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):
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.