You play by the rules of the game. It's not touchdowns, it points. It's not the popular vote, it's the electoral college. The electoral college was set up for a reason - to prevent large populous states from having too much say in the nation. It's working exactly as intended....

4. Which gets us to the riots. I'm lost. What, exactly, are they protesting? What do they want? Is this just a temper tantrum? If so, this can logically be seen as the end point of our participation-trophy culture. Is it because Hillary won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote? If so, then please re-take civics again.

Saw a tweet out there that is a perfect summary of my thought on the riots:

Many people out there voted for Trump reluctantly with a tinge of regret......
What the rioters are doing right now simply confirms they made the right choice.

(by the way - that picture up above? That's the infamous Romney riots of 2012)

There are serious risks with the Trump presidency - I know, maybe I'll have time to go into them later. The risks were publicized by Clinton and her team - but no overarching reason to vote "for" her was actaully given.

I wanted to put a point 5 here - it's extremely difficult to win the presidency when you are of the same party of someone who just served 2 terms (see Stevenson*, Nixon, Gore, McCain.....). HW Bush did it because he ran against a horrible candidate in Dukakis. Clinton had to try to walk a fine line of "everything's great! Obama is wonderful" and "I hear you! We need change!". A good politican will have lots of trouble with that.....never mind a horrible one like Hillary.

After all that, no time for writeups on the we are:

Car 25, KC 13
Hou 20, Jax 17
NO 30, Den 20
NYJ 20, LA 13
Phi 27, Atl 24
Chi 30, TB 24
Gb 31, Ten 27
Was 23, Min 13
Mia 24, SD 20
Az 20, SF 17
Pit 27, Dal 24
NE 31, Sea 21
Cin 27, NYG 17

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 6-7-1; overall: 48-49-6
Car -3
Hou +2.5
NO -3
NYJ pk
LA/NYJ under 39.5
Chi -2.5
Chi/TB over 45.5
GB/ten over 49.5
Was -2
Min/Was under 42
Mia +4.5
SF +13.5
SF/Az under 47.5
Cin -1

My supercontest picks: last week: 1-4; overall : 22-22-1
Car -3
Mia +4
Cin +2
NO -3
SF +13.5

Our combined Supercontest picks: Last week: 3-1-1; overall: 24-18-3
Cle +9.5 (Loss)
Car -3
NO -3
NYJ -1.5
Phi pk

Nov 5, 2016

NFL Week 9: November 3, 2016

Well, when I chose this theme for the blog this year, it didn't even occur to me that I could add another day from 2016 to the entries. But then along came the 2016 Cleveland Indians.

I don't have time to write up my whole feelings and experience about the game - many of you know I had a chance to attend the game, thanks to Don. What a day. What an experience. Rajai's homer in the 8th is something I'll never forget. And the "intermission" rain delay was surreal.

Not a lot of time for writeups, so here are the predictions:

Pit 27, Bal 24
KC 20, Jax 17
Mia 20, NYJ 16
Min 27, Det 17
Phi 23, NYG 16
Car 20, LA 13
NO 24, SF 20
GB 30, Ind 27
Ten 27, SD 20
Den 27, Oak 23
Sea 26, Buf 23, OT

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 7-5; overall: 42-42-5
Pit/Bal over TBD
Jax +7.5
Jax/KC under 44
NYJ/Mia under 44
Min -6.5
Phi +3
Car -3
Car/LA under 44
NO/SF under 52.5
Ind +7
Ten +4
Den +1
Buf +7
Buf/Sea over 43.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 3-2; overall: 21-18-1
Phi +2.5
Den pk
Ten +5
Min -5.5
Jax +7

Our official combined supercontest picks: last week: 2-2-1; overall: 21-17-2
Phi +2.5
Mia -3.5
Car -3
Ind +7.5
Bal pk

Oct 30, 2016

NFL Week 8: October 28, 1995

Well, here we are - Sunday morning before game 5 of the 2016 World Series. Somehow, the Tribe is up 3 games to 1 on the Cubs going into Game 5 at Wrigley tonight. I'm so shocked as to how we got here.....the starting pitching has been amazing, the bullpen has been dominant so far, and the offense is doing just enough. I am not feeling all the confident right now; if you look ahead, here's what we have:
Game 5: Drone boy (Bauer) going for us; he is not going to put up 6 innings of zeroes, so this will be a tough one tonight.
Game 6: Home against Arrieta. He's not the Cy Young winner for nothing
Game 7: Kluber, again, at home if needed; Can he really do this 3 times if needed? I don't want to bank on that.

I guess I'd rather be up 3-1 than down 3-1, however. So I have that going for me.

This World Series has shown - again - that great pitching beats great hitting. The first time I learned that lesson was in the Tribe's first World Series in my life, the 1995 World Series vs. Atlanta. It was our fearsome lineup vs. the start studded rotation of the Braves. Jees, I still can recall most of our lineup:
1B: Sorrento
2B: Baerga
SS: Omar
3B: Thome
LF: Belle
CF: Lofton
RF: Manny
C: Sandy
with key bench participants like Wayne Kirby, Herbert Perry, Tony Pena, etc.

You never forget the first time in the series, right?

We had decent pitching - el Presidente, Nagy, Orel, Ken Hill..... but it wasn't overpowering like the Braves's staff of Glavine, Maddux, Avery, and Smoltz. Wow.

The Braves shut us down most of the series - although I heard a radio interview with Kenny Lofton this year about that series. Mad Dog asked him his thoughts on the 95 series and how that offense was contained; Kenny said "well, we all know what happened...the strike zone was expanded outside the plate and that threw us off". I checked - there was no Eric Gregg behind the plate, but there was a John Hirshbeck (he of the mystery strike zone in Game 3 this year).

Anyway, we were down 3 games to 2 going into game 6. If the bats could wake up, anything could was Dennis Martinez vs. Tom Glavine in game 6. Dennis was getting up there in age and struggled to get through the 3rd and 4th - however, it was 0-0 going into the 5th. Dennis got into a little trouble in the 5th - 2 on, 2 out - and he was lifted for Jim Poole. Dennis's line seemed like smething Houdini (or Charlie Nagy) would be proud of:

4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 0 runs!!!!

What a tightrope performance.

Jim Poole came in and got the last out in the 5th - great job! We go to the top of the 6th, tied at 0.

In the 6th, I think it was 8-9-1 for us; the pitcher spot was due up second. With one out, the pitcher's spot was up ---- and here came Jim Poole. He was allowed to bat in the 6th inning of an elimination game in a tie ball game.

Hargrove, what the hell are you doing? How can you let Poole bat here?????

My frustration boiled over - there were plenty of profanities yelled in my Dayton apartment. What the F was Hargrove doing??????? You have to pinch hit!!!!

Of course, Poole got out. In the bottom of the 6th, Poole made one mistake and David Justice made him pay with a solo home run. 1-0 Braves.

And that was it. Glavine shut us down the rest of the way (for 8 innings) on 1 hit; Mark Wohlers closed it out and we lost Game 6, 1-0 , and the series.

I still ask - how could you let Poole hit?

I hate National League baseball.

On to the games:

Was 27, Cin 24. I'm impressed by this Skins team - if they can avoid the silly mistake, they should dominate this game. Cincy is overrated.

NE 30, Buf 23. Can't see the Pats losing this one; however, the Bills' offense seems to be coming alive, and being at home will help that O.

Hou 20, Det 16. Ugh. Osweiller is horrible. Houston should try to run the ball down Detroit's throats here, eting up plenty of clock.

KC 27, Ind 23. Do I really want to trust the Chiefs on the road? I still hate the Colts; key here is how can Indy protect Luck against the Chiefs D line?

Sea 30, NO 24. This will seem like a breeze for Seattle after that disaster Sunday night. I see the Seahawks O getting back on track here.

TB 27, Oak 17. the bye helped Tampa a lot - to calm down Winston and get everyone on the same page. The weakness for Oakland is their secondary, and the Bucs can exploit. Oak is due for a clunker.

Car 23, Az 16. This is the last stand for the Panthers, and I think this is a good matchup for them - off a bye, playing a demoralized Cardinals team.

Den 20, SD 17.  I really don't know here. Denver's defense is impressive - but their O is somewhat painful to watch. How many points will the Broncos be able to score?

Atl 30, GB 20. The Packers are a fraud - well, maybe not a fraud, but overrated. Something is off with their offense and the Falcons looked past the Chargers last week to get ready for this game.

Dal 29, Phi 22. The #1 O (Dal) vs. the #1 D (Philly). The game will be decided on the other side of the ball - where the Dallas D will do just enough to stop the average Philly offense.

Chi 20, Min 19. If Cutler can avoid the big mistake - I know, I know, big big big if - then I don't see how Minnesota can score enough. They can't run out the clock becuase they have no running game.

Bonus pick - game 5? No, I can't / won't pick it.

Best bets: 12 of them. Last week: 6-7-1; overall: 35-37-5
Was +3
NE/Buf over 47.5
Det/Hou under 46.5
Sea -2
Sea/NO over 48
TB +1
Car -3
Az/Car under 47
SD/Den under 43.5
Atl -3
Dal -5
Phi/Dal over 43
Chi +4.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 2-3; overall: 18-16-1
TB -1.5
Car -3
Atl -3
Was +3
Chi +6

Our combined supercontest entry: last week: 2-3; overall: 19-15-1
TB -1.5
NE -6.5
Cle +3 (I have nothing to do with this pick!! None!!)
Atl -3
Chi +6

Oct 23, 2016

NFL Week 7: December 23, 2007

The World Series is set! It's our Cleveland Indians vs. the globe's darlings, the Chicago Cubs. Everyone without a rooting interest will be for the Cubs - so, once again, it's Cleveland vs. the world. I like that position. The series line has opened Chicago -180/Cleveland +155, and moving the Cubs' direction. I think that is a bit inflated, no?

The first ever -ever! - World Series Game 1 opener in Cleveland will be Tuesday night. Hard to believe that in our previous 5 World Series (20, 48, 54, 95, 97) we did not have home field.

Anyway, the World Series has distracted me from Browns-Bengals week! I moved down to Southwest Ohio in 1994 and immediately hated most Bengals fans from the start. These games are big to make sure these idiots are put in their place; they are not the mid-70s Steelers or the early-90s Niners. They are a mediocre football team at best and need to be reminded of that. That's why even if we are pathetic, we need to put up a good game.

I've been to many Browns-Bengals games in the past:
- 91, where Steve got me Media seats in the old stadium; we sat in the baseball press box on a Monday night next to the field goal camera;
- 95, the last game at Municipal
- 99, an epic battle between Tim Couch and Akili Smith (hint- that was sarcasm)
- 09, Warren's first game, an overtime win by Cinci
- and a few games down here in Cincinnati where, if we were lucky, Browns fans took over the stadium by the 3rd quarter.

But the one game that sticks out and is so painful is the 2007 game down here in Cincinnati, week 16. 2007 was a magical year for the Browns - it started so bad with a 45-7 loss to the Steelers and Charlie Frye being benched. Our starter game 2 was Derek Anderson, an unknown quantity at the time. He responded by leading the Browns to 51 points (!!!!) vs. the Bengals in Cleveland, and our offense started to click. Anderson had Braylon, Jurevicius, and Winslow as his primary receivers and a rookie Joe Thomas on the line. The defense was decent enough.

So many memorable games that year - a huge win at home vs. Seattle....Freddie's first game, a 41-31 win over Miami.....the Phil Dawson field goal controversy in Baltimore.....I traveled to Asia for the first time and followed the Browns' win over the Jets in week 14; on the way home, I stopped at Layup's place and we went to a bar to see the Browns-Buffalo snow bowl - an 8-0 Browns win.

We entered week 16 with a 9-5 record and with a win against the Bengals, would clinch our first playoff birth in 5 years. My friend Keith - a lifelong Bengals fan - asked if I wanted to go with him - hell yes! The game was 2 days before Christmas, and at least half filled with Browns fans.

The weather was cold and windy - about 30, and I'd say 20 mph winds. I remember the wind the most. The wind definitely had an impact on our passing game. We were not that strong running the ball - I think Jamal Lewis was our lead back - so we had to pass to move the ball.

This is where the "bad" Derek Anderson emerged. He played tight, and forced the ball numerous times to Winslow when he was clearly not open. (It later became public that Winslow was complaning about not getting the ball and insisted more opportunities). Forcing throws in a cold, windy game by Derek? Of course! A recipe for success!

He had 4 interceptions in the game, 3 in the first half, and we were behind 19-0 at half. Our mastermind coach, Romeo, must have laid the wood down at half time. The offense responded a little; we scored a TD in the 3rd and early in the 4th; we stopped the Bengals run game - so it was 19-14 for most of the 4th quarter. However, we just couldn't find one more sustained drive...... the game ended with the Browns having the ball at the Bengals 30 and Derek throwing to no one in the end zone.

Just an absolutely crushing loss. Not only was I taunted by those loser fans leaving the stadium (with Keith joining in a little), the playoff permutations now were convoluted and we no longer controlled our own destiny. Tennessee had the inside track to the playoffs and the Steelers owned the division tiebreaker against us.

(Side note - our week 17 game was against San Fran, an NFC opponent; the game meany absolutely nothing. We could not win our division; if we won or lost, it was dependent on Tennessee's game vs. Indy. If they won, we were out (no matter what); if they lost, we were in (no matter what). This scenario is the reason why the NFL only plays division games (and  no out-of-conference games) on week 17 now.....). Oh, and that Tennessee game? They played a 12-3 Colts team that sat down Peyton Manning. So the fate of Cleveland was in the hands of......Jim did not turn out well.

I'm still bitter about that game, the Colts, Sorgi, Winslow, many factors.

On to the games:

LA 24, NYG 17. Is anyone really deceived by the Giants 3-3 record and think they are a good team? I am shocked they are favored.

Det 28, Was 20. I like what I see out of the Detroit offense - and, in Detroit, I don't think the Redskins have the weapons to keep up with the Lions.

Oak 31, Jax 23. I've bet on the Jags enough to know their MO; they are average offensively with a below average run game, and their secondary is susceptible to vertical passing games. I think Oakland is a horrid matchup for them.

KC 27, NO 17. People realize this game is played outdoors, right? I keep having the Saints/Giants game in my mind as a preview for this game.

Buf 20, Mia 17. I think Miami is putrid, but can I really trust Buffalo after 4 straight wins? They are not that good.

Bal 23, NYJ 16. I know, back to the well on this one. Harbaugh has to have some surprises for Geno, right? And are the Jets on the verge of quitting?

Min 20, Phi 17. I am starting to believe that the bye weeks for teams on a roll are a bad think - see the Eagles after their week 4 bye! Low scoring game here with the Eagles keeping it close.

Ten 27, Ind 17. The Colts are about to implode, and I believe LeBeau will be able to expose that offensive line of the Colts.

Atl 30, SD 20. A good team - Atlanta - at home, coming off a crushing loss playing a team coming off a big win and can shoot themselves in the foot? I think the Falcons cruise here.

TB 23, SF 20. No idea. I'm shocked at how bad Colin looked last week.

Pit 30, NE 27. Just a wild hunch here. NE is not as good as we think - see the first half last week vs. the Bengals - and Landry should be comfortable enough in this offense.

Sea 24, Az 16. I think Seattle is starting to find itself and there's something wrong with Arizona this year...playing the Jets mask a lot of flaws.

Den 20, Hou 13. Everyone is concentrating on the Houston side of the ball here - but how will Denver score in this game?

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 6-4-2; overall: 29-30-4
LA +2.5
KC - 6
NO/KC under 51.5
Det -1
Buf/Mia under 44.5
Oak +2
Oak/Jax over 47
Ten -3.5
Bal +2
Atl -5.5
Pit +7
NE/Pit over 48
Sea +1
Hou/Den under 40.5

My supercontest picks: last week: 4-0-1; overall: 16-13-1
Oak +1
LA +3
Ten -2.5
Det -1.5
Pit +7

Our official combined Supercotnest picks: last week: 4-0-1; overall: 17-12-1
KC -6.5
Oak +1
LA +3
Bal pk
Det -1.5

Oct 16, 2016

NFL Week 6: April 24, 1996

Back at home after the long drive back from the Game 2 ALCS victory by the Tribe last night. Another low scoring white knuckler, where the starter (Tomlin, in this case) high-wires it into the 6th; Francona gets him out as soon as there is danger in the 3rd time through the order; Miller does his thing and then we hope we have good Cody Allen to finish up. It somehow all worked last night, and we are now up 2-0 in the ALCS.

The twitter got me thinking - what is my own personal playoff record? What's my record for games I have attended? I think the following is correct:

NBA: 0
MLB: Now 3-1, all ALCS games with the Indians. (This does not count the 1999 Tie breaker game 163 between the Mets and Reds at Riverfront.....anyone remember that?)
NFL: A perfect 1-0!
NHL: 0-2....

With the start of the NHL season this week, let's reflect on that first NHL playoff loss...a heartbreaking game that is still listed as one of the top 10 all time great games in NHL history. And somehow, Layup and I were there.

Some background: As I started to become more of a sports fan in the mid to late 80s, hockey was always the 4th sport. I never played, and it was very rarely on TV growing up. The closest team to us was - of course - the Washington Capitals. So I started to follow them a bit; the 1987 season was the best season they had....and I remember that ending in the Easter morning game 7 loss to the Islanders. Painful playoff losses? Great! I'm hooked!

I went to college in 1990, and met up with Steve, who was a huge hockey fan. We started watching games during the winter (remember, these games were not on ESPN - they were on SportsChannel....another remnant from the early 90s). Steve was a Penguins fan (being the closest team to Cleveland).....we had many spring tournament road trips where he and I would watch an annual Penguins-Capitals playoff series, always resulting in a Caps loss in 6, usually 7 games. it was predictable every year. But because I hated everything yellow and black, there was no way I could root for the Pens.

(Sidetrack - I remember a trip to Carnegie in 1991 for a tournament; of course the Pens/Caps were playing. All Steve and I wanted to do was to get a 6 pack of MGD and watch the game in the hotel room....but that is literally impossible in Pennsylvania. He (I was underage) had to buy a 24 pack of bottles for the one night. I'm not sure what happened to the rest of that beer. (Of course, the Caps lost, I probably beat him in Gin that night, however.....and in the chipping contest in the hallway)

Fast forward to 1996. I was working in Dayton for the military contractor at the time, and I was sent to the DC area for a week of training on some software. It just so happened that Tuesday night that week was Game 4 of the Caps-Pens series at US Air Arena in Landover! Layup was at the U of Md at the time - was it your junior year? I called him up (probably spoke to Jay or Leland 3 times trying to get a hold of Layup) and found out he was free; so I called to get tickets and we would pick them up at will call.

The training ended at 5; I drove to College Park to pick Layup up, and then we drove to the Arena. The Caps were up 2 games to 1, with a chance here to go up 3-1 in the series.

I really don't recall anything about regulation - I watched the highlights of the game this morning to refresh myself.....the Caps - of course - were up 2-0 in the game, and the Pens got back into it on a shorthanded goal by Jagr late in the 2nd. I think Layup and I both knew that was a bad, bad sign.

Lemieux actually received a game misconduct for fighting against our bruiser - so he was lost for the 3rd (and the rest of the game). No matter. The Pens tied it up about midway through the 3rd on a goal by Nedved; the Caps seem to go in a shell on offense - and regulation ended up tied, 2-2.

Off we go to overtime. The first overtime was uneventful; no chances, and we remained tied after 20 minutes of overtime. Now what?  It was about 10:45 pm or so..... (game started at 7)...... how late were we going to stay? Layup was ok staying for another period, I was 24 and could survive my way through training with coffee, so ok - let's stay another period.

The second overtime was memorable; on a rush, Juneau just missed as the puck was rolling around in the crease; in the scramble, a Penguin knocked the net off. Long discussion.....and the result? A penalty shot!!!! I think this was the first penalty shot ever award in overtime. It was clearly the correct call.

Juneau took the penalty shot ------ it was late in the period, and the puck started bouncing around on the ice; he never got a clear shot off and Ken Wregget denied him. On we played.

Second overtime it's about 11:40 or so....decision time---- we will stay.

Third overtime - not much happened. Olaf Kolzig was excellent for us. No score. Now it's 12:30 am in the morning; I still have to take him back to College Park and then drive back to my hotel (I think in Northern Va).....hoo boy, this is getting late......ok, we will stay for one more.

Fourth overtime - with about 2:30 left in the fourth overtime, a penalty was called on us. BS. (looking at the replay today, it probably was the correct call). And with 10 seconds left on the penalty, 40 seconds left in the 4th OT, Nedved scored with a shot that Kolzig was screened on. Pittsburgh wins, 3-2.  

What a horribly deflating finish to our first playoff hockey game. I think I dropped Layup off at campus around 2 and got back to my hotel around 2;30. Up at 7 for the training - and yes, I fell asleep a few times that day during the training.

(by the way - nothing screams mid-1990s than a game on ESPN2 with those lower case graphics...and the teal Capitals uniforms....God, were they ugly)

On to the games:

Buf 24, SF 17. Will be interesting to see how the 49ers respond to Kap getting the start again. Key here - can Buffalo pass the ball effectively, since their run will be shut down?

Jax 27, Chi 24. I can't help myself here. I think the Jags are ready to play better after London and Chicago has nothing defensively. Should be high scoring.

LA 27, Det 20. Detroit is a fraud, and LA is unpredictable. Just when you think the Rams are good, they let you down. When you think they are bad.....

Pit 23, Mia 21. Miami has to have 1 decent game in here, no? Pittsburgh has New England next week.

NE 30, Cin 23. Is this a must win game for the Bengals? So disappointed in them against the Cowboys last week. They had no D, no passing game, ....

Car 30, NO 27. Staying away from both these teams until I can figure out either 1. How many steps Cam has lost and 2. Can the Saints play any sort of defense?

Bal 20, NYG 17. In a battle of bad teams, go with the best coach. McAdoo has issues on the Giants sideline.

Phi 24, Was 23. Why did I get sucked in on the Eagles on the road last week? This should be a close game, going either way.

KC 27, Oak 20. KC, off a bye, needs a bounceback, and their defense will keep Oakland in check. Smith and the Chiefs will have lots of sustained drives against the Raiders.

GB 23, Dal 17. Something is off with Rodgers and his timing/chemistry. Green Bay should stop the Dallas passing game - so lots of long, clock eating drives for the Cowboys.

Sea 27, Atl 20. it will be very interesting to see how Atlanta's offense performs in Seattle. I'll sit this one out and just watch.

Hou 31, Ind 20. I'll take the team with some defense against the team with none.

Az 27, NYJ 23.  I think the Cards are not as good as people think...they will survive here, but the Jets will make it tough.

Best bets: 12 of them. Last week: 7-5-1; overall: 30-31-3
Jax +1.5
Jax/Chi over 45.5
LA +3
Mia +7
Pit/Mia under 49
Cin/NE over 47.5
Bal +3.5
Bal/NYG under 44
KC -1.5
Dal/GB under 47.5
Hou -3
NYJ +7.5

My supercontest picks: Last week: 2-3; overall: 12-13
Hou -3
LA +3.5
KC pk
Mia +7.5
Jax +2.5

Our combined official picks: Last week: 3-2; overall: 13-12
SD +3 (win)
NO +3
Hou -3
KC pk
LA +3.5

Oct 9, 2016

NFL Week 5: October 2, 2013

We are in the middle of October baseball here at F&J. I will refrain from commenting anything about the current series, as I have seen this story repeated before in 1999 and 2007. I talked about 2007 last week; 1999's series was not all that painful given the best pitcher in baseball at the time - Pedro - was heavily involved.  But I do want to cover a recent loss in Cleveland sports history that was fairly memorable - the 2013 Wild Card game.

The Indians team of 2013 was a Francona special - some power in the lineup, some (not a huge amount) of starting pitching but a shaky bullpen. With 25 games to go, we were 72-65, and in the fringes of playoff contention; we went 20-5 to end the season to just fall short of the division title, but we ended 1 game up in the wild card standings. Our starting pitching to end the season was: Kazmir, good Ubaldo, young Kluber, a rookie in Salazar, and a spot starter in McAllister. Not overpowering, but decent. Our lineup had a hot Michael Bradley, a Nick Swisher on fumes, a 74 yard old Jason Giambi, a rising Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis, and a unexpected power source in Yan Gomes. Again, not the 27 Yanks, but solid enough.   Our bullpen - up until about mid-September - was anchored by Chris Perez. I was in China at the time; there was no better excuse for daytime drinking than to see Chris Perez on gamecast trying to close out your game at 10 am on a weekday. 

I remember being very happy that this bunch was able to sneak into the playoffs as the Wild Card this year. What a great idea - the Wild Card! A one-game play in to see who would take on the division winner. The idea seemed great at the time.... and we got to host it! Obviously, we never got a chance to set our rotation up, since we didn't clinch until the last day - so our starter was the rookie, Danny Salazar.

Our opponent that night was Tampa Bay. Tampa had to win a tie breaker vs. Texas just to get into the wild card game. They came to Cleveland with their rotation in disarray as they too had to keep pressing down the stretch just to get in. Randall Cobb was their starter. 

I remember watching this game in the hotel room in the Phillipines while on vacation. We somehow got the TBS feed. The stadium seemed electric - and it looked like the team was ready. The big question - could Salazar handle the moment? 

Well, this turned out to be one of those games where you just knew - by the 2nd or 3rd inning - that the other starting pitcher was on. Cobb went through our order the first time around with ease. Nothing hard hit. Salazar pitched decently - 3 runs in 5 innings, I think - but Cobb never got in any trouble. We let up a solo HR in the 2nd and a 2 run double in the 3rd - and it was 3-0.

A 3-0 deficit, against a pitcher that was smoking and against a solid opponent - well, that made watching the last 6 innings of the game no fun at all. It was like seeing your own funeral. You know the game is effectively over - You know you aren't going to get any runs without some significant help - so it was a depressing watch. Can we just fast forward through the commercials to get to the end? I know what the ending is. 

I've had this feeling multiple times before in the playoffs- and it's not fun. Playing Pedro in the late 90s. Actually going to the Reds/Mets tiebreaker game (game 163) in 1999 at Riverfront and seeing the Reds overmatched from the 2nd inning on. Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS (talked about before) had a similar feeling. 

Tampa scored a run in the 9th and won the game, 4-0. It was an incredibly anti-climatic ending to a wonderful September. At the time, I hated the 1-game idea and thought it should have been 2-out-of 3.....however, as time goes by, I have changed my thinking, given this experience.  My new thoughts about it:

1. One game playoffs are horrendous, for the participants. I have a feeling Layup may agree after the 2014 Wild Card game. 
2. I now place so, so, so much importance on winning the division, since you avoid the 1 game lottery. I think this is what baseball wanted when they created it. 
3. Therefore, it is a true "benefit" for the division winner to avoid this game; baseball has achieved the correct compromise - expanding the playoffs while still emphasizing the division races.  

So I now like the wild card game. I just hope I don't have to participate in it again. 

On to the games this week - 

Bal 31, Was 17. Baltimore (and Harbaugh) specializes in beating inferior opponents that are poorly coached. I think that describes the Skins well. 

Phi 27, Det 17. I have faith in the Eagles defense here. The Lions have not shown any ability to score against a good defense. I expect the Eagles D to carry them here. 

Ind 31, Chi 20. A kitchen sink game for the Colts; I think this will be a high scoring game and the Bears just don't have enough weapons to keep up. 

Ten 24, Mia 20. The Titans are not a horrible team. They have a decent defense, and I think Miami is such a mess themselves defensively that the Titans will be able to move the ball.

Min 24, Hou 16. The key here is for the Texans to limit any turnovers by Brock. He does that, then the Texans could win, but would you count on him not throwing a pick here? 

Pit 27, NYJ 17. The Steelers will come backdown to earth a bit....but how can you have faith that the Jets will be able to score when needed? 

Den 23, Atl 16. Paxton Lynch starting - it's a good thing the Broncos have a stellar defense. I don't think the Falcons have seen a D close to this level yet this year. 

Cin 23, Dal 17. I think the Bengals will grind this one out and win, based on their run game and run defense. They will force Dax to pass - and that will be a bit of a struggle. 

LA 24, Buf 13. I still can't trust the Bills to be consistent...2 big wins, you know they will lay an egg here. How are the Rams 3-1????

Oak 34, SD 31. An old-fashioned AFC West shootout. Where is Charlie Jones and Todd Christensen to call this game? 

GB 30, NYG 20. God, it's hard to see how the Giants compete here after the awfulness of last Monday night. This will be a good test to see how good the Packers D really is. 

Car 28, TB 27. Dear Vegas - I know Derek Anderson. I've seen him. He is a gunslinger, will throw plenty of long passes and will make mistakes too. I expect a high scoring game. 

Best bets: 13 of them; last week: 5-6; overall: 23-26-2
Bal -4
Phi -3.5
Ind -4.5
Ten +3
NYJ/Pit under 49
Atl/Den under 45.5
Cin -2
Cin/Dal under 45
LA +1
SD/Oak over 51
GB -7
TB +4
TB/Car over 44.5

My supercontest entries: last week: 3-2, overall: 10-10
Bal -4
Ind -4.5
Ten +3.5
Cin -1
Phi -3

Our official team supercontest entry: last week: 2-3, overall: 10-10
Bal -4
Ten +3.5
Pit -7
SD +3.5
Cin -1

Oct 2, 2016

NFL Week 4: October 18, 2007

October baseball is back in Cleveland! Many of you know (or should have known) the Indians clinched the Central on Monday - giving them their first division title in 10 years. (We made the playoffs in 2013, but we made it as a wild card...and I want no part of that game at all. Too many variables in a 1 game situation. Just ask Oakland in 2014....)

This year's team had the pitching to really go far in the playoffs until the injury bug struck. Our #2 and #3 pitchers, Carrasco and Salazar, are now out with injuries, and our ace -Kluber - is suffering through a groin pull. So we have to cobble our rotation together (and Francona is good at doing that) but I don't have a lot of hopes for the next week or two.

It looks like - but I don't think it's set - that we will play Boston in the best of 5 ALDS. Hoo boy, that brings us back 10 years ago to a painful loss. In 2007, we won the AL Central and held off the Yankees in 4 games to win the ALDS. (That was the year of the Joba Chamberlain gnat game). Boston was our opponent in the ALCS that year - and there was a feeling around baseball that this was the de facto World Series - as in the National League, the fluky Colorado Rockies went on to win the NLCS and be in the World Series. Either of these teams were going to kill the Rockies.

We split the first two games in Boston, then came home for games 3-4-5. Somehow, we won games 3 and 4 and had a 3-1 lead going into Game 5 on a Thursday night in Cleveland. Don got tickets, and I think Janice and I drove up with Don and Michelle for Game 5 that night in Cleveland. It was an 8 pm start, I believe.  Were we actually going to see an American League pennant being captured in front of my eyes?

I recall a very bad omen heading into the game. We walked from our parking spot to the game - past many of the of the stands were selling "Indians - 2007 AL Champs!" T-shirts for $20. I shook my head at that as we walked by . Oh dear.  The city needs to stop any future illegal copyright infringement gooches from now on.

The pitching matchup was C C Sabathia for the good guys and Josh Beckett for the Red Sox. Someone in the front office felt extremely cocky - too cocky - and scheduled a female singer for the National Anthem. The singer was Danielle Peck - Josh's ex-girlfriend.

Oh yeah, no tempting fate there.

I don't remember too much about the game - it was 1-1 after 1, and Boston scored in the 3rd to make it 2-1. Beckett was solid - I never really felt like we had any chance to break through with more runs. C C pitched ok, but fell apart in the 7th; Boston scored 2 in the 7th and 3 in the 8th to win, 7-1. The series would go back to Boston.

Of course, as you know, Boston won games 6 and 7 at home to win the ALCS....... and, to rub even more salt in the wounds, they swept the inferior Rockies in the World Series. If we had beaten the Red Sox in either game 5, 6 or 7, I have to believe we would have been doing the sweeping in the Series.

( For you Tribe fans out there - or those that get pissed off at Boston dominance - we can look back at this video fondly from October 3, 1995. Come for the Tony Pena highlights, stay for the Bob Costas shrieking!)

On to the games:

Jax 27, Ind 20. I mentioned that Jax desperate home dog in week 3. I meant week 4. Ha! What a boring game plan they had last week - they HAVE to open it up this week vs. the depleted Colts secondary.

Chi 24, Det 20. Detroit is not good enough to be favored on the road. They still seem to have a penchant for blowing winnable games.

Car 30, Atl 27. I don't think Carolina's defense is all that good this year - so Atlanta will score; Carolina will be able to match them and eke this one out.

Bal 24, Oak 17. Bal's specialty is to play close to the vest, not make mistakes, and let the other team beat themselves. This should work against a young Oakland team on the road.

Hou 20, Ten 13. I know Watt is out, but Houston has had 10 days to prepare for this game. They have the superior talent and should win a low scoring game.

NE 23, Buf 20. No idea what tricks Belicheck will pull out of his hat for this one.

NYJ 20, Sea 16. the jets have a formidable defensive line - and I think they will dominate the Seattle weakness- their O line. Obviously, this is dependent on Fitzpatrick not throwing 6 interceptions again.....

TB 27, Den 23. Just a hunch. I really don't think Simien is all that elite. He beat a Carolina defense that took a step down from last year, struggled to move the ball vs. the Colts and ....well, I'll give him lots of credit for the Bengals road win. Could be a let down.

Az 27, LA 16. Talk about a let down - how did the Rams score 37? I can't see the Cardinals giving up half that much here.

SD 30, NO 24. No idea. Anything can happen in this game. I'm sure this will be a 6-3 barnburner given the horrid defenses on both sides.

SF 24, Dal 20. Who, exactly, have the Cowboys played? The Giants - not known for their secondary strength...the Redskins (ditto), and the Bears who are a mess. Who gave them this easy schedule?

Pit 30, KC 20. I have to believe Ben will break out here with Bell back, coming off a loss. KC only scored 24 points last week with 8 turnovers given to them. That's 1999-Browns like.

Min 23, NYG 20. Not sure what will happen here. I think the Vikes are due for a letdown....after 3 tough games, the last 2 vs. elite teams.

Best bets: 11 games. Last week: 3-10-1; overall: 18-20-2.
Jax +2
Chi +3
Car/Atl over 49
Bal -3.5
Ten/Hou under 43.5
Buf +6.5
NYJ +1.5
TB +3
Den/TB over 43
SF +1.5
Pit -3.5

My supercontest picks: Last week: 1-4; overall: 7-8
NYJ +2.5
Pit -5.5
SF +2.5
Chi +3
Jax +2.5

Combined Supercontest entry: Last week: 1-4; overall: 8-7
Jax +2.5
NYJ +2.5
Arz -8
Pit -5.5
NYG +4.5