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:
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?
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).
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).
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!
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.