NFL Six Picks — Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

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This wasn’t supposed to be easy, but it sure as hell should have been easier than what I’ve made of it so far.

Think about it. There are 10 to 13 NFL games available to me each week (depending on how many teams have a bye, and always excluding Jets games and Thursday night contests), so how hard should it be to cherry pick six contests I feel strongly about? Even if it does involve the spread, shouldn’t after 13 weeks there be a won/loss record well above .500?

Welllll…something went awry on the way to making a name for myself as an NFL guru. Be it a missed two-point conversion at the end of a half, or the Rams and Chiefs stubborn refusal to take a week off from covering double-digit spreads, the results just haven’t been there for me this year.

I had hung in there over .500 until last week’s 1-5 debacle (thanks for nothing, Baker Mayfield and the Browns!), but now it’s starting to feel a little like the Jets locker room around here at SportsAttic, playing out the string only for pride.

My first thought was to flat out discontinue Six Picks, rather than put that sub-.500 record in bold print this week. But as the great Satchel Paige once said, “don’t hang your head, find another way,” so we’ve decided on a new (and hopefully improved) approach to NFL Six Picks this week.

To better explain, travel back with me, if you will, to those hot summer nights of our youth. A sleepover at the home of my lifelong friend, Roddy. After enjoying the extended July daylight by playing baseball right up until the final warning to return to the house, or else, from my Aunt Alida, we would retire upstairs for the night with little intention of going to sleep at all.

Not when there was more baseball to cover — our ritual being to go team by team, division by division, and compare notes on who our favorite player was for every squad — sort of a prehistoric fantasy league draft exercise.

For example: Minnesota Twins — me: “Harmon Killebrew,” Roddy: “Tony Oliva” (it was always Killebrew and Oliva when it came to the Twins, and it was understood that it was bad form for us both to choose the same star). Every team would be painstakingly covered, with frequent pauses for debate and validation — “Joe Torre, really? Not Lou Brock or Ted Simmons? What about Reggie Smith? Gibson? Are you sure?”

Okay, you get the idea. It was summer in the early to mid-’70’s, and with baseball season in full gear, it was always a MLB exercise for Roddy and I.

However, in a desperate attempt to right the SportsAttic prognostication ship, I will borrow a page from those hot summer nights today on a cold (okay, it’s low-50’s, but that’s cold in California) December Saturday, and apply a form of our time-honored  exercise to this week’s NFL Six Picks.

Here’s how it will work: For each of the Six Picks game selections this weekend, rather than factor in anything having to do with the current season, facts, stats, trends or expectations, we are simply going to pick the team of the player who I think most fondly of from my formative years as an NFL fan. Yes, a harshly subjective and arbitrary methodology, but I was 1-5 last week, after all.

Not exactly “which city would I rather visit,” or “who has the coolest logo,” but it is in that ballpark. And for those keeping score at home, since I never include the Jets in NFL Six Picks, I’ll begin by letting everyone know that Emerson Boozer was my favorite Jet, and the Airplanes would be my pick to cover every week if I were to employ this new strategy going forward.

So let’s have at it and see if nostalgia is the panacea to my predictive challenges of the past several weeks (as always, home team in ALL CAPS):

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Giants (-3) over WASHINGTON — Sorry but Lawrence Taylor would be too easy here. There was no cooler name when I first discovered Topps football cards in 1970 than Carl “Spider” Lockhart. The Giants safety was simply bad ass. So bad ass that he easily outdistances another of my Top 10 favorite football names as a kid — Chris Hanburger of the Redskins (other favorite names for 6-year-old me included Mel Farr of the Lions, Dick Butkus and, of course, Jethro Pugh). (Giants, 27-17)

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Baltimore (+7) over the CHIEFS — I’m taking some liberties here, as the Ravens didn’t exist in my early years as a fan, and the Baltimore Colts were such a larger than life franchise back in the day. Speaking of larger than life, they didn’t get much bigger than Bubba Smith, so we will let the Ravens benefit from this loose association with my all-time favorite Colt. Bubba was the first player I ran across who, when I turned his football card over, reached 6 feet 7 inches in height. And I was mesmerized by his cool  name, his gigantic size, and the fact that he always seemed to make a big play against the Jets. As a kid I instinctively gravitated toward the big dudes, and I quickly decided Buck Buchanan would be my favorite Chief. Another giant, at 6’7 and nearing 300 pounds, Buchanan also was bestowed with a super cool name, and would turn this pick in the Chiefs favor in almost any other matchup, but not against Bubba Smith. (Ravens, 30-28)

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DOLPHINS (+9) over the Patriots — The great Miami teams of the ’70’s were known for their relentless ground game. Csonka, Kiick and Mercury Morris rightfully relegated the Dolphins passing game to an afterthought. But all that pounding into the line with Csonka and Kiick, and then outside with Morris, would eventually open up the chance for Bob Griese to air one out. And on the receiving end more often than not was the speedy Paul Warfield, who was mysteriously given the number 42 early in his career by the Cleveland Browns, and had kept it after being traded to Miami. Warfield was so fast, and always seemed to be open by a step at critical junctures. And even though I loathed Griese and the Dolphins, I couldn’t help but like number 42. And what of the Boston Patriots? Well, I never liked Jim Plunkett, but always maintained a solid respect for their enormous back, Jim Nance. Nance was another size anomaly that fascinated me during my early years as a fan. I couldn’t fathom how a running back could weigh 260 pounds (the big man had actually rumbled for 1458 yards in 1966 for the Pats, inflicting much punishment on defenders at the conclusion of every carry). Yes, Nance was a freak, and a sight to behold. However, it’s not close here, as Warfield was the man. (Patriots, 24-16)

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Bengals (+15.5) over the CHARGERS — When you said “Lance Alworth,” it just sounded like a great wide receiver back when I was growing up. Something about that name. By the time I began paying attention, Alworth was a backup wideout for the Cowboys, but the back of his football card showed me a guy who posted sick stats during his days with the Bolts. So I always associated him with San Diego and their high flying AFL days. But what about Mike Reid? Anyone remember him? He popped up in some NFL book I read in grade school about young defensive stars of the NFL, and he was certainly one, distinguishing himself as a top DT and an All-Pro for the Bengals in the early-’70’s. Reid could also play piano. Apparently really well. So well that he quit football in 1975 for a career in music. I couldn’t understand it at the time. At all. Now I do. Sorry, Lance, Reid’s the pick. (Chargers, 30-20)

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Rams (-3) over the BEARS — Two more football card memories here. The first year I was ever able to accumulate a complete Topps series, the final card to complete the collection took me weeks to find. The missing link was Wally Chambers, a menacing Bears defensive tackle back then. From the day I plucked Chambers from the Topps wrapper,  he was my favorite Bear (apologies to Walter Payton). A couple of years prior to the Chambers find, I had some teeth removed (“crowded mouth,” the dentist had told 9-year-old me). It was the first time I had been “put under” for any kind of surgery. When I awoke, my mom had placed a few packs of football cards at my side. The player looking back at me as I opened up the first pack was Isaiah Robertson, defensive leader of those strong Rams teams that could never quite get over the hump back in the day. That Robertson card would become my favorite for the balance of the 1974 season. Sadly, I discovered while spell-checking “Isaiah” for this post, that Robertson passed away Thursday night in a car accident down in Texas. Tragic news about the one-time star linebacker. We will dedicate this selection to his memory. (Rams, 24-14)

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Vikings (+3) over SEATTLE — This was such a no brainer that I didn’t even include a Seahawk (Jim Zorn, you say? Meh…). I was never a Vikings fan growing up, but there was a lot for a young fan to like about the Minnesota team that frequently showed up in a Super Bowl and got their brains beat in. For starters, I thought it was cool that a team could have purple jerseys. And I liked the wings on the helmets. But mostly, I thought the nickname for the Vikings defensive line of the day — The Purple People Eaters — was the absolute best. Quick, name them — Jim Marshall (pictured), Alan Page, Carl Eller, and…(don’t worry, I had to look it up, too) Gary Larsen. Marshall was always my favorite, though, because to me it was absolutely fantastic that he had once run 66 yards with a fumble recovery — in the wrong direction. Stuff of legends. (Minnesota, 27-20)

Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 1-5 (34-35-3 on the year)

There you have it. Let’s see if the time machine ride back to the hot summer nights of the ’70’s, and an era when football stars were actual Giants who could do no wrong on or off the field in the eyes and imagination of a young fan, can turn things around for AtticBro after that 1-5 disaster last week.

Despite the SportsAttic shortcomings in the won/loss column last week, I am proud to report that Fantasy League Rob was a solid 1-for-1 in his debut as the Guest Prognosticator of the Week. In fact, Fantasy League Rob was so prescient that he nearly called the final score and outcome on the nose with his accurate prediction of the Chargers big win in Pittsburgh.

But that was last week, and this week’s NFL Six Picks is all about the days of our youth, and in a nod to those bygone summers spent debating the merits of Jeff Burroughs or Toby Harrah as a young fan’s favorite Texas Ranger, we welcome none other than my boyhood partner in sporting crime, Copper Springs Roddy to SportsAttic as this week’s Guest Prognosticator!

When Copper Springs Roddy isn’t winning club championships on the links at certain noteworthy North Jersey golf clubs, he’s often seen cheering on Devils — Blue ones down south, or New Jersey ones at the Prudential Center. However, I most remember him as the young guy who once named Ed Armbrister as his favorite Cincinnati Red late one night during the Big Red Machine’s heyday of the mid-’70’s. Here’s Copper Springs Roddy:

Broncos (-4) over SAN FRANCISCO — “Good afternoon, SportsAttic. My pick comes to you  from the cold of New Jersey. My first instinct was to go with the Cowboys to pummel the Eagles. The ‘Boys were coming off their big win against the Saints and catching the Eagles off a short week. But Cowboys versus Eagles for me is akin to back when the Mets played the Red Sox in the World Series — the only way I could be happy were for both teams to lose. Picking the Cowboys would set me up to feel stupid regardless of the outcome, so instead, I am going with…drum roll…the Broncos giving 4 over the Niners. On paper it may seem this game doesn’t matter. Denver is 6-6 and on the outskirts of the Wild Card race, while San Fran is just looking forward to the 2019 scratch-off lottery college draft. But Denver, after a rough start is now playing well. Plus their next three games are against the 49ers, Browns and Raiders. So Denver could easily rip off the next three and sit at 9-6 with their final game at home against the Chargers in front of their raucous home crowd. And Denver has beaten the Bolts once already this season, on the road. Denver did have two big injuries on defense last week and it gives me pause, but I think in front of a small, disinterested Levi Stadium crowd (eating vegan dogs and Frobot — what the heck is Frobot?) the Broncos will get the job done, and send the Niners one step closer to lottery day.” (Broncos, 24-14)

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SportsAttic Take: Hmmm, Copper Springs Roddy makes some compelling points. But to me this is less about point spreads and injuries, and much more about Floyd Little versus Charlie Krueger. And given the choice between one of the 1970’s premier running backs (who also happened to have a last name that cracked up 6-year-old me) and a lineman who always seemed to be snarling when the Topps cameras caught up to him, we are going with the back and hoping that Copper Springs Roddy’s detailed analysis holds up tomorrow out by the Bay. (Denver, 31-13)

And there it is, NFL fans. The point spread is the great equalizer when it comes to picking NFL game outcomes. All the analysis and knowledge in the world can be rendered useless when a late extra point “doinks” off an upright.

So let’s see if SportsAttic has uncovered the secret crystal ball to NFL prognostication success with our most recent glimpse into the rear view mirror of sports nostalgia.

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Around The World* In 80** Days (*=world of sports)(**=5 hour flight)

Life has gotten in the way of priorities once again, and as a result SportsAttic has fallen badly behind in the important comings and goings of the world of sports.

Other than the NFL Six Picks segment (which if you’ve been following, you’ll know is wheezing to the NFL’s regular season conclusion barely above .500), there’s hardly been time to come up for air and keep SportsAttic relevant. And with a lot going on in the other major sports, we are long overdue to dive back in.

Speaking of air, I decided to capitalize on the air time of a cross country flight to play some catch up this afternoon. Rather than nap, read Sports Illustrated or stream Mad Men on my iPhone (yeah, it’s an exciting life the AtticBro leads), I decided to hit all the major sports (that matter to me, anyway) in a quick “around the world” post that will get us all back to current.

BASEBALL: We will start with a fly-by of the major headlines this past month-plus, and  then follow with an emphasis on the future, as the Hot Stove season begins to heat up and big moves and signings are on the horizon:

 -Jacob deGrom wins the Cy Young — resounding congrats to the Mets right-hander and the writers who made it possible despite his 10-9 record. And leave the poor guy in San Diego alone who put Jake second behind Scherzer. Wins do still matter, but not as much as over the top, world class excellence, start after start. Now let’s sign Cy deGrom long-term, BVW (new, hip nickname for Mets baseball boss Brodie Van Wagenen)!

-The Red Sox. Okay, okay, I dismissed them for most of the season as overrated and likely to be exposed in October, only to watch them absolutely tear through the playoffs and World Series en route to their fourth title of the 21st Century. The Curse of A-Rod is alive and well, Yankees fans — you’ve seen your last World Series win for quite awhile, but maybe your grandkids will catch the next one around the year 2104.

 -Clayton Kershaw resigned with the Dodgers. Right move for both sides, who were dealt impossible situations. Kershaw is clearly on the back nine (maybe the 17th green?), and could have gotten more money elsewhere, but then would have had to justify it to new fans and teammates with diminished stuff and that whole playoff failure albatross to contend with. The Dodgers, on the other hand, couldn’t let their most recognizable star bolt, even if he has disappointed annually in the postseason. So a re-sign with a couple of extra years tacked on worked for both team and player. Still, if Dave Roberts returns (I’m hearing they are in extension talks??) the Dodgers title drought will go on for at least one more year despite loads of young talent on that roster.

 -Robinson Cano a Met? One of my least favorite players will don the blue and orange this spring. Excuse me if I can’t help but believe this is Robbie Alomar 2.0. And yes, I know we got the closer who throws gas and has four years of contract control. And yes, I know the Mariners (who may rival the Mets for front office ineptitude) will kick in $20 million of the $120 million owed to Cano. But really, BVW? Your first move? A 36-year-old with a well earned reputation for never hustling, coming off an 80 game steroid suspension? Just the role model Amed Rosario needs in the Mets clubhouse this spring. That’s not to say that if Cano puts up a .310/22/110 stat line this year and the Mets make the playoffs I won’t applaud the signing, but I’m sure as heck not feeling it right now.

That about exhausts the big, recent, news that matters category, so what about the MLB future? Here’s a few thoughts (disclaimer once again, as anyone who’s been paying attention to the success rate of my recent predictions may want to take these and go the other way):

*Free agent most likely to be awful in 2019 — Patrick Corbin, by a long shot. There is certainly an element of wishful thinking involved here, as I do believe he will become a Yankee in the near future, but who is this guy? A couple of games over .500 for his career, he put up a decent year in 2018, but not a $120 million kind of year. A guy who openly lobbied the Yankees to sign him last spring while still pitching for Arizona. I smell bad teammate, one who will wilt under the bright lights of having to make good on the number one starter money he’s about to receive. And if he doesn’t blow up in the Bronx, here’s hoping he does so in Philly.

*Where’s Bryce Harper going? Well, no one seems to be biting on my Angels call, and the Phils seem to be everybody’s front runner, but I’m still thinking Yankees here, too. This is the sort of premier free agent signing that’s too hard for the Yanks (see young Hal Steinbrenner, who despite his maturity and understated nature, is still his father’s son after all, and has watched his hated rivals to the north eat his lunch too many times since the Bombers last  parade) to resist. Where would you play Harper? Who cares what position he plays when you plan on scoring 10 runs a game. Shoe horn him into first base and hope for a lot of K’s and fly balls. If Harper doesn’t end up in the Bronx, then I see him resigning in D.C., which I would tip my hat to him for, even if it will make things miserable for the Mets.

*Machado? I saw him as a Brave when the offseason began, but with the Josh Donaldson signing (still don’t understand that one), Atlanta seems out. Philly has to sign someone big, so let’s send Johnny Hustle there, where he can contribute to Gabe Kapler’s firing when he gets off to a slow start, flips the bird to the booing fans (still bitter over the Eagles 7-9 finish), and becomes the negative influence in the Phillies clubhouse we all expect him to be.

*Will Cleveland trade a starter? I guess… I’m still annoyed with the Indians for making my World Series prediction for them look so foolish after they barely bothered to show up in the ALDS against Houston. But they are loaded with starting pitching, will probably still win the lame AL Central even with only 87-90 wins, and they’ve got the Brantley hole to fill if they can get some major league-ready prospects back in a deal. Lately a rumor circulated that the Mets were sniffing around Corey Kluber. Based on what we saw from Kluber in the postseason, he’d be the wrong guy to go get, which probably means we’ll see him in a Mets uni come February. Just please don’t put Syndegaard in the deal, BVW, please (problem is that after the Cano/Diaz deal, there isn’t much else left to trade). And shouldn’t a team built on their starting pitching be looking to add elsewhere to a lineup that finished below .500 last year and had a hard time scoring runs? Oh, right, this is the Mets we’re talking about.

*Where are all the catchers going to go? Realmuto, Ramos, Grandal, Lucroy?  It is safe to say Miami has to move J.T. Realmuto, and should they add a few more solid prospects for their lone remaining asset, the Marlins could possibly eye contention by 2020. And since they won’t send Realmuto to an NL East rival, how about to the Dodgers, who will need to replace the soon to be departed Yasmani Grandal? That would be an uptick for Los Angeles in an area that was exposed as a weakness when Grandal stopped catching the ball in October. Plus the Dodgers always have prospects, and will be ready to deal with their desperation ratcheted up following their latest near miss. Hopefully one of the other available backstops becomes a Met (I’d personally prefer Wilson Ramos, but he’s getting the “bad glove” rap, which is a show stopper when you are emphasizing pitching — which I think the Mets are, right?), because the thought of going through all of 2019 having to watch Kevin Plawecki flail at curveballs out of the zone and wondering when Travis d’Arnaud gets hurt next is already giving me a migraine.

*Were the A’s a one hit wonder? I hope not, as what the A’s accomplished in 2018 is incredibly healthy for baseball. However, I’m not sure yet what we should expect from the Athletics in 2019. But don’t despair, as I will personally be able to provide the world an answer in due time. As my flight this morning was preparing for take off I answered my cell phone with an unidentified Oakland number flashing on the screen. A friendly young lady was gauging my interest in A’s tickets for the upcoming year (apparently they have several exciting ways for fans like me to join in the fun — the A’s are coming off an outstanding year, she reminded me). I didn’t commit (yet), because I do like the A’s, and am reluctant to torpedo their chances by investing in their 2019 season (I attribute much of the A’s 2018 magic to the fact that I hadn’t renewed my seats following their desultory 2017 finish). The fair thing to do to the loyal fans of Oakland would be to pass on the 20-ticket package, and keep ours a television relationship. Decisions, decisions…

BASKETBALL: The season has begun, and the real season kickoff (the dawn to dusk  Christmas Day slate of games) is now only weeks away. Already several of my most exciting scenarios are playing out before my very eyes, with the Dubs showing maybe it isn’t that easy to three-peat, the Rockets staggering out of the starting gate, the LeBrons proving to be the most interesting and entertaining team in the league, and the Knicks continuing to stink up the joint (but with a much more enthusiastic and media-friendly  coach this time). But an NBA look-back can truly only start in one place:

-He’s gone. Bye bye, Melo. We miss ya. Okay, that may be taking things a bit far, as I fully expected Mr. Anthony to be part of the detonation that would take place down in Houston, but did he have to go so soon? I mean, c’mon! Even in exiting the league, Melo found a way to do it that would suck joy from my life and that of the rest of the NBA faithful. Couldn’t we get at least one towel thrown in anger at Mike D’Antonio as Melo skulked his way to the end of the Rockets bench after another failed defensive rotation? Or maybe a shoving match with The Beard on the way to the locker room following another missed three against a double-team, while Harden stood by helpless and wide open for the game winner? Yup, I do miss Carmelo Anthony. In that odd way you miss a sadistic ex-girlfriend who made your life a living hell for a couple of years, yet now you find yourself bored to tears once she’s taken her leave. Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll latch on with the Clippers and ruin their early season positive mojo. One can only hope…

And other thoughts on The Association:

*I thought the Celtics were supposed to go 80-2 this year (the two losses coming to the LeBrons, of course)? Hmmm… Yes, they’ll be there at the end in all likelihood, they just have so much talent. But I like the fact that they are struggling right now, while the Raptors race out to a big lead in the East and the Sixers look equally strong after adding Jimmy Butler into that uber-talented lineup. Maybe the East isn’t quite as far behind the West as everyone thought over the summer?

*Will every team in the West remain in the playoff mix all season? It really is unprecedented what’s going on out west. We are more than a quarter way through the campaign, and with the exception of Phoenix (who will win it all in 2023-24), every team can stake their claim on the playoffs right now, assuming you believe the Spurs will eventually figure out how to get above .500. Now you also have to think Memphis, Sacramento, Dallas and the Clips will remember they are Memphis, Sacramento, Dallas and the Clips at some point, and resume their place in ping pong ball purgatory, but for now parity is the word and everybody has a shot. And that’s a good thing.

*Are the problems for real in Golden State? Nah. Settle down everyone. I think if you were to ask Steve Kerr, he’d admit that some travails and adversity early on could help his club get their act together in time for their third straight, and fourth title in five years (all together now — it would be going on a five-peat if the league didn’t gift wrap LeBron and the city of Cleveland that title with the farcical Draymon Green suspension three years ago). Injuries and egos were the most likely road blocks to another Warriors title this season, and it’s the first week of December and the Warriors have already encountered both in meaningful ways. Yet, even though they sit in second place (behind the Clippers??), they are still tracking for 50+ wins. Let’s ratchet that up to 55 by year’s end, and they’ll still probably lock down the 1 or 2 seed. Doesn’t mean they’ll win it all, but despite the daily Bay Area hand wringing going on, they’ll be fine. Plus they still have the debut of Boogie Cousins to look forward to!

*If Kristaps Porzingis gets healthy should the Knicks play him this year? Absolutely not. And yes, they will. Because they are the Knicks. Crap shoot here for Steve Mills, Scott Perry and the Knickerbocker brain trust (cue the laugh track). Do you put the Latvian wonder boy in to foster future chemistry with the other youngsters on the roster, or play it safe and keep him out, and go full on tank for the chance to watch some other club pick Zion Williamson (the Knicks forfeited the right to ever pick first again back in ’85, when they dealt with the Devil to allow them the chance to draft Patrick Ewing). Not to mention there’s the high likelihood of KP getting hurt again if he does return to the court. Yup, it is the Knicks we are talking about here — the team with three lottery pick point guards who are all terrible. The team who’s best player is Tim Hardaway, Jr. The team that will trade it’s actual best player, Enes Kanter, for a second-round draft pick at some point in January. I’m going to pencil in a February return and a March injury for KP, but we Knicks fans already know that whatever door Mills/Perry select, the prize won’t be the BMW Convertible, it will be the year’s supply of Eskimo Pies.

BOXING: I couldn’t remember the last time I was genuinely interested in a heavyweight fight. Nothing against the Klitschko Brothers, but I could never remember which was which (one was the champ forever, and one became Governor of the Ukraine or something like that?), and the lack of interesting American challengers rendered that title reign meaningless to me. So now we have two heavies worth paying attention to, it would appear. I even looked into purchasing tickets for Wilder-Fury down at Staples Center when the recent fight was first announced.

Such a purchase is wrought with peril, as anyone who’s ever laid down significant cash for good seats to a big fight, only to see a first-round knockout, can attest. But I tested the waters anyway, and nearly pulled the trigger before the fates intervened. I was locked and loaded, third-row center, when the venue tried to change my perfect seat selection to another area that was “virtually the same.” Except for the fact that my new seat would be squarely facing the corner of the ring. You only fall for that one once as a boxing fan (watching the back of an HBO camera man’s head for 12 rounds on a Vegas night long ago, desperately craning my neck to catch snippets of action while screaming myself hoarse at no one in particular over my dilemma), so I decided to bail on ringside and instead pay the $90 pay per view ransom and watch the action from home.

Then as fight night approached, AtticBride informed me that the one Holiday Party we always make a point of attending was scheduled for the same night as the fight (never fails). Back east this isn’t a problem, since it is usually nearing midnight before the main event participants enter the ring, but on the west coast the bell rings right as the egg nog is in full swig mode. So to the party we went, me secretly rooting for that one-round knockout that would allow me to lament my decision just a little bit less.

Nope. Twelve rounds of action between two behemoths who actually seem to know how to box and punch. Knockdowns (including one that looked like it should have sent Tyson Fury into next week, before the mountainous Brit somehow got to his feet), back stories, controversy (how the hell did one judge see it 115-111??), and certainty of a rematch following that most unsatisfactory of outcomes in all of organized sports — the draw.

The rematch — Wilder/Fury II — will likely sell out much more quickly than this one did. Great to see a little life breathed back into the Sweet Science. Nothing stirs the imagination of fight fans more than a competitive heavyweight division with a couple of interesting and menacing headliners. Schedule it — I’m going.

FOOTBALL: The SportsAttic weekly NFL Six Picks segment forces me to stay somewhat current with the league, and in spite of my ridiculously poor prognostications of late, the predictions will continue until being officially put out of their misery at the conclusion of Week 17. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some meaningful thoughts to take note of following what’s begun as a 1-4 Week 13 for me (I need the Washington Football Club to deliver me a little respectability and preserve my above-.500 ledger tonight):

*Let’s all applaud the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. And not for their sterling record and all those TD passes. I applaud the Chiefs this morning for not trying to snow us with some half-baked “we are going to wait for the league to conclude its investigation and due process to be delivered” bullshit regarding their star running back, who was caught on film kicking a woman in the hallway of a hotel in Ohio. Immediate termination was the right (only!) decision, but when the “right decision” may deliver “wrong on field results,” it’s amazing how conflicted franchises with title dreams can become. Not the Chiefs, and bravo for their swift and decisive action. And props to Mahomes for unequivocally stating that such behavior isn’t allowed in the Chief locker room. Mahomes may be the starting QB, but he is also still just a second-year guy, and undoubtedly Hunt has lots of friends on the team. But instead of saying “no comment” or “I only want to talk about what happened on the field today,” Mahomes called out his ex-teammate’s unacceptable behavior. That’s hard for anyone, let alone a guy in his early-twenties in his second year in the league. Way to go, Patrick.

*Is something starting to smell bad in Pittsburgh? Going to Denver and losing at high altitude can happen to any team, even if it is against a subpar Broncos team, but following that up at home by blowing a big lead to the Chargers? Yes, the Chargers are a legit contender in the AFC, but something sure does look awry to me in western PA. Big Ben’s smirk as the Steelers repeatedly jumped offsides in a futile attempt to block the game-winning FG attempt seemed to tell a bigger story than simply frustration at blowing this one game. The Steelers still own the division lead, but for how long?

*Could Seattle make some noise in the NFC playoffs? I know, they still have to get there, but at 7-5 if the season were to end today, they’d be the NFC’s 5-seed, and getting ready to travel to Dallas for the Wild Card round. And yes, that’s a game I’d pick them to win, even if the Seattle record is aided by the lame NFC West competition.

*Did Mike McCarthy deserve to get fired immediately after losing to the Cardinals at home? I’m not sure, but give credit to the Packers organization for making a statement to the players and their fans about expectations as a franchise. No backsliding without a fight in Green Bay. McCarthy had a great run, brought Green Bay a Lombardi Trophy, and will surely get another crack at it elsewhere. Let’s hope it’s in New Jersey, where the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS could really use an offensive mind to develop Sam the Man. Are you listening, Mike Maccagnan?

Okay, that’ll do it for now. I’m sure I’ve missed a few dozen important items worth analyzing, but at least we’re back on the board with a blog post that didn’t include a single prediction against a point spread.

Have a great week everybody!

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Look Out, Eli! The Chicago Linebacker Legacy Is Heading Your Way — NFL Six Picks Week 13

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Forgive Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher if they are feeling a bit envious this weekend.

The three legendary Monsters of the Midway — brutal tackling machines all — eyes bulging as they sweep across the field sideline to sideline — instilling fear in opposing coaches and pain in opposing ballcarriers — can only watch and wonder…

How many sacks would they have recorded, fumbles would they have jarred loose, batted balls would they have swatted into teammates waiting arms, if only they’d had the opportunity to line up across from the hapless offensive line that the Giants will trot out this Sunday. And what is the prize that awaits on the other side of this mass of Big Blue Swiss Cheese? Only one of the slowest, most stationary, statuesque targets in the history of the NFL.

Yup, Butkus, who turns 76 one week from this Sunday and is the survivor of a multitude of knee surgeries in his life, would still beat Eli Manning handily in a 40-yard dash were they to race tomorrow.

Okay, so maybe the Giants aren’t going to run the table.

No, the Giants will not be NFC East champs this year, and I’m afraid we are simply stuck with watching the Cowboys be somewhat less inept than Washington and Philly on their way to a 9-7 NFC East title.

But admit it — it would have been a lot more fun my way, wouldn’t it? Yeah, well whatever, Big Blue couldn’t even bluff legitimacy for another couple of weeks to keep things interesting, instead choosing to put up another stink bomb last week in Philadelphia, in a season full of them, and now it is on to other projections.

Like this week, when the Bears and their latest immortal linebacker come to MetLife Stadium to take on the “nothing left to play for” Gints. Of course, the easy prediction on the heels of last Sunday’s Giant collapse, is a complete about face, where we now suggest the Giants won’t win another game this year.

Yes, that’s the easy call, and one that may end up actually coming true. But there is no fun to be had with the mundane. Instead, we can hazard a guess as to how good that awful New York defense can make Bears backup QB Chase Daniel look when the clock strikes 1 on Sunday afternoon.

What do you think? Will Daniel throw for three or more TD’s? Will the no name backup  carve up that sieve of a Giants secondary for more than 300 yards? How many points will the Bears offense put up? Whatever that number may be, add another 14 to it, and you’ll get close to the final Chicago point tally, because the Bears defense is good for at least two TD’s on their own tomorrow. Is an over/under of 30 for the Bears a fair line?

Poor Eli. If he’s secretly wishing that the Giants brain trust had decided to phase him out this week against the nasty Bears D, could anyone really blame him? But no, we all know that’s not Eli. He will do what he always does. Trot out there with class, calm, and his trademark stoicism — and proceed to get the snot pounded out of him.

So I’m going to go with a different kind of over/under tomorrow in New Jersey. Let’s make this a sack over/under, and let’s place the number at 5. Who’s got the over? Yep this could get ugly.

Khalil Mack must be salivating over the Giants game tape as he prepares for this one. And he’s had ten days to rest up since leading the Bears to their Turkey Day win over the Lions. I’m giving Mack three sacks on his own, and let’s throw in one of those forced fumble/recovery/TD sequences for the former Raider also. If Eli wasn’t so darn indestructible, I’d put a bet out there on what quarter he’d be helped off the field for the first time.

And how about a couple of Eli’s patented pop flies? You know the ones. Eli, waiting for one of his receivers to get a step, his pocket collapsing all around him, finally rearing back to release, only to take a helmet to the ribcage before getting the ball out of his hand. And up flies the pigskin, fluttering like a butterfly without a care in the world, while three Chicago defenders fight one another for the easy pick six. Yup, it figures to be that kind of day.

That Bears defense is worth the price of admission, it’s just a shame that Eli will be forced to stand in there and be their foil for three-plus hours tomorrow. Let’s declare the  Bears division champs of the NFC North right now, joining the Saints and Rams (oh yeah, and Dallas) as the 2018 NFC division winners (however the only one with their defense leading the way into the postseason).

Now, for the second week in a row, we’ll lead off with Big Blue as part of the SportsAttic NFL Six Picks segment (home team in ALL CAPS):

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Bears (-3.5) over the GIANTS — I’m taking the over on everything here. Bears to crack 30, Bears defense to blow through five sacks, Chase Daniel to throw for 350 yards and three TD’s. In a league that has eschewed defense for points and more points (and the desperate hope that with more points comes revived television ratings), the Bears are unique and actually fun to watch because of their D. The Chicago defense may outscore the Giants by itself on Sunday, but despite the obvious mismatch, Saquon will still probably do at least one thing that will cause me to smile and shake my head at his once in a generation talent. Let’s hope Shurmur gives his rookie back the ball a time or two after the half this week. C’mon, Pat, this game doesn’t matter anyway, so what the heck? (Chicago, 34-13)

Browns (+5.5) over the HOUSTON TEXANS — The NFL is a self-correcting league. The Texans began the season 0-3, which was clearly an overcorrection to the losing, left side of the ledger. They corrected matters and then some with their (still going) eight-game winning streak, which has placed them firmly in the AFC South drivers seat, and make them many folks choice to come out of the AFC and onto the Super Bowl in February. Too strong a correction back to the right? Could their streak really be in jeopardy, playing at home, against the Browns of all teams? Yes, it says here it could. Brash Browns QB Baker Mayfield is still feeling the mojo after his diss of former coach Hue Jackson last week, followed by his defiant unwillingness to walk back said diss when given the chance by the press. Good for you, Mayfield. Throwback stuff. And who really likes this whole bro-hug, jersey-exchanging league of mutual appreciation among opponents anyway? Upset special. (Browns, 30-27)

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CINCINNATI (+5) over Denver — Two teams that embarrass the league by being 5-6 at this juncture and actually believing they could make the playoffs. That’s how bad the parity has become. The Bengals will almost certainly change coaches this offseason (finally, although could they truly be contemplating replacing the incumbent Marvin Lewis, who lost his voice in the locker room right around the time Obama was reelected, with Hue Jackson, late of the Raiders and Browns? Answer is yes, they are the Bengals after all), but a win at home against the terrible, but somehow still in it Broncos, will put them at .500 and with some hope. And what to think of Denver? They beat the Steelers last week and seem to play everyone except the Jets tough. Could they sneak into the postseason at 8-8 and be the AFC three-seed’s worst nightmare waiting in the Wild Card round? Stranger things have happened. Let’s call this one a final kiss on the cheek for the soon to be departed Lewis. (Bengals, 24-20)

DOLPHINS (-3.5) over the Bills — Is there a player worth watching on either of these rosters? Add the Fish to the list of AFC pretenders who have no business being in the playoff hunt at 5-6 based on their shoddy performances this year, but thanks to league wide parity (mediocrity, you say?) have a golden opportunity in front of them, along with the disaster that is the 2018 Buffalo Bills. Perfect spot for a Miami fold as they start to look ahead? Yes, but the Bills are so bad that even the Dolphins won’t be able to find a way to kick this one away. (Dolphins 21-17)

Vikings (+5) over the PATRIOTS — I feel as though I should avoid this game with every fiber of my being. I can’t get on the right side of the Jeckyll/Hyde Vikings to save my life, and my dislike for the Pats makes objectivity impossible. So you don’t pick a game like this, right? Wrong. There are so few good games this week, that I’m compelled to include this one. And the Vikes looked damn good last week, so I’m sucked back onto the Minnesota bandwagon against my better judgement. And who knows, maybe this is the week Brady begins to show his age? Only been waiting for that for the past seven years or so. Odds must be getting better, right? (New England, 28-27)

Washington (+7) over the EAGLES — How can the Eagles be favored by a TD over anyone after looking so horrific last week (even if they did come away with a season-preserving W)? Yup, I know, the D.C. starting QB got Theismanned, and we are watching a backup go against what was a good Eagles defense (in 2017 anyway). Anyone else hoping to see Mark Sanchez get in a few a few snaps for the visitors on Monday Night? Only worth keeping this game on after halftime if you’ve wagered on the outcome. And seven points is just too many to lay in this one. (Eagles, 20-17)

Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 3-3 (33-30-3 on the year)

And now it’s Lucky 7 time once again!

AtticDaughter1 looked like a winner for two quarters last Sunday, but like one of my drives off the tee back when I still occasionally pretended to be a golfer, as the flight continued things began to look worse and worse. AtticDaughter1 earns points for loyalty to the favorite team of her youth, but in the end the Airplanes couldn’t keep up with Brady, Gronk and the rest of the arch enemies.

Replacing AtticDaughter1 as Guest Prognosticator this week, will be none other than Fantasy League Rob, hailing from Morristown, New Jersey — a stone’s throw away from the Florham Park headquarters of the New York J-E-T-S. Fantasy League Rob is bemoaning the fates that motivated Kansas City to act swiftly and cut Kareem Hunt on Friday, thus costing Fantasy League Rob the chance to execute a rare repeat championship in his local Fantasy Football league. Oh well, you snooze, you lose, as they say. Welcome, Fantasy League Rob!

Chargers (+3) over PITTSBURGH — “Hello to SportsAttic. Despite not putting up the gaudy stats many of his big name peers have this season, Philip Rivers continues his solid play as the Chargers offense delivers again. RB Austin Ekeler shines in place of injured Melvin Gordon. The Chargers unsung D stifles Antonio Brown and James Conner, although JuJu runs wild. In the end, Joey Bosa forces Big Ben into gunslinger mode, complete with dumb decisions leading to multiple ill-timed INT’s. Take the Chargers and the three points, they win outright on the road under the bright lights.” (Chargers, 27-24) 

SportsAttic Take: This is a tough one to handicap. I’m guessing Big Ben’s bad mouthing of his coaches and teammates on his radio show this week has the desired effect, as Pittsburgh rebounds from its embarrassing loss to the Broncos last weekend. Meanwhile, the other L.A. football team has to deal with cross country travel, the time change, and a driving rain storm in the forecast. The Chiefs losing Kareem Hunt leaves the AFC West door open just a crack, so as a result the stakes are ratcheted up for the Bolts. And sorry Fantasy League Rob, but as is their history, the Chargers will come up small once again. (Steelers, 31-20)

And there you have it for Week 13 in the NFL.

Enjoy December, SportsAttic Nation!

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Why the Giants Will Run the Table and other Six Picks Shockers

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I know. It was two wins over doormats. I know. They started 1-7 and at best by Monday morning they’ll be 4-7, still two games out with only five to play.

But this is a call that’s all about star power rising up over abject mediocrity. More specifically, it’s me moving all my chips to the center of the table and riding the wave that is a once in a generation talent we are all lucky enough to watch blossom before our very eyes.

Saquon Barkley is that good, folks. He started the season well enough, gaining positive yards in a multitude of ways, all the while maintaining composure and professionalism as all seemed to be collapsing around him. He’s hung tough, never looking sideways for excuses, even when we all questioned why the win-starved Giants wouldn’t find a way to give him the ball more often.

And have you noticed? He’s getting better every week. And thankfully Pat Shurmur decided somewhere along the way to trash the rookie “kid gloves” and to simply start feeding the beast.

Now the much maligned Giants offensive line is blocking better. And Eli Manning has remembered how to be a competent passer. And Odell Beckham Jr., and the other receivers are getting open. These are not mere coincidences. And yup, there still remain multiple glaring deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball for NY, but in this 2018 NFL, defensive is merely optional.

What’s the definition of a superstar?

A badass freak of nature who makes everyone around him raise their performance on a weekly basis as a result of their association with said superstar. And we are watching a superstar in the making. Please Pat Shurmur, keep giving Saquon Barkley the ball 30 times a game, and get the heck out of the way!

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Now, take a look at what the Giants have left on their schedule. They start with the Super Bowl champion Eagles tomorrow. The Eagles seem to be playing as though they are more concerned with confirming their Lombardi Trophy from last season didn’t come with some sort of clawback provision that gets triggered should a team quit before Thanksgiving of the following year.

Then New York hosts the Bears. Hmmm. That’s the one on the schedule that gives me pause. Luckily, the Bears have an offense that even the weak Big Blue D can hang with, so I’m calling this one a “W,” too. Saquon will break through just enough to eke out the win. Then it’s down to our nation’s capital to play the barely hanging on life support Washington Football Club. I’m declaring the Giants 6-7 after that one.

Next come two AFC South tilts, one at home against the oh-so-meh Titans, and one on the road in Indy. Now that one could very well conclude with both teams having scored a TD on every offensive possession. Should the Giants defense rise to the occasion and hold Andrew Luck and company under 60, we’ll call this one a victory, too.

That takes Big Blue to 8-7 heading into the final game of the year, where they will host the despised Dallas Cowboys (who, by the way, will also be 8-7 at this juncture, as their uneven season will continue with a couple more losses between now and then).

Last game of the year for the division title? Giants versus Cowboys? Bring it on!

Could it be? Sure, why not? Do you really think Washington will only lose twice more this season? They stunk before all the injuries. Pencil them in at 8-8.

So let’s have some fun with it and ride the New York Football Giants bandwagon one week at a time and see what happens. Sure beats the heck out of trying to decipher the parity that plagues much of the NFL these days, and that has thus far turned the proud NFC East into an uninspiring pillow fight.

Of course, if the Giants don’t go down the New Jersey Turnpike and take care of business tomorrow, welllll…

And that brings us to this week’s NFL Six Picks, upset special style (as always, home teams in ALL CAPS):

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Giants (+5) over PHILLY — Interesting must win game for both teams here. One aspect of the whole “Giants run the table” storyline that hasn’t gotten nearly the play, is that while we know a loss this week likely ends that unlikely story for Big Blue, an Eagles win would breathe life back into the defending champs, raising their record to 5-6 and only one game back of the current leaders. And Philly still plays Dallas again (in Philly), plus they have two with the Native Americans (I’m predicting two Eagles wins). But quit dreaming Eagles fans, Saquon will prove too much for the depleted Philly defense, and the play action Barkley’s presence opens up will spring OBJ loose for a couple long TD’s from Eli. Giants exact revenge. (New York, 34-20)

Cleveland (pick) over the BENGALS — The “new coach bounce” continues for the Browns, as their young and on the rise roster, playing for 2019 jobs, will march into arch rival territory and pile on the reeling Bengals, who will officially have the white flag raised by Monday morning. Let the speculation begin on who the new Bengals head coach will be when 2019 rolls around. (Browns, 27-17)

Steelers (-3) over the BRONCOS — It’s a mystery to me how this Denver team has accumulated five wins and can sit at .500 this late in the season. And yes, the Broncos are  always dangerous at home, but even the stout Denver D will get worn out by Big Ben and the relentless Steelers offensive machine. Pittsburgh seems destined to emerge from the AFC this year, and the talent differential here is too great to go with the home dog. (Steelers, 26-13)

Dolphins (+9) over the COLTS — This line is such a sucker bet, I simply can’t resist. The Colts have fought like hell to get to respectability and a .500 record, and finally sit in a position where they are expected to win a game easily. And that is the kiss of death for any AFC South team, even one salivating over Brock Osweiler (yikes) calling the snaps across the line of scrimmage. Miami has shown the ability to surprise when everyone has given up on them multiple times this year. Make it one more — upset special. (Miami, 21-20)

Packers (+3) over MINNESOTA — A NFC North slugfest between arch rivals. Somehow,though, this one loses luster for me with the Vikings playing under a dome, and for that reason alone we’ll go with the Pack here. I’m officially done with the Vikings. They seem to match up well on both sides of the ball every week, but always disappoint. Can we officially label Kirk Cousins a bust yet? Aaron Rogers gets his Packers back to .500, where virtually every team currently resides in this year’s NFL. (Green Bay, 27-23)

Titans (+5.5) over the TEXANS — Just typing the word “Titans” makes me start to yawn. And the Texans are the league’s hottest team. But remember, this is the stumbling, bumbling AFC South, and this Monday Night Football matchup (a quick shoutout to ESPN for listening to my persistent emails and pairing these two teams, who I basically view as the same franchise) will further muddy up the divisional race. Houston is loaded with star power, momentum, and play at home. Yup, so go big with Tennessee. (Titans, 28-26)

Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 2-3-1 (30-27-3 on the year)

Which brings us to Lucky 7 time here at SportsAttic!

Last week’s valiant effort from Nutley Bob to maintain the Guest Prognosticator momentum ran into an upset buzzsaw out in San Diego. So despite sharing a hometown with the Annie Oakley Museum (not to mention Furio Giunta, one of the Top 5, All-Time Great Sopranos supporting characters — other four at the bottom), Nutley Bob was unable to run the success streak to an unprecedented three games in a row.

Taking the Guest Prognosticator baton from Nutley Bob this week, is none other than AtticDaughter1, home for Thanksgiving break and a well deserved respite from rigorous studies at the University of Southern California. Despite making clear her general annoyance over not being able to pick the Saints and her fave QB Drew Brees, AtticDaughter1 has nonetheless agreed to grace SportsAttic Nation with her presence and gridiron expertise.

JETS (+10.5) over New England — “Hello, SportsAttic friends! While I really wanted to pick the Saints and Drew Brees to crush the Cowboys next Thursday, Dad (AtticBro), in his typical annoying obsession with rules and procedure, is forcing me to pick a different game. So I’m going with my true favorite team! I’m sure my father would be happy to hear that I am physically incapable of rooting against the Jets. Many a frosty night, frequently featuring snow, and always including drunken Jets fans screaming into my 7-year-old face, instilled a diehard sense of loyalty in me for the Gang Green. I was going to focus my upset call on Sam Darnold, who I cheered on the past two years at USC, but my dad informed me he is injured. So instead I will turn my focus to the point spread. Dad has attempted to explain to me at least ten different times, and using just as many analogies, how a point spread actually works, but I’m just gonna say everybody loves an underdog — especially against that grumpy New England coach in the hoodie, and his Hall of Fame QB. As Fireman Ed always says, J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!” (Jets, 21-20).

SportsAttic Take:  While I can’t help but smile with pride over AtticDaughter1’s blind allegiance to Gang Green, I’m afraid this one could get ugly for the Airplanes. Josh McCown is no Sam the Man, and with little in the way of skill position players, I simply don’t see the Jets reaching double-digits on the scoreboard. Look for the Pats and Giselle’s Husband to toy with the home team, sealing poor Todd Bowles’ fate with an emphatic beatdown. (Patriots, 40-7)

And if you are wondering — in addition to the afore-mentioned Furio, the rest of the Top 5, All-Time Greatest Sopranos supporting characters are (in order):

  1. Livia Soprano (not really fair to call her a supporting character, as she would have been a regular if she hadn’t passed away in real life following Season 1)
  2. Ralph Cifaretto (Ralphie is really 1A — we’ll call it a tie with Livia)
  3. Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri
  4. Hesh Radkin

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Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to all!

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are These Teams? The Wayward Route Traveled to NFL Six Picks

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I’m sitting here watching the Ohio State-Maryland game this afternoon, trapped in New York City, having picked my geographic poison between the coasts (toxic smoke in the air out west, or cold temps and sideways freezing rain back east). It’s a wild, high scoring, entertaining affair, that while exposing the porous OSU defense (a weekly occurrence?), begets a far more important question.

Who the hell designed these Maryland helmets?

Since childhood I’ve disliked Ohio State (screw you, Woody Hayes, and you too, Archie Griffin, for stealing Anthony Davis’ Heisman Trophy in 1974), but I must admit I admire the simplicity of their white helmet with the red stripe and those stars that accumulate over the course of the season.

Maryland, on the other hand, seems to have concocted a combination of a long ago abandoned MTV logo coupled with some sort of abstract MOMA piece inspired by ingesting bad sushi at a mid-July Nascar tailgate event.

Just give me a capital “M” please? Or even some fierce, football-toting turtle (that’s what a “terrapin” is, isn’t it?). Anything but this mismatched mess of unrelated colors. I am admittedly only a distant observer of Maryland football, but it seems to me that this unfortunate helmet choice is likely the culprit behind the string of mediocre to poor football products Maryland has put on the field these last several years.

But hey, this is an NFL post after all, so we’ll file all that away under the heading of “just sayin’.”

However, those Terrapin helmets did get me thinking about the questionable identities of several of the NFL teams I’ll be featuring in this week’s Six Picks post. Yes, change is life, and much of our unhappiness can be traced to resisting it, but it is interesting to see how franchise relocation has muddied the NFL waters through the years. Consider this:

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Today we get the weekly confusion I frequently rail against related to the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. The Titans used to be in Houston, and were called the Oilers. The Oilers had Earl Campbell and Bum Phillips, two guys who alone were far cooler than anyone who’s ever set foot on a Titans roster during their time in Tennessee. Who’ve the Titans had? Peyton Manning? Nope, not that Tennessee. Tennessee has had…Steve McNair?

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The Oilers were replaced in Houston by the Texans. I’ve never been a fan of giving one city proxy to the nickname of an entire state, even if the most offended party of such a misnomer is the city of Dallas.

Further hindering the Houston football identity, though, is that they selected a helmet design that seems like the awkward step-brother of the New England Patriots’ helmet. This is particularly unfortunate when one considers that 98% of the country hates the Pats (who, by the way, had one of the cooler helmets in the NFL back when nobody gave New England a second thought).

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So Sunday the Titans-used-to-be-Oilers travel to Indianapolis, where they will face the Colts. As we all know, the Colts were once the heroes of Baltimore, until absconding in the middle of the night many years ago with an eye toward greener pastures. They set sail for the midwest, taking one of the game’s coolest helmets with them.

Is it just me, or has it been hard to warm up to that blue horseshoe becoming a part of the Indianapolis sports landscape? The Colts are Unitas and his black hightops, and grainy, black and white film clips of Gino Marchetti bleeding and missing teeth. Even the greatness of Peyton Manning for all those years couldn’t make me think “Indy” when I heard “Colts.”

Meanwhile, the Houston (not Dallas) Texans take their knockoff Patriots logos east to our nation’s capital this Sunday to face a franchise that has proudly boasted both name and logo stability for decades. The only problem with that stability arises when we show or say anything about the D.C. Football club’s name or logo, which many find offensive, leaving fans and pundits to weigh the risk of being painted as a MAGA hooligan, or a racist. Or both (not sure which is considered worse these days, but both labels are seemingly worth avoiding).

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And the confusion isn’t restricted to those two games. Out west we have the Rams hosting the Chiefs in Los Angeles (a game thankfully rescued from the dangerous field conditions in Mexico — no mention of everything else dangerous in Mexico, however). The Rams, of course, were lost in St. Louis for the better part of the last twenty years, but now, after only two years back in the SoCal sun, we’ve gratefully forgotten all about that ill conceived move.

And a few hours to the east of L.A., the real St. Louis gridiron team (the Cardinals) will be hosting a rival that used to be based in Los Angeles (the Raiders). Huh?

I know, I am an inflexible traditionalist, but to me the name St. Louis Cardinals still rolls off the tongue far more easily than Arizona Cardinals does. Or Phoenix. Or whatever they are calling the dreadful NFL Redbirds these days. At least I no longer am forced to reconcile who’s facing who when the schedule makers would occasionally have the Cardinals visit the Rams in St. Louis with the Rams as “home” team. Some change is positive, for sure.

And let’s not get started on the Oakland/Los Angeles/Las Vegas Raiders. They will always be the Oakland Raiders. Period. They were Oakland even while they took their L.A. sabbatical back in the ’80’s, and I will continue to call them Oakland after the Silver and Black reemerge from this sham of a two-season tank taking place under Chuckie Gruden’s disgraceful direction. Yes, they’ll likely be a better team when they get to Vegas, but somehow that makes what’s going on right now in the East Bay even worse.

As the comedian Dennis Miller (and former Monday Night Football announcer, lest we forget — quick, would you trade out Jason Witten for Dennis Miller in the booth right now if you could? If you paused for even a second, it speaks volumes about the degree of terrible Witten brings to MNF each week) used to say: “Of course, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.”

On to the games with NFL Six Picks (home team in all caps):

Houston Texans (-2.5) over WASHINGTON — The fact that the Texans are giving 2.5 on the road against a first place team speaks volumes to the fact that the powers that be in Vegas share my skepticism pertaining to Washington. This is the week where we see consolidation in the NFC East, and the first place Native Americans will do their part by getting blown out by my current pick as the AFC’s top team — the Oilers. I mean, you know, the Texas team. From Houston. (Texans, 27-17)

COLTS (-1) over Tennessee Titans — Somehow the Colts, benefitting from the combination of a weak schedule and piss poor division, have hung around and now actually find themselves with a shot at relevance. It will be short-lived, but the bubble won’t burst for at least another week, as the Titans (wouldn’t it have been simpler if they just called themselves the Volunteers?) don’t handle prosperity in the form of an above-.500 record well at all. (Colts 33-20)

Raiders (+5.5) over the CARDINALS — I’m determined to get at least one Raiders game right this season, and I honestly believe this is the week. It is a testament to how complete the demoralization of the Raiders roster has been at the hands of Gruden that Arizona could actually be favored by 5.5 over anything other than an average high school team. In a couple of years these two once-proud franchises will be neighbors out in the desert, and I can begin lobbying for the combination of the two teams a la Rockies/Diamondbacks. (Cardinals, 17-13)

Eagles (+9) over the SAINTS — I love this matchup. Talk about ripe for a comedown? Hello, New Orleans. The Saints are 9-1, having won nine straight after losing their opener. They are fun to watch and if you don’t like Drew Brees you are obviously an ass. But would anyone have been surprised when the season began if we told you that at the end of 10 games the Saints would be 5-5? No, I don’t think so. Let’s face it folks, the Saints aren’t going 15-1. And the Eagles? Their struggles seemed so predictable coming into the season, even in the pillow soft NFC East, that the fact that they sit today at 4-5 seems about right. But remember, this is the week of NFC East consolidation, and the Eagles upset-special win here will tighten things up in a big way. (Eagles, 34-28)

Vikings (+2.5) over the BEARS — I’m loving this one, too (thank you NFL schedule-makers, for giving us some real games this weekend)! The Vikings have been underachievers all year, but remain dangerous, explosive and fully capable of shutting down the so-so Bears offense. The Bears D against Kirk Cousins and the Vikes offense will also be fun to watch, and let’s hope Khalil Mack is sufficiently healed to wreak some havoc. Appointment viewing for a NFC North slugfest on Sunday night. (Minnesota, 23-21)

Chiefs (+3) over the RAMS — Yup, another terrific battle in store, rescuing us from the MNF dregs we’ve been subjected to for the past several weeks. If I was a gambler I’d avoid this one, but the Six Picks rules state the Monday game has to be part of the six, so I’m taking the team that seems slightly sturdier at the moment. I feel like the Rams are coming into that time of the year where they start questioning themselves a bit, following their fall from the unbeaten ranks and with questions arising about their defense. The Chiefs, their young stud Patrick Mahomes, and his array of incredible weapons seem destined for greatness this postseason. But then I remember K.C. is coached by Andy Reid and we are approaching the season’s home stretch, when Reid’s teams have historically spit the bit. Ruh roh! Let’s just hope for a shootout late in the fourth quarter and we’ll all be happy. (Chiefs, 37-35)

Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 2-4 (28-24-2 on the year)

Now let’s shift gears to Lucky 7 time! The fortunes of our Guest Prognosticators are on the rise, following the unexpected success of Florham Park Kenny last week. Coupled with Pradeep the Numbers Guy and his out of the blue accuracy the week prior, and our guests now approach respectability at 3-6 on the year.

Looking to turn the previous weeks’ two random wins into an actual streak, we introduce SportsAttic Nation to Nutley Bob. An avid historian and a man of few words (a breath of fresh air following the War and Peace-like tomes put forth by Kenny and Pradeep the past two weeks), Bob prefers to let his results do the talking. With his Dolphins enjoying the bye week, it was the perfect time to capture Nutley Bob’s wisdom in the world of NFL game handicapping. Have at it, Nutley Bob!

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SportsAttic note: For those of you outside the Garden State and unfamiliar with Nutley, New Jersey, it is best known as the picturesque hamlet where the inimitable Furio Giunta of Sopranos fame purchased his home during his time protecting Tony on the HBO classic drama.

CHARGERS (-7.5) over the Broncos — “Hi SportsAttic. I’ve always been a Phillip Rivers fan and the Chargers seem on a (scoring) roll, so I’m taking them and giving the 7.5 points. (Chargers, 34-20)”

SportsAttic Take: All signs seem to point to Nutley Bob‘s selection being right on the mark here, but that’s my concern. The pundits are lining up to praise the Bolts, and their recent excellence absolutely warrants such superlatives. However, historically the Chargers have not handled positive momentum well, and it seems to me they are due for a stumble, especially against a divisional foe that most have ridiculed and written off. I see a Chargers win, but this is too many points to give for my blood. (Chargers, 23-17)

There you have this week’s NFL Six Picks! And in case you weren’t watching, Maryland fell short, missing on a two-point conversion attempt in OT. I applaud them going for broke, but can’t help but blame the poor outcome on that horrible helmet design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready For Some…Football? Six Picks Takes a Stroll Down Memory Lane

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What did we do to piss off the folks at ESPN and Monday Night Football?

I mean, c’mon! Two weeks ago we were forced to suffer through Patriots-Bills. I’m fairly certain that the Patriots won that game despite not having their players return to the field following the halftime show.

Last Monday saw mediocrity wrestle itself to the ground, as the bland Titans bested the confused and overmatched Cowboys. That the Titans could appear to “overmatch” any team in the league, I suppose, was interesting, but the game? Not so much.

And this week, we get the New York Football Giants traveling to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers. There was a time when this was a game fans circled on their calendars. Fierce, cross-country rivalry, featuring some of the biggest stars in the game. Mark Bavaro posting the signature moment of the Giants 14-2 Super Bowl run in 1986, carrying what seemed like the entire 49ers defense (led by Hall of Fame Ronnie Lott, no less), on his back down the field as the Giants won a close one.

On Monday Night Football.

I suppose back when the schedule makers constructed the Monday night slate, this week’s Niners-Giants game could have been expected to entertain us. Hopes were high among fans of both teams, as bounce backs (in the case of Big Blue) and next level ascensions (the Garoppolo-led Niners) seemed to be plausible scenarios for 2018. But a funny thing happened on the way to Week 10, and now we have two terrible teams, with a combined record of 3-14, squaring off in a game that doesn’t matter. At all. Over/under on empty seats at Levi’s Stadium has to be about 20,000 for Monday’s contest.

Poor Jason Witten (speaking of overmatched), sweating through that suit of his that remains at least two sizes too small every week (“Wardrobe!”), while some guy named Booger talks over him with the only enthusiastic commentary fans will get from MNF’s new and dry as a bone, three-man “team,” must be wondering why he hung up his pads for this.

I’m sorry, but we are ten weeks in and ESPN’s new and improved format and announcers  both remain god awful, matching the train wreck of a schedule the Sports Leader delivers to us seemingly every Monday. But this week, it’s not just MNF that threatens to send us yawning prematurely to reruns of the Big Bang Theory (BTW — is that show on every hour, on every cable channel, or what?).

Nope, lame matchups are becoming an epidemic. Take a look at this week’s slate of games. I scan the schedule each week to get an idea of what games are likely to prove to be the most entertaining, so I have remote control flipping options all lined up for that moment when I tire of watching the Jets try to win their game by a score of 3-0.

This week we literally don’t have a single game I’m looking forward to. However there are plenty of clunkers, starting with my Jets taking on the hapless Bills in New Jersey, a game that won’t begin until tomorrow afternoon, but that already neither team deserves to win. Can I get excited about Falcons-Browns? Meh. Double-meh for Saints-Bengals. And those are the two best I’ve got my eye on!

What’s a fan to do? Well, not unlike last week, we can try to take our mind off the ho-hum nature of this Sunday’s matchups and try to salvage a bit of football adrenaline by harkening back to those nostalgic, sacred days of our NFL youth, back when kickers wore black hightop shoes and kicked straight away. Back when tear-away jerseys were still a cool part of the game, and some of the older QB’s in the league sported helmets with a “face mask” that was really just one thin silver bar that protected very little across their scarred, bleeding mouths.

And yes, if all else fails, of course there is still a point spread available to us, certain to enliven even the most mundane of Sunday contests, especially if we have a few U.S. Federal dollars riding on the outcome.

So in an effort to rescue this Sunday’s collection of uninspiring contests, we’ll approach NFL Six Picks in a new, unique, and altogether retro fashion — with no discussion of the present day participants. Instead, we will focus our discussion on one star from yesteryear who suited up for one of this week’s combatants.

And we are going to shun those obvious, glamor names in favor of the more obscure, and thus eminently more interesting, “blasts from the past.” Here we go (as always, home team in ALL CAPS):

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RAMS (-10) over Seattle — Remember John Hadl, Rams fans? Yes, the quarterback who didn’t wear a QB number. This guy travele up the coast from the Chargers for the 1973 season and led the high-octane LA offense of the ’70’s, often connecting deep down the sideline with speedy Harold Jackson for a long one. In ’73, Hadl led the Rams to a 12-2 record, throwing for 22 TD’s in the “three-yards and a cloud of dust” NFL of that time. That Rams team boasted a stout defense, solid running game behind Lawrence McCutcheon, and Hadl throwing TD’s to Jackson and Jack Snow. This was going to be the year the Rams finally broke through in the NFC. Then the playoffs hit, and despite hosting the Cowboys at home in L.A., Hadl threw a pick on the game’s first play leading to a Calvin Hill TD, and McCutcheon coughed up a fumble that led to another Dallas score. The Rams never recovered from the early deficit and went home division round losers,  where they got to watch the Vikings get their ass kicked in yet another Super Bowl. Hadl didn’t make it all the way through the ’74 season, sent packing to Green Bay midyear after stumbling out of the blocks 3-2. (Rams, 27-13)

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Lions (+7.5) over the BEARS — Remember Bobby Douglass, Bears fans? The ’70’s were a pretty dark time for the Monsters of the Midway. Gale Sayers never recovered from his devastating knee injuries, Butkus got old, and they never could find the right QB to lead them. But for one year they found a guy, who while certainly not the smoothest pocket passer you’ve ever seen, could make the NFL Films guy with that awesome baritone raise his pitch an octave or two week after week. All Douglass did in 1972, was amass 968 yards rushing, a record for quarterbacks that would stand until Michael Vick broke it over 30 years later (with the aid of two extra games), for the 4-9-1 Bears. The lefty signal caller would never be confused with Unitas (in ’72 Douglass completed only 75-198 passes for 9 TD’s and 12 INT’s), but for that one season he gave Chicago fans something fun and exciting to cheer for every week. (Bears, 24-23)

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New England (-7.5) over the TENNESSEE TITANS — Remember Sam Cunningham, Pats fans? Known mostly as a blocking back (and the big brother of a future Eagles QB) at USC in the early-’70’s, Sam “Bam” Cunningham was a first-round pick of the Patriots (#11 overall), back in 1973 (when we didn’t all hate New England yet). Known for his incredible leaping ability that made him unstoppable in short yardage and goal line sets, Cunningham blossomed into a punishing feature back in New England, crossing over 1000 yards once (back when it meant something in a 14-game season) and earning one Pro Bowl bid. At 6’3 and 226 pounds, Cunningham combined speed and size to lead the ground game for some strong Patriots teams of the mid-’70’s that could never quite get over the top because they happened to coincide with the heyday of the Steelers and Raiders. (Patriots, 28-13)

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CHIEFS (-17) over the Cardinals — Remember Otis Taylor, Chiefs fans? Man, I loved this guy. Hauling in what appeared to be impossibly overthrown balls at full speed for tie-breaking TD’s against the Raiders? Yup, that’s how I remember him, too. Those Chiefs teams of the early-’70’s featured some super cool guys of the old AFL and post-merger AFC — guys like Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier and Lenny Dawson. Not to mention one of the earliest soccer-style kickers, Jan Stenerud (took me awhile to figure out that it was pronounced “Yahn”). But Otis was the coolest. Consider this: in 1966 he totaled 1297 yards (22.4 yards a catch — 14 game season) in his first Pro Bowl year. He would earn those honors two more times, while also posting seven scoring catches during the Chiefs’ championship 1969 campaign that culminated in their Super Bowl IV demolition of the Vikings (who else?). (Chiefs, 31-10) SportsAttic note:  Careful here, smells like a sucker bet point spread.

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Dallas (+8.5) over the EAGLES — Remember Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Cowboys fans? Of course you do. We all do! There are so many colorful characters to choose from when we look back on the ‘Boys storied history, but we’re going with Hollywood. He was a man before his time. Flamboyant, outspoken (could you imagine Hollywood with a Twitter handle today?) and always aware of where the cameras were pointed, Henderson was easy to hate if you weren’t on the America’s Team bandwagon in the mid- to late-’70’s. Ultimately his big mouth and taste for nightlife and hard living got him tossed from the Cowboys and soon out of the league entirely, but he will live on in infamy for perhaps the greatest line of the old NFL, when he had this to say about rival QB Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers: “He couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A.” (Eagles, 23-16)

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Giants (+3) over the NINERS — Remember Howard Cosell, Monday Night Football fans? To me, MNF will always be Howard, Dandy Don and Frank Gifford in those awful, mustard yellow blazers that ABC insisted they wear. Cosell shamelessly talking over both of his booth mates, with Gifford too much of a gentleman to take exception, and Meredith oblivious to it all. If you really want an entertaining throwback this Sunday, hit pause on the Jacksonville-Indianapolis game, and pull up on YouTube the old Odd Couple episode where Cosell does a cameo as Oscar Madison’s nemesis, only to have Felix try and save the day up in the booth. Still laugh out loud funny to this day. (Giants, 28-10)

Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 5-1 (26-20-2 on the year)

And now it is that time again — the LUCKY 7 Guest Prognosticator of the Week feature, with a celebration still raging over Pradeep the Numbers Guy’s colossal, unexpected, on-the-nose prediction of the Steelers victory in Baltimore last week. Pradeep’s correct call halted a multi-week streak of disastrous efforts, one worse than the next, of Guest Prognosticators crashing and burning here on SportsAttic.

So this week, fully expecting to build on last week’s positive momentum, is Florham Park Kenny, a proud Rutgers football supporter (yes, there are still a few of them out there), who compounds his college rooting misery by owning the distinction of being the lone San Diego Chargers fan in the entire state of New Jersey.

As this week’s LUCKY 7 Guest Prognosticator, Florham Park Kenny will attempt to inch our Guest Prognosticator full season ledger another notch toward the still-mediocre .500 mark. Here’s Florham Park Kenny:

Chargers (-10.5) over the RAIDERS — Hello good people of SportsAttic Nation. I’m Kenny and my Chargers are on a mission this season. The Raiders, meanwhile, are blatantly tanking, and in all out teardown mode. After missing the playoffs by a game last year, the latest in a history of near misses, Philip Rivers and company know all too well about lost opportunities. This season Lady Luck has swung the other way as they’re coming off two wins where last second dropped end zone passes could have doomed their season. Rolling in confidence and exorcising the ghosts of failures past, the Bolts don’t leave things to chance this week against a wounded, depleted Raider team who lost any swagger they had weeks back. The Black Hole crowd gets taken out early with Derek Carr good for a couple of picks as the Chargers roll big. And speaking of big, Louie Kelcher will be smiling somewhere watching his Bolts sweep the Raiders. The big tackle was on the wrong end of both blowouts and heartbreakers to the Silver and Black throughout much of his career. Payback time for San Diego. (Chargers, 31-17)

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SportsAttic Take: Chuckie’s thinly veiled plan to position his Raiders for success in their future home two years from now has been killing me all year, so I have to agree with Florham Park Kenny on this one. Oakland may not win another game this year, and the Chargers are taking on the appearance of a Dark Horse AFC contender. Plus, you’ve gotta love Kenny’s Louis Kelcher reference! (San Diego, 31-14)

And that’s a wrap on NFL Week 10. Here’s hoping that the schedule makers shine a bit brighter on us all now that the season is heading toward winter, and the playoff races are taking shape.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everybody (and credit for the encore placement of the John Riggins/mohawk photo above to Nightman, who was the only SportsAttic fan to comment on what is unequivocally the best look in the history of organized athletics).

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Jets-Dolphins, A Perfect Season and What Almost Was — NFL Six Picks

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When I think about the nearly 50 years I’ve spent watching NFL football, the two best teams I’ve ever witnessed over the course of a full season were the 1972 Dolphins and the 1985 Bears. That ’72 Dolphins team, of course, authored the league’s only unbeaten season, while the dominant ’85 Bears suffered just one loss during their Super Shuffle championship season — ironically enough at the hands of Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins.

I got to thinking about that incredible Dolphins season this week as an alternative to trying to create hype around this weekend’s lackluster showdown between the 2018 Dolphins and New York Jets. The listing Dolphins (4-4 and taking on water weekly after starting the season 3-0) serve as hosts to the 3-5 Jets (also listing, and looking at this weekend as perhaps their last chance to salvage anything meaningful out of Sam Darnold’s rookie year).

Any fan of either of these two teams can tell you that theirs is an exciting history, with more than it’s share of Canton-bound stars, epic slugfests and drama — from Marino’s fake spike, to the Monday Night Miracle, and across A.J. Duhe’s three-interception AFC Championship demolition, to Wesley Walker hauling in three TD tosses from Ken O’Brien in that 51-45 seesaw Jets win back in ’86. It’s a long list containing magical moments for each side.

However, what is often ignored when reminiscing on the history of this rivalry, is how close the Jets came back in 1972 to derailing that undefeated Miami season.

The date was November 19th, almost 46 years ago to the day, and the Dolphins were hosts that afternoon, too. They entered the contest 9-0 behind super-backup QB Earl Morrall and the league’s best running game, featuring soon-to-be Pro Bowlers Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris (not to mention a pretty fair blocking back named Jim Kiick, “Sundance” to Csonka’s “Butch Cassidy”). Csonka, Morris and Kiick would combine for over 2600 yards rushing that year, not to mention 23 touchdowns, for the NFL’s top rushing offense.

What’s been lost in the years since this game took place is that the 1972 Jets were actually one of the better Jets squads of the early-’70’s. Gang Green entered this matchup at 6-3 with a dangerous offensive attack behind Joe Willie Namath that would end the season #2 in total yards (the Dolphins were first), and #1 in passing offense. Namath’s favorite target was TE/WR Richard Caster, who would also finish the season with a Pro Bowl nod, following 39 catches for 833 yards (21+ yards a catch!) and 10 TD’s.

Other notable Jets weapons that season included young John Riggins, who blasted out 944 yards on only 207 carries, while also sporting what, to this day, remains the best mohawk in NFL history. His backfield mate, Emerson Boozer, posted 11 TD’s himself (Riggins had seven — Morris led the league with 12), while the Jets were on their way to scoring 367 points in that 14-game season (again, second only to the unbeaten Dolphins’ 385). At the time, this was a big game.

And should things have broken a bit differently that afternoon, we might still be waiting for a team to complete an entire NFL season unbeaten and untied. Yes, coulda, woulda, shoulda, but consider the following:

*The Jets jumped on the Dolphins early that day in the Miami heat, leading 17-7 in the first half behind a long touchdown throw from Namath (14-23, 175 yards with 2 TD’s and 2 picks that day) to Caster.

*Morrall brought the Dolphins back and regained the lead in the third quarter,  21-17, calling his own number. The 38-year-old Morrall, never known for his wheels, took it in on 31-yard QB keeper, no doubt earning a measure of revenge for his Super Bowl III defeat while a Colt.

*Not to be denied, the Jets regained the lead and entered the 4th quarter leading the unbeaten Fish 24-21, as an uncomfortable hush fell over the mostly pro-Dolphin crowd (even back then there were a lot of Jets fans/snow birds in the Miami stands).

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*Unfortunately for the Jets, but in good news for the NFL history books, that relentless  Miami ground game wore down the barely-average Jets defense, and when Mercury Morris (the speedster would finish 1972 with an even 1000 yards rushing) scored from 14 yards out early in the 4th quarter, that proved to be the final margin in the Dolphins 28-24 win.

The Dolphins completed the rest of their perfect regular season barely challenged, not facing another above-.500 team the rest of the way, and steamrolled through three more postseason conquests to establish their immortality.

The Jets? Well, they got to 7-5 and appeared playoff bound with two games to go (tell me if this sounds at all familiar), only to drop the final two games on the schedule in crushing fashion, ending the season a disappointing 7-7 and out of postseason contention (much to the Dolphins relief).

But it was a heckuva game that November day of long ago, and here’s hoping that tomorrow’s tilt between these two old division rivals delivers a few more memories to their colorful history (are you listening Sam Darnold?).

So much for the nostalgia, football fans, here’s this week’s NFL Six Picks (home team in ALL CAPS):

SAINTS (+1) over the Los Angeles Rams — Okay, we have to start with a toast for that 1972 Dolphins team, who famously (some might say obnoxiously) pop the corks on a bottle of champagne every season once the league’s last unbeaten team takes a loss. And this looks like the week. The Rams have been the bane of AtticBro’s Six Picks existence this year, but maybe the key is I’ve only been going against them when they were favored by a touchdown or more? The Saints and Drew Brees as home dogs for a game the whole country will pay attention to seems like safe money, and the odds continue to rise that the clunker I’ve been predicting weekly for the Rams finally comes to us this Sunday. This is the kind of game that allows me to justify my investment in the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package every year. (Saints 31-27)

CLEVELAND (+10) over the Chiefs — I’m clearly hoping for the “fired coach bounce” that occasionally lifts a team following the dismissal of their head man (you can’t fire 53 players, right?). There’s some talent on this Browns team (did I really just type that?), and I’m seeing the Chiefs gradually returning to the rest of the AFC pack following their annual big start. Let’s hope for some rotten Ohio weather to test young Patrick Mahomes, and that Baker Mayfield relishes his chance to show up everybody’s darling All-World QB in front of the Cleveland fans. (Chiefs 24-20)

FALCONS (pick ’em) over Washington — There are a lot of pick’ems this week, and with the Falcons at home, that means Vegas believes that Washington is the better team on a neutral field. Sorry, but challenge… if Danny Snyder’s Native Americans go down to Atlanta and win this one I’ll have no choice but to give them their due. But if you watched them scuffle against the waving the white flag Giants last week, you have to feel pretty good going with Atlanta and Matty Ryan scoring a bunch as they desperately try to stay on the outskirts of the playoff race in a tough NFC South. (Falcons 34-20)

Houston Texans (pick ’em) over the BRONCOS — Didn’t the Texans start the season 0-3, which included a loss to the woebegone Giants (who would be underdogs if they played Alabama this week)? Yup, that’s Houston. Yet somehow here they are fulfilling preseason promise, with Deshaun Watson lighting it up with both arm and legs, and the defense flying around wreaking havoc. And now they travel to Denver to play the embarrassing Broncos, who can thank Jon Gruden and the Raiders for not being called out more regularly over their disappointing performances this season. How is this a pick ’em? (Texans 37-17)

PATRIOTS (-5) over Green Bay — I never pick the Jets game as part of Six Picks to avoid emotion and rooting interests clouding my already questionable judgement. Keeping emotion out of this game wasn’t easy, but these aren’t Lombardi’s Packers we’ll be rooting for on Sunday night, and we may have seen their final gasp last week in their painful defeat to the Rams. On the other hand, the hated Patriots are starting to groove, like they always seem to at this time of year. Two all-time greats behind center make this one worth watching regardless of the score, which is a good thing. (Patriots 28-16)

Tennessee Titans (+5.5) over the COWBOYS — Two awful matchups in a row from the folks at ESPN and Monday Night Football. I don’t think I could care any less about this game, but it is MNF and the Six Picks rules state it must be included, so here goes nothing. Please note that I still feel the need to spell out both city and team name when it comes to the Titans and the Texans, since the Titans used to be in Houston, and the Texans are now in Houston, and without the nicknames it’s too easy for me to get confused. Luckily for us all, the Titans are so bland at the season’s midway point that it’s becoming easy to forget about them entirely, leaving the spotlight to the juggernaut Texans. Once we get past this Monday night, that is. Oh yeah, the game — at least the ‘Boys have some star power, but despite that it’s too many points to bestow on one of the NFC’s biggest underachievers this year. (Cowboys 14-10)

Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 3-3 (21-19-2 on the year)

Which brings us to the weekend’s true showcase, where we will introduce to the world Pradeep the Numbers Guy, from Foster City, CA. While recognized by many for his prolific mustache and encyclopedic knowledge of  pop culture and obscure statistics from the worlds of soccer and cricket, Pradeep also happens to be a closet American Football fan. He joins us this weekend determined to right the LUCKY 7 Guest Prognosticator ship, which has spiraled completely out of control, the latest body blow coming courtesy of last week’s epic misfire by Brian the Fish Fan.

When Pradeep isn’t scouring Netflix for the latest psychological thriller (no doubt featuring subtitles), or reciting the results of every World Cup final since 1900, apparently he’s spending considerable time brushing up on some of the lesser known  notes on ProFootballReference.com. And that makes him the perfect foil as this week’s LUCKY 7 Guest Prognosticator. Here’s Pradeep the Numbers Guy:

Steelers (-3) over the RAVENS — “Hi SportsAttic Nation, I am probably the most unlikely guest prognosticator for SportsAttic, having little interest in “Football” outside of the fantastic halftime Super Bowl performances. I also don’t normally follow sports primarily played in and by one country. But being a numbers guy, not to mention a thorough professional, I took the challenge and did some research. While people are saying this matchup is more likely to be a coin flip decided in the fourth quarter, to me this is a pick for the Steelers offense over the Ravens defense. I think Big Ben steps up tomorrow. Did you know Roethlisberger hasn’t had a 300-yard game in Baltimore in his entire career? He is averaging 327 yards passing per game this season, so I really like Ben’s odds of throwing for 300+ down in Baltimore. Pittsburgh’s success this year in the Red Zone (#2 in the NFL) further bolsters my case. On defense, the Steelers are allowing 100 yards less per game through the air than they did a year ago. Recently Sean Davis, apparently a successful free safety for Pittsburgh, had this to say: “I’m liking the way we (in the secondary) are going, we are making plays. I feel like we are a group on the rise. We are getting better, stacking wins now, shutting offenses down, a lot more three-and-outs.” I am not sure what Sean means by all that, but he does sound very confident that the Steelers will end up triumphant tomorrow. Yours sincerely, Pradeep The Numbers Guy.” (Steelers, 33-28)

SportsAttic take: While tipping our hat to the inordinate number of words that went into that selection by the self-proclaimed “Numbers Guy,” I have to take the other side of this bet. I like the Ravens to snap back after embarrassing themselves (along with Brian the Fish Fan) last week against the Panthers. The Steelers are due for a stumble, and I anticipate a low-scoring affair in Charm City. I have to admit that I’m duly impressed by Pradeep the Numbers Guy’s nugget about Big Ben never throwing for 300 yards in Baltimore, but I believe that streak will extend another year at least. (Ravens, 19-17)

And there you have it. The NFL takes center stage this weekend with baseball over and done, and the NBA just getting started, so let’s see some good games, especially from our Airplanes down in Miami. Win one for Richie Caster, Broadway Joe, Riggins, Boozer, Barkum and the rest of that high flying offense that nearly altered history 46 years ago.

J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!

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