Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Screw young readers (not literally)

This will seem like an odd stance to take, since I help out a lot with a high school and college newspaper, but I always shrug my shoulders when I hear news reports about people under 25 and under 30 not being interested in the newspaper. Shockingly, kids this age are also not interested in owning minivans or eating caviar, yet both of those industries seem to be surviving. Only the newspaper industry seems to be frantically afraid of not appealing to this demographic.

The argument that this segment is important goes along the lines that if they're not reading now, they won't be reading in their 30s. This will create a downward spiral of readership that will result in newspapers toppling over the cliff.

As a result, this leads to a fracturing of the news product that just creates a garbled mess that nobody likes. I've always found that the worst features a newspaper does are when it tries to be "hip" and cover a subject it has absolutely no grasp, or worse, if it just responds to hype or terror stories about drugs. The most prominent example of this would the craze about reporting on "pharm parties" as if they were real.

Instead of trying to diversify the product, newspapers should stick to what they do best: Deep, investigative analysis of local issues, and providing content that can't be found in other medium.

As far as the kids go, don't worry so much about them. Here is a dirty little secret: If I wasn't involved in newspapers, I'm not sure how much I would have read them either. If you're under 30, you probably don't own property that is effected by a new property tax, or have a good enough job to care about the tax rate, or be in a stable enough financial situation to contribute to the library drive. You are also trying to jostle time away from studying, sports, or the eternal struggle of under 30 relationships.

Newspapers, just be patient. When young people start acquiring these things, they will naturally become more curious about the underlying systems that fuel them. Until that time, targeting stories at the demographic seems like much ado about nothing.

The picture is from this site here. See? I still know how to source! Journalism is obviously alive and well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin: Week 3 Tally

Hey, who knew? I've strung together two solid weeks in a row! Last week's finish, with overall records in parentheses:

Kristin: 13-3 (29-19, 1st)
Steve: 12-4 (26-22, 3rd)
Bob: 11-5 (28-20, 2nd)

I'm now only three games behind the leader, which is nice. And, I had a feeling that Kristin was going to shame Bob and I in this contest. She's only up a single game now; we'll see if she can expand her lead in the weeks to come. Bob lost two games in the standings this week, which led to the flip-flop at top.

I did pick the Bengals game correctly though, which makes me very happy inside.

On the fantasy front, my team lost by a final of 109-95. It is somewhat ironic that we finally lost, even though this is our highest point total by about 20 this season. I needed 25 points from Felix Jones on Monday Night Football, and he finished a couple yards short of 100 (which kicks in a 5 point bonus) and several TDs. Stupid Cowboys.

Similarly, Ronnie Brown had about 50 years on the Dolphins opening drive, but then fumbled a TD at the goal line and only got about 25 yards the rest of the game. Moreno also finished 10 yards short of a 5-point bonus. Brady could have scored a lot more too, if he hadn't kept missing WRs. At least Reggie Wayne scored 23 points for me this week.

Monday, September 28, 2009

iTunes Running Diary – Monday, September 28

Just a plain, old-fashioned playing of random songs tonight. I'm also no longer doing the combo album coverage image; it's kind of a pain in the ass, because it takes about 10 to 20 minutes just to do that. Anyway. On to the diary!

- "Let There Be Rock" by AC/DC. This song is now probably more recognized as the song from the Rock Band 2 commercial. I say this primarily because this is how I was exposed to the song. Sorry if I'm losing cool points for saying that, but really, it's not like this is some radically different, artsy song that is totally different from the rest of their catalog. It's not like I'm advocating "I Don't Know" by The Beastie Boys, which is different for them, since it's a soft, acoustic guitar song and awesome.

... That was a bit of a random tangent. But as long as I'm on it, go listen to "I Don't Know" instead of "Let There Be Rock." In fact, a cover of that song by this girl is also awesome, even though the recording is obviously a bit substandard.

- "Hate To Say I Told You So" by The Hives. I'm not sure what this band is up to now, but I really enjoyed three of their songs, this one included. It was the sort of blustering, heavy, hard rock that you could still yell to that made the previously mentioned AC/DC famous.

This isn't even by favorite song by them, as that honor goes to "Main Offender." That one takes the bluster of "Hate To Say I Told You So" and, in the words of Spinal Tap, makes it go to 11. Don't get me wrong, both songs are good, which is in stark contrast to...

- "Hulkster in Heaven" by Hulk Hogan. This is sung by Hulk, with a Casio keyboard in the background, about he and a young fan will "tag up in Heaven" if the kid dies of cancer. I think that's all you need to know about this. Oh, and also, around two minutes in, the backup singers sing over him by mistake, but it's clear the producer said, "Fuck it, we're not doing another take."

- "Home Stay" by Yoko Kanno. I first got into him a bit when I heard the awesome "Call Me" on the finale of Cowboy Bebop. I don't really like most anime, but that and Trigun and FLCL are the three I do like. The unifying theme between the three would be stellar music.

"Home Stay" is a little jazzier than "Call Me", but still neat to listen to. It is part of my study / "get shit done" mix, along with some other instrumentals and techno songs. Because of this, I oddly think that Muzack must work, but that they should just switch to music that is actually good as opposed to the stereotypical elevator music.


I still love the newspaper chain I used to work for, because they find some truly funny things out in the communities they cover, the kind of stuff you normally only get from immersing yourself into an area. Case in point: The sign to the left, which is from a story here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Varitek and the fallacy of game-calling

They broke up, and Varitek still sucks.

Game-calling is largely a junk "ability", and I think it should be consigned to the same category of dubious baseball beliefs that pitching and defense win championships, and that clutch hitters exist.

I say this largely in response to the idea on Boston talk radio that unless Jason Varitek catches Josh Beckett, the Red Sox will be screwed in the postseason, or that Varitek's game-calling ability somehow justifies his place on the roster. The talk was especially heated in the off-season, as the Red Sox and Varitek tried to hash out a contract in a year after he batted .220 / .313 / .359 in 2008. He was an all-star anyway, in what has to be one of the worst non-mandatory or fan selections of all-time.

The Red Sox re-signed him for (I'm guessing) two reasons: A lack of better alternatives on the market and in the system. Available in free agency were Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Toby Hall, Mike Redmond, Ivan Rogriguez, Javier Valentin and Gregg Zaun. Redmond has been a very good back-up for years, but the Twins had an option on him that they picked up, so he wasn't actually available. I also don't mind Gregg Zaun, especially since he seemingly kills the Sox every year, but the point is that nobody available was a clear upgrade over Varitek.

On the farm, the Red Sox's options coming into the year are written up pretty well right here. I basically agree with him, except that Brown is nothing more than a back-up at the Major League level. He proved it in Pawtucket this year, as he hit .264 / .345 / .329 in 86 games and 295 ABs. He is also 27, so this is probably his peak ability.

With the lack of alternatives, it was defensible for the Sox to sign Varitek to a low-risk contract and hope for a bounce back this season. In the first half of the season, the Sox looked like they made the right choice, as Varitek hit well enough at the plate to justify the one year, $5 million contract he signed.

Since then, he has tanked badly though. His overall line for the season is now .208 / .313 / .390. He's hitting for a bit more power this year, but that is mostly because of an early-season power surge - he only has one more HR this year than last. Because the Red Sox are a pretty smart team, they did acquire Victor Martinez from the Indians. Martinez was hitting .284 / .368 / .464 for Cleveland, but it has surged to .335 / .405 / .503 for the Red Sox.

However, some people in the Boston area still think that Varitek has a role on the team because of some shaman-like ability to handle the pitching staff. My issue with this is that there is absolutely no way to prove this.

Most of the "evidence" relies on two points: 1) Pitchers say they like working with Varitek, including an anecdotal statement from Curt Schilling saying that the only hit he gave up in a near-perfect game came when he shook off Varitek and 2) Citing dubious stats like catching ERA.

Tackling the first point, uh, first, it isn't surprising that pitchers say they're more comfortable working with Varitek. I'm guessing they said this because players very seldom say anything interesting or controversial, unless they are named Milton Bradley or Carl Everett. Players say they like Varitek's game-calling ability because the alternative is to say they don't, which will cause them to catch holy hell.

As far as the second point goes, some people like to use the catcher's ERA stat as "proof" that Varitek has a positive effect on the team's ERA. The issue with this is that Varitek catches everyone but Wakefield, so of course his ERA is going to be lower than whoever his backup is. He did miss significant time in 2001 and 2006, which you might be able to use to compare the issue a bit, except that the Red Sox finished a bit off their usual pace in both years.

Baseball Prospectus has looked at the issue multiple times, and if a catcher does have an impact on a pitcher's ERA, the effect is so small that it can't be measured. The most exhaustive study was done in January 2000 by Keith Woolner, and also appeared in Baseball Prospectus 1999, if you want to look at the methods and conclusions yourself.

This is the biggest reason why I think playing Varitek for his "ability" to call a good game is so silly. There are a lot of things in baseball that can be proved well by statistics, and the best of them all is hitting ability. There is a preponderance of tangible evidence to suggest that Varitek is done at the plate, as his replacement holds a 100-point edge in him in all three important hitting statistics. Given this, why even bother going down the twisted, contorted road of catching ERA to justify him starting a playoff game? Varitek is a backup (at best) at this point, and he shouldn't be starting unless Martinez needs a breather that day.

The pitcher of Heidi Watney is taken from The Boston Globe here.

Pickin' Pigskin with Kristin: Week 3

NY JETS over Tennessee (2.5)

Kristin: NY Jets (-2.5)

Sure the Jets are cocky useless bastards, but they have a good excuse to be cocky coming off their win over a far better team that just isn't clicking on all cylinders yet. I think the Jets use that hype to overpower a far more boring Tennessee team.

HOUSTON over Jacksonville (4)

Kristin: Jacksonville (+4)

When my brother was little he got a set of matching football sheets with football curtains for his bedroom. I could recognize the team logo's for almost all the teams on the pattern since football was usually on Sunday's in my house growing up. However, I couldn't for the life of me figure out who Houston was on those sheets, and a team you never remember isn't a team that wins a lot of games.

PHILADELPHIA over Kansas City (9.5)

Kristin: Kansas City (+9.5)

Philly's QB should have starred in the movie unbreakable as the character with glass for bones instead of whoever did. As long as he's leading that team and as long as I think his ribs are still cracked they are not going to make a 9-point spread.

BALTIMORE over Cleveland (13.5)

Kristin: Baltimore (-13.5)

Every time I turn around Baltimore is putting up big points, if they can't do the same at home, they should go cry about it.

NY Giants over TAMPA BAY (6.5)

Kristin: NY Giants (-6.5)

Ok ok, I thought I would never choose the Giants out of hate and spite. But, how can you really pick a sports team from central Florida. I just envision the team composed of senior citizens that fall asleep half-way through the game in their Laz-E-Boy chairs.

Washington over DETROIT (6.5)

Kristin: Skins (-6.5)

Go Skins! I am actually very afraid they will lose this game though because A) That would be sooo embarrassing and B) Did anyone else notice how the Skin's were an inch away from being forced into a safety at HOME last week? Oh dear.

Green Bay over ST. LOUIS (6.5)

Kristin: Green Bay (-6.5)

If the Rams want to win football games they should change their mascot to something more interesting - choosing a barnyard animal just doesn't inspire fear in the opponent. Or, they should wear strange food products on their heads, that helps too.

MINNESOTA over San Francisco (7)

Kristin: San Francisco (-7)

I'm hoping this will be a cool upset based off the fact that the Vikings were losing / tied at half-time last week against the piss-poor Lions and also that San Fran has been much better than terrible this season.

NEW ENGLAND over Atlanta (4)

Kristin: Pats (-4)

Go Pats! I'm hoping that this is the game that Tom and the receiving core get their timing back from the seasons of Super Bowls past. Also, I enjoyed seeing the new running back we added last week so I am hoping we can keep defenses on their toes and avoid having Tom get thrown down so much.

Chicago over SEATTLE (2.5)

Kristin: Chicago (-2.5)

Now I am mainly choosing Chicago because we have friends from there. However, I just can't support a football team from Seattle - while Starbucks prevents too many strung-out would-have-been-grunge 15-years-ago-children from turning to the streets for sex and poetry like neighboring Portland - its not the kind of environment to foster a strong fan base and not the kind of place I plan to ever respect for sports (and frankly I don't care if they even make it to more Super Bowls).

New Orleans over BUFFALO (6)

Kristin: New Orleans (-6)

NO is running all over the opposition and throwing up mad points. Now, I don't plan for the score to be as high in Buffalo mainly due to the fact that the weather is starting to turn, but I still don't see them losing this game - especially since I still haven't seen TO on a highlight reel.

SAN DIEGO over Miami (6)

Kristin: Miami (+6)

If Miami can hold it to four points against the Colts, I think they are a better team then people give them credit for. And, I like Miami despite stupid-face Pennington.

Pittsburgh over CINCINNATI (4)

Kristin: Cincinnati (+4)

I'm going to say Cincinnati because I forgot how much I love Ocho Cinco until I saw him jump into the stands after a touchdown in Green Bay last week. I know its disrespectful, but so is so much of all the hype and press surrounding the sport. As much as you can't actually respect the guy, you can laugh at the stunts he pulls. However, most of my love for Ocho Cinco comes from the desperate hope that one day the Skins will be allowed to do their touchdown dances again. Those dances are what made me first love watching football with my dad. Three hundred pound men doing back-flips and choreographed moves? What is not to love?

Denver over OAKLAND (1.5)

Kristin: Denver (-1.5)

I feel like this is a really hard game to call so I'm going to go Denver, a place I would want to visit over a place I wouldn't.

ARIZONA over Indianapolis (2.5)

Kristin: Indianapolis (+2.5)

After such a close game last week, I think the Colts rebound and trash the Cardinals.

DALLAS over Carolina (8.5)

Kristin: Dallas (-8.5)

Similar to my colts logic, after such an embarrassment last week, I think the Cowboys rebound and prove themselves this week. Further, this is a game no one is really going to watch passionately since everyone has already written Carolina off for the season, and those games (non-meaningful and not close) are the ones that Romo excels in.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Storytime with Amanda Meyer: Psyched for the Bruins

Maybe it’s all that French-Canadian blood I have, or maybe I just enjoy watching hot guys on skates throwing punches. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can say with certainty that I am one hundred percent head-over-heels in love with the Boston Bruins.

Today is the final day of preseason hockey for the Bs, and going into their match-up with the Columbus Blue Jackets, they are 4-1-1. For those of you who are unfamiliar with hockey, that’s four wins, one loss in regulation, and a loss in an overtime shootout. Some notable changes to this season’s lineup are the addition of goalies Tuukka Rask and Dany Sabourin and the loss of right wing Phil Kessel. These are the more significant roster changes for the 2009-10 season and therefore worth discussing.

With last season's backup goalie Manny Fernandez not on the roster and Tim Thomas looking sloppy in practice, these 35 year olds who together won the William M. Jennings trophy last season were bound to be replaced. The solution? Tuukka Rask of Finland at the ripe age of 22, drafted in 2005 by the Toronto Maple Leafs who has been playing for the Providence Bruins since 2007. Rask has won both preseason games he has played in and is looking really sharp on the ice.

Rask’s partner in crime is Dany Sabourin of Québec, a seasoned 29-year-old who signed with the team as a free agent over the summer. He got a win in Toronto but received a loss during the shootout in Columbus this past week. The team’s loss in regulation was against the Montreal Canadiens for Thomas though he made up for it by winning in overtime against them in their second match-up.

This brings me to some heartbreaking news, the loss of Phil Kessel to the Leafs. Signed to the team in 2006, Kessel was the fifth overall pick in the draft for the rookie maximum salary of $850,000 a year for three years. Just a few months later, Kessel was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was treated quickly, and less than a month later he was playing down in Providence. Four days later he was back in Boston, missing only 11 regular season games.

Impressed? It gets better!

He was clutch in shootouts, winning game after game for the team in overtime. He scored the first goal of last season, got his first two NHL hat tricks, and managed to get the highest record number of NHL regular season goals (36). So you can see why I was sad to lose this wonderful asset to the team, and did I mention that he’s also gorgeous? Because he is.

But of course, pesky salary caps were making it nearly impossible for him to actually stay here in Boston, so every one should tune in on December 5 to see his first game against the Bs. (Better yet, buy tickets, it’s in Boston!) As a side note, the Bruins took Toronto’s first and second round draft picks for next season and their first round pick for the following season.

So, hopefully this catches everyone up to speed for the season. Some other minor notes to make for those of you who didn’t previously love hockey:

- Milan Lučić has shown that he hasn’t lost his edge... or his temper, getting a 10 minute ejection in a preseason game and already racking up penalty minutes for fighting. Useless fact: I used to have a huge crush on him until I found out he is six months younger than me. I can’t go for younger men.

- Team Captain Zdeno Chára hasn’t seen much play time yet, but what he has shown is that he has a great chance of winning his fourth consecutive “hardest shot” contest during this year’s all star break.

- New addition Steve Begin and veteran Dennis Wideman are showing excellent shooting skills and even better skating skills, which is good considering Wideman got sloppy in last year’s playoffs.

- Alternate captains Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm have had a strong presence in the preseason and their efforts of assisting the newbies and bringing the team together off-ice have really come through on-ice as well.

So there it is: the 2009-2010 Bruins in 752 words. I hope everyone is now just as excited for the regular season to begin when the Bruins open at home against the Washington Capitals on October 1. The game is at 7 p.m. and will air on Versus.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 3

NY JETS over Tennessee (2.5)

Bob: Tennessee (+2.5)

J-E-T-S, sob sob sob. That game was a killer last week. Honestly, though, if I were the Jets I'm not sure I would be riding so confident right now. Their defense has managed to shut down a frustratingly inconsistent Texans team and a disoriented Patriots team. Their next two opponents—the explosive Titans running game and the 2007 Patriots-esque New Orleans air attack—should be harder to shut down on offense. Their offense has not been spectacular, and was not able to do much even against the Jerrod Mayo-less Patriots defense with the exception of three explosive drives to start the second half.

It makes me nervous to go with the Titans considering they weren't able to contain the Texans—the Texans!--last week, but I think the Jets will have a harder time containing Chris Johnson and Lendale Tequila than they did shutting down a fumbly Steve Slaton and the Patriots Whitman's Sampler running back crew.

Steve: Jets (-2.5)

Honestly, though, if I were the Jets I'm sure I would be riding so confident right now. What else do you need from them, Bob??? I realize that the Texas and Patriots have been inconsistent so far this year, but good teams normally fatten up their record by beating the inconsistent and downright bad ones. That's why I always think it's a bad herring when NFL analysts bring up a team's record vs. .500 and better teams. There are so few NFL games in a season that it's almost never a valid statistic, and if baseball and basketball are indicators, good teams are good because they beat the snot out of bad teams, not because they have any intrinsic ability to magically pull it out against other good teams.

That being said, I don't think the Titans have looked like a good team this year; I think the loss of Haynesworth hasn't been good for them so far. While he hasn't lit the world on fire in Washington, I think he was the perfect fit for what the Titans ran, and as Sade would say, they miss him like a desert miss the rain.

HOUSTON over Jacksonville (4)

Steve: Jacksonville (+4)

Okay, this is the last time I'm picking the Jags, unless they somehow manage to play the Lions at some point. (Note: I refuse to look at the future schedule and find out if they do.) However, I refuse to believe that a team with David Gerrard and Maurice Jones-Drew goes 0-3 to start the year. If they do, then this reminds me of the year that the Colts flamed out and finished shitty, despite having Edge James and Peyton Manning; I think that was the last Jim Mora year. “PLAYOFFS??? I just hope we win another game!”

Bob: Jacksonville (+4)

Fun fact: Houston has given up 215 yards per game on the ground, which would be by far the worst in the NFL if it weren’t for the fact that the Browns exist. In fact, the existence of the Browns only means that Houston only leads the league in yards given up on the ground by 10 yards per game instead of 40. Maurice Jones-Drew should tear this defense apart, giving Jacksonville their first win.

That being said, what level of embarrassing was Jacksonville’s home loss to Arizona last week? Getting walked in on by your girlfriend’s parents embarrassing? Or challenging a three year old to a race and losing embarrassing? That isn’t to pass any judgment on the relative quality of Arizona, but instead the fact that Arizona made a several thousand mile trip, played a football game at what biologically feels like before noon to them, and still embarrassed them. Even if Jacksonville manages to pull off this win, there is not much this team should be feeling good about right now.

PHILADELPHIA over Kansas City (-9.5)

Bob: Philadelphia (-9.5)

I was trying to figure out what ethnicity a person needs to be to have the last name Kolb. But then I found something far more horrifying. First, the alliterative Kevin Kolb named his daughter “Kamryn.” I wonder if her middle name is Kathryn? I don't understand why you would choose to give your kid a kitschy name like this. Do you want her to be a porn star/stripper when she grows up? You might as well have named her Starlight or something.

But wait, that's not the worst of it. According to his Wikipedia page, “he hunts wild hogs with a couple of dogs and a 12-inch bowie knife.” He hunts things with just a knife??? There is no way I'm betting against him, even though this line is high for a Donovan McNabb-less Eagles team. Considering how ineffective KC's defense has been, there's a good chance they will go down like a hog in suburban Philadelphia.

Steve: Kansas City (+9.5)

Okay, I admit that your new information about Kevin Kolb has left me conflicted. I do have to respect the Bowie knife and wild hog comments, but really, the last thing the world needs is more strippers. I think we should start imposing penalties for that sort of parenting – If your daughter becomes a stripper, it means you aren't allowed to have sex again until she gets off the pole. We could give it a clever slogan, like, “No using your pole unless you keep your daughter off the pole!” … Okay, that's a little bumpy, but I did only put about 30 seconds of thought into it.

… Also, “Rape Me” by Nirvana is playing as I type this, which is kind of freaky.

Anyway, I'm going with the Chiefs because the line seems awfully big, considering that 1) Philly just got blown out, even if it was by the Saints and 2) they are using their backup quarterback, who has spent the off-season seeing the Eagles sign his eventual replacement, and then on top of that, they also signed a veteran guy who had great past success with the team to play third string. I think Kolb is going to have a miserable game.

BALTIMORE over Cleveland (13.5)

Steve: Baltimore (-13.5)

The line seems impossibly high on this one, but I'm not sure what Cleveland could do to lower it. They have just seemed all sorts of miserable this year. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens are doing their best impression of the 2007 Patriots right now. Just beating the shit out of teams and totally demoralizing them, at least, they were last week. As much as Rex Ryan going to the Jets has seemed to help them, the Ravens haven't missed a beat as a team. Same thing when Savage left to run the Browns; strong, underrated organization.

Bob: Cleveland (+13.5)

Last week I asked if Mangini was a Man-genius or Man-gina. I think we got our answer with the stinker his team laid down at Denver. Cleveland doesn’t strike me as 2008 Detroit Lions bad, but they are pretty bad. It doesn’t help that Brady Quinn is playing like poo. So if I were going to pick this game straight, I would have no reservations picking the Ravens.

But a 13.5 point spread is extremely wide. And looking at the stats (which admittedly have a small sample size), the Ravens are far and away the worst pass defense Brady Quinn will have faced this year. The Ravens have given up 100 yards per game more in the air than Denver or Minnesota. So I think Cleveland will put up some points. Alternately, Baltimore’s offensive strength has been their running game, and Cleveland (as was previously noted) has a pretty bad run defense. So Baltimore’s game plan could rely pretty heavily on the run, which will mean slower, longer drives than if Flacco was going to throw all over the place. This will mean Baltimore should score less. That being said, if Cleveland doesn’t manage to cover this week, I’m never picking them again. Mangina has burned me too many times.

NY Giants over TAMPA BAY (6.5)

Bob: NY Giants (-6.5)

I don't think the Giants are as good as they have looked these first two games, but I do believe Tampa Bay is pretty bad. Even though the Giants will be without one of their top defensive linemen, Tampa has shown an inability to get into the end zone despite gaining a bunch of yards. Ultimately, though, it looks like it will be Tampa's terrible defense that will betray them. Actually, the more I look at Tampa, the less I like.

Ugh. But still. Stupid helmet catch.

Steve: Giants (-6.5)

I would like Tampa Bay a lot more if they didn't play in Florida. Well, and if any of their players were talented this year. At the start of the season, I was a bit bullish on Tampa being a surprise team. True, their QB situation is pretty bad, but I thought their defense would be solid enough to pull out some wins. However, I can't see them playing well enough to give the Giants trouble, especially since the Giants haven't had much trouble putting points on the board.

Washington over DETROIT (6.5)

Steve: Detroit (+6.5)

My head says Redskins, but my heart is going with the Lions. For some reason, I like it when rookie quarterbacks succeed, so I'm praying for the best for Matthew Stafford... Well, okay, I'm not actually praying for him. And in fact, he probably has some super hot girlfriend to console him if he loses, so I don't actually even feel sorry for him. Yeah, but still. I'm going with the Lions here because I don't trust the Redskins to have any sort of consistent offense this year.

Bob: Detroit (+6.5)

Detroit is slightly better statistically than the Redskins. Detroit has played Drew Brees and Brett Favre. The Redskins have played Eli Manning and Marc Bulger. The Redskins barely beat St. Louis, a team that is dreadful. Ipso facto, you should not bet on the Redskins, ever, until they fire Zorn and replace Campbell.

Green Bay over ST. LOUIS (6.5)

Bob: Green Bay (-6.5)

If it were possible to choose none of the above, I might go with it. St. Louis has managed to only put seven points up in the first two week, and is in the bottom four in both offensive and defensive yardage. Despite the fact that they drew the extremely mediocre Redskins last week, they gave up 242 yards to Jason Campbell last week and over 100 more yards on the ground. If it weren't for the fact that Campbell and Zorn were so collectively awful, St. Louis would have lost by a lot more last week.

But Green Bay hasn't been setting the world on fire. They are quietly sitting at No. 28 in offensive yardage and No. 19 in defensive yardage. I don't think that loss to the Bengals was a fluke. This team has the capability to turn it around, but I think the story of the middle third of the season might be how the NFC North went from looking stacked to inept.

Steve: Green Bay (-6.5)

While I continue to support the Jags, or at least support them for one more game, I can't continue to support the Rams. They are just miserable. I'm dubious on the Packers too, since any team that manages to lose to my Bengals warrants suspicion, but when bad teams face off I generally evaluate their QBs against one another. At this point, I trust Aaron R. more than Marc B.

MINNESOTA over San Francisco (7)

Steve: Minnesota (-7)

The Adrian Peterson express rolls over another victim this week. The number makes me a bit nervous, since it would be easy for them to end up in a draw.

Bob: San Francisco (+7)

You’re foolish if you bet against Adrian Peterson. Which makes me foolish. Let me lay out my logic, at least. Minnesota is surprisingly bad, which was expressed by the fact that they were being beaten by the Lions (THE LIONS!!!) at halftime last week. Let me throw some more stats at you: In terms of offensive yardage, Minnesota ranks sixth from the bottom of the NFL. They are averaging significantly more yardage per game on the ground than in the air (120 versus 170), a gap which no other team in the NFL is close to replicating (Miami has slightly more rushing yards than passing yards). One could chalk this up to Adrian Peterson being so good (they are No. 2 in the league in rushing yardage), but six other teams are within 20 yards per game of their average rushing yardage while still averaging at least 40 yards per game more in the air (most average significantly more than that).

But what really sealed the deal for me is this: San Francisco has been stifling the run. They rank ahead of only Baltimore and Tennessee in terms of fewest rushing yards allowed. Seattle had raked up 167 yards against St. Louis the week before, but managed only 66 against San Fran. Arizona managed to rush even more ineffectively against the 49ers. I would feel more confident if the two teams I just managed were stronger running teams, but I think this game will at least be closer than a touchdown.

NEW ENGLAND over Atlanta (4)

Bob: Pats (-4)

If the Patriots can't win this game, they are going to have a hard time winning any games against quality opponents this year. Although Atlanta is 2-0, their offensive and defensive statistics for the first few weeks are middling. They have managed to score quite a few points, but this is likely explained by their +4 turnover ratio. Also, Matt Ryan should be the kind of quarterback Bill Belichick eats for breakfast—relatively inexperienced, fairly reliant on a few weapons, and with a defense that does not do a whole lot to help him.

As stupid as it is to say a game is “must win” in Week 3, I do get the feeling that this game is a “must win” for the Patriots. The Patriots spend the next three weeks playing Baltimore, at Denver, and Tennessee. If the Patriots can't win against the Falcons, they likely cannot beat the Ravens or Titans either, and Denver always plays them hard at home. The Patriots could realistically be at the bottom of the AFC East if they can't get business done against the Falcons.

Steve: Pats (-4)

I still believe in the Pats. I think the Jets were psyched up to play them, whereas Atlanta doesn't hold any particular animosity against them. I'm also wary of Matt Ryan's ability to move the ball against a Bill Belichick defense. And also, I still believe that Michael Turner will collapse at some point.

Chicago over SEATTLE (2.5)

Steve: Bears (-2.5)

We originally made a typo, and had Seattle as “SETTLE,” which kind of seems more appropriate. Hasselbeck looks completely done at this point, as he can't manage to stay in the lineup the entire season. He needs to retire before he suffers some permanent damage. Oddly enough, I think if the Seahawks just commit to Seneca Wallace at their QB for the rest of the year, they'll finish with a better record. It's like when the Patriots decided to just move on from the injury-prone Drew Bledsoe.

While I don't think the Bears are any great shakes with Jake Cutler at the helm, they're still better than a field goal against the Seahawks.

Bob: Da Bears (-2.5)

I’m starting to think there is something in Seattle’s drinking water that is decalcifying their players’ bones. It is almost inexplicable how the injury bug has affected this team in the last two years. I’m a strong believer in luck (for example, I eat the same things at the same place during every Pats game, for all the good it has done me lately), and whatever Seahawks fans are doing isn’t working. This team is cursed, for lack of a better explanation. Even T.J. Houshasfl;sadjfs;dlkfj hasn’t been able to help them.

This game may not say a lot about either of these two teams, but it will tell us whether Matt Forte is the real deal or not. He has been invisible for the first two games of the season, but he played Pittsburgh’s stifling run defense and Minnesota is pretty average. Seattle has given up 166 yards per game on the ground against the 49ers and St. Louis. If Forte can’t replicate Gore’s and Jackson’s rejuvenation, it’s possible that last year was just a flash in the pan.

My gut says Seattle might be able to manage an upset here, but I’m never going with the possibility of Seneca Wallace beating somebody. Settle indeed.

New Orleans over BUFFALO (6)

Bob: New Orleans (-6)

I don't understand this line. New Orleans has, for all intents and purposes, looked as good—if not better—offensively than the 2007 Patriots. I would have a hard time saying that their defense has looked much worse. Additionally, how good does your defense need to be if your offense is putting up more than 45 points per game? Yet New Orleans is only favored by six against Buffalo. For this week in 2007, the Patriots were favored by 16.5 at home against Buffalo. New Orleans can't even get the respect of being favored by a touchdown. Until Drew Brees stops scoring, pencil me in for the Saints every week.

Steve: New Orleans (-6)

Wow, as Jim Rome would say, rack 'em! You've qualified for the Burnfest, or whatever he calls it, Bob Hanson. Nice research. You essentially took all the reasons I had for favoring New Orleans.

SAN DIEGO over Miami (6)

Steve: Miami (+6)

I think this line is a little bit too high. Miami looked really good against the Colts on Monday night, and I would be scared S-less of their running attack at this point. Ronnie Brown and the wildcat are so effective that it allows Chad Pennington to settle into being a low-mistake, league average quarterback.

Meanwhile, what the heck has San Diego even done this year? Barely squeak by a poor Raiders team and lose their other game? I totally think the team has completely quit on Norv Turner. Smith has built a really good team out in San Diego, but he hasn't had the greatest luck with hiring coaches who can win in the playoffs, as he managed to downgrade from Marty to Norv.

Bob: Miami (+6)

I thought you were a little premature in calling the Chargers quitting on Norv Turner, but I’m starting to come around to your view. There defense has been mediocre-to-bad and they can’t run. This team has a bunch of talent but just isn’t performing. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are quietly good and gave the Colts a run for their money last week. Miami has the short week so may have a rough time of it, but I think this game ends up real close, with the last team to get possession being the winner.

Pittsburgh over CINCINNATI (4)

Bob: Pittsburgh (-4)

Newsflash to NFL teams out there—the Steelers can't run. Sign me up for playing RB for them next week, because their ground game ain't getting it done. But here's an interesting stat from road favorites are 7-2 this season. So I'll take the Steelers for now, since Cincinnati doesn't exactly excite me. Good call last week, though, on the Bengals. I guess your Bengals-tinted glasses served you well.

Steve: Cincy (+4)

Hey, you know what? I'm putting on my Bengals-tinted glasses for this game too. I'm hoping – praying – that Marvin Lewis has noticed the Steelers' struggle with running the ball this year, and will game plan accordingly. Failing that, Carson Palmer is awesome.

Denver over OAKLAND (1.5)

Steve: Oakland (+1.5)

I think these two teams are about equal, so I'm going with the home team. JeMarcus Russell sucks, but so does Kyle Orton, and this game has the potential to become a black hole of suck. However, I am hopeful that Knowshon Moreno will securely takeover the #1 running back spot. It seemed like he was on his way with a 70ish yard performance on Sunday, but I'd feel more confident that he would justify my third-round fantasy football pick if he was the starter.

Bob: Denver (-1.5)


Denver: 375 yards/game (245 pass, 130 ground), 19.5 points/game, 41 percent third down conversion rate, 29:38 time of possession.
Oakland: 266 yards/game (158 pass, 107 ground), 16.5 points/game, 37 percent third down conversion rate, 26:29 time of possession.


Denver: 253 yards/game (70 ground, 183 pass), 6.5 points/game, 4 turnovers.
Oakland: 363 yards/game (125 ground, 238 pass), 17 points/game, 1 turnover.


Denver: Cincinnati (No. 21 offense by yardage, No. 11 defense by yardage), Cleveland (No. 32 offense by yardage, No. 25 defense by yardage).
Oakland: San Diego (No. 5 offense by yardage, No. 20 defense by yardage), Kansas City (No. 25 offense by yardage, No. 18 defense by yardage).

Denver has been categorically better against slightly worse teams. “About equal?” Not even close.

ARIZONA over Indianapolis (2.5)

Bob: Arizona (-2.5)

I never thought I'd see the day. The Arizona Cardinals are favored to beat the Colts. I'm honestly stunned by this line, but the numbers back it up. Despite the fact that I have been making fun of the Cards for the last two weeks, they are sixth in terms of yardage on defense and 15th on offense. They haven't put up a ton of points, but they haven't been underperforming either. On the other hand, Indy is 13th in defensive yardage allowed and 12th in offensive yardage gained. On paper, this seems to narrowly favor the Cardinals.

So I'm going to go with the Cardinals here, even though in my gut I get the feeling that Peyton and the Mannings may not be done for yet. If the Cards end up losing this game, I wouldn't begrudge Ken Whisenhunt if he started yelling “they are who we thought they were!”

Steve: Indianapolis (+2.5)

I think you've lost your god damn mind, Bob Hanson! I have no idea why the Colts are underdogs for this game, but I'm not going to question a gift from the gambling gods, even if we aren't gambling. While I concur that the stats are somewhat equal right now, I think the past history of the teams has to play into account here. The Cardinals made a flukey run to the Super Bowl last year, whereas the Colts are normally the class of the regular season. I'm going Manning, unless he manages to lose an arm.

DALLAS over Carolina (8.5)

Steve: Dallas (-8.5)

This line seems high, but I have no confidence in Jake Delhomme. Ever since Jake Plummer originally came up, it seems like guys named Jake invariably get the nickname The Snake. The original wrestler is addicted to heroin, Plummer got replaced by Cutler and sulked and retired, and Delhomme now sucks. Maybe we should just retire the snake nickname for the rest of eternity.

Bob: Dallas (-8.5)

As much as it’s easy to point at Tony Romo as the reason the Cowboys are having problems, that’s not looking at the entire picture. In terms of yardage, Dallas has the No. 2 offense in the NFL in part because of an amazing running game. Their defense, however, is 30th overall in terms of yardage, and hasn’t made even one turnover this season. Tony Romo needs to stop throwing picks in big situations, but there would be less big situations for Tony Romo to get the yips in if the defense were getting its job done.

This is a tough one to call. Dallas’ offense is good while Carolina’s defense is right in the middle of the pack, while the Panthers’ offense is mediocre-to-bad while Dallas’ defense is, as I just said, plain bad. I would guess that the Dallas defense may make Jake Delhomme look very good, but it pains me to take him on the road. I think this spread is high, but Carolina’s bad run defense is the difference, because it doesn’t match up well to Dallas’ awesome running game. But I’m by no means confident in this pick.

Thanks to this site for the Jesus picture.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

News - Thursday, September 24, 2009

Straight off the meat hook and right on to your plate, it's the news!

- The big celebrity news of the week concerns Mackenzie Phillips, who apparently had a 10-year incestuous relationship with her dad, and a lifelong addiction to heroin. Although I didn't see her appearance on Today, the news story that staff did about it was well-done, I thought.

It is odd to me that people are questioning whether it actually happened or not, though. Yes, she was on drugs, so I suppose you can question the validity of her memories, but she does come across as pretty lucid in her responses, at least in the news article. Also, from listening to Loveline and Dr. Drew, this sort of sexual abuse is somewhat common in horrible, drug-filled situations like these.

- Work on an AIDS vaccine is progressing forward, with clinical first trials showing some promise. Scientists don't seem to think it'll be a perfect solution, but it is great to see progress being made.

- And finally, in bizarro stripper news... A former stripper is claiming that a Catholic priest would preach on Sunday, and then make fun of God by banging her, and attending nudist and sex clubs obsessively, the other six days of the week. You will be absolutely, positively SHOCKED about where this happened. Wait for it... Wait for it... MIAMI FLORIDA.

Just say no to moving to Florida, unless it's for college. (Erin Andrews, call me!)

Thanks to this site for the image at the top.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Inexplicable Movie Review: Gremlins 2

Two of the great supporting cast of Gremlins 2:
Christopher Lee and Hulk Hogan

To switch things up a bit, I thought I'd focus on a movie that I actually enjoy, but one that doesn't seem to get much love from anybody else - Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Much like Escape from L.A., Gremlins 2 works as a sequel because it goes in the opposite direction of its predecessor. It shifts from a horror movie to an Airplane-like spoof.

In Gremlins 2, the setting of the film has shifted from a small town to New York City. Billy, the cad married to the ultra foxy girl-next-door type played by Phoebe Cates, finds the runaway mogwai Gizmo on the streets one day. He tries to protect him, but of course, calamity ensues as Gizmo is exposed to water, and the resulting evil mogwais eat after midnight. They run amuck in Clamp Tower, which is run by an eccentric billionaire - think Jimmy James from Newsradio, or the portrayal of Carter Puderschmidt and his buddies in Family Guy.

While you don't need to have seen the original to enjoy the sequel - I hadn't - you do notice a few more inside jokes if you've experienced both. Also, watching the first makes you familiar with the rules of mogwais and gremlins: They reproduce if exposed to water or eat after midnight, and bright light and sunlight can kill them. This "reproduction" is kind of gross, as a warning, with gremlins "popping" out of gross, stretchy bubbles out of each other's backs.

In the original, the gremlins were played up for horror and suspense purposes, but in Gremlins 2, the focus is definitely on slapstick and humor. This is especially evident when the gremlins takeover the genetics lab of the tower, and start guzzling weird potions and injection each other. One becomes super intelligent and is voiced by Tony Randall, and then delivers soliloquy and civilization and understanding.

While the leads are mostly there to play the story "straight", much like the lead roles in Airplane, the supporting characters are hilarious. Standouts include Christopher Lee as an incredibly mad scientist, his twin research assistants, the aforementioned Randall as the voice of the brain gremlin, a Dracula impersonator and kids' show host who serves as a news broadcaster, and Clamp himself.

The movie also loves to break the fourth wall, spoofing itself and other movies. Leonard Maltin reviews the original Gremlins in a fake production of his own TV review show. The middle of the movie is interrupted by gremlins, who are then chased away by (depending on the version you're watching) Hulk Hogan or John Wayne. Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig have skits to open and close the movie. And the Clamp Cable Network, who Dracula-guy works for, has several other spoofs, like a Julia Child-esque chef who uses a microwave primarily.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin: Week 2 Tally

My performance this week wasn't nearly as shaming. The weekly results, with overall record in parentheses:

Steve: 9-7 (14-18, 4th)
Bob: 7-9 (17-15, 1st)
Kristin: 7-9 (16-16, 3rd)
Andy: 6-9 (16-15, 2nd)

Although I was this week's winner, it was only by two games, so I'm still languishing in last place. Bob kept pace with the others, so he holds a slight lead over Kristin and Andy. I'm just glad I didn't finish in last again, because it would be embarrassing to have 17 straight weeks of sub-par performance.

Reviewing my fantasy team's performance this week, we won again, so we're now 2-0. This is the first time we've won our first two games in three seasons, so really, it's a banner fantasy year for us so far. The final score was 79-65, another low total. Tom Brady was my savior last week, but this week he shit the fantasy bed, with only 10 points. I was bailed out by Ronnie Brown, who had 30 points last night, making up for the bad showings by Brady and Reggie Wayne (3 points). I was also helped out because my opponent played Matt Hasselbeck, who only score 5 points before leaving the game with an injury.

Monday, September 21, 2009

iTunes Running Diary – Monday, September 21 – Ben Folds

This week's artist.

I don't have a ton of time today, so I thought I'd keep this entry somewhat simple for myself: I will be sticking to the music of Mr. Ben Folds today, because he is awesome. He is like a straight Elton John, and although this alone doesn't make him better, I do enjoy his music quite a bit more. Putting his songs on shuffle and letting them rip:

- "Emaline (Live)" is probably my favorite "slow" Ben Folds song, especially this version from his live album. The piano is especially tranquil and matches his voice well, and the lyrics are clear and crisp despite their longing nature. This clarity is something I've always liked about Ben's songs. (Yes, him and I are on a first-name basis.) Even if the song's meaning has some ambiguity - it seems to me like a failed past relationship, like a lot of his songs - you can at least hear most of the lyrics and sing along if you wish.

I listened to this song a lot when I was breaking up with someone; relax, it's not any of you reading this. Ben's music in general is pretty swell for that task, actually.

- "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" is the first track off of Whatever And Ever Amen, and it strikes the perfect note for the rest of the album. It is frantic, energetic and wild, between Ben's lyrics and piano and the rest of the band. It is a nice appetizer for what is to come.

The song always reminds me of driving frantically to and from high school. Back in the day, all of Whatever And Ever Amen was in heavy rotation on a CDR I had, along with a couple songs from the follow-up album, The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.

- "Rockin' The Suburbs" from the album of the same name gets a bit too much flack to me. So what, he's not playing the piano. It's still a great pop / rock / alternative song! I'd much rather listen to "Rockin' The Suburbs" than a lot of what is out on the radio today. It's not traditional Ben Folds, no, but the experimentation is close enough to his previous work that I enjoy it. It is similar situation to me as to when The Beastie Boys actually play instruments as opposed to just rap over a soundtrack.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Steve Greenwell TV Guide

[Left] The album title expresses my sentiments about television. And, by the way, did you know she's married to Nick Cannon? Seriously! Strange. She and him kind of fly under the radar, whereas everyone freaks out about Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

On the recommendation of frequent contributor Amanda Meyer, and from friends like Nicole and Kate, I finally started watching Lost. While I had always thought I'd like the show, I held off on watching it in the past because I was worried about adding yet another show to the weekly list I have to watch. Sure enough, I've burnt through 16 episodes in 24 hours, and unless something really distracts me in the next few weeks, I should be able to catch up on the past seasons by the new season's start in January 2010.

For my own benefit, and to generate some discussion on this here blog, here are the other shows I try to stay abreast of. Most of them will probably not shock you. They are ordered by their premiere dates; some have started already, while some start in a few weeks. The list:

- Dinner: Impossible, sixth season premiered in August on Food Network. I dislike Food Network shows a lot of the time because it can be such a pain to watch them, but this is one of the few that I'll go out of my way to watch. (For example, Brian Boitano's show has new episodes on Saturday and Sunday mornings, because I really want to wake up at 9 a.m. to watch a cooking show.) New episodes are normally Wednesday nights, with repeats on Sundays.

- Psych, fifth season premiered Friday, August 7 on USA. I'm really behind on the adventures of James Roday, unfortunately, but I do try to watch it whenever I'm home on a Friday night. That hasn't been a lot lately, which is sad, because it normally means I'm working somewhere. (I don't go out on Fridays; I'm no longer that cool.)

- Top Chef, sixth season premiered Wednesday, August 19 on Bravo. I missed a couple of the middle episodes, but I've caught the last two. So far, I think this has been a decent season, at least compared to the most recent ones.

- Community, first season premiered Thursday, September 17 on NBC. I'm hoping that this show, which features Joel McHale and Chevy Chase and John Oliver and Ken Jeong as recurring cast members, gets a chance to thrive on Thursday nights. I think it is a natural show to slow before or after The Office. It has only had one episode, which was a bit bumpy, but still showed plenty of promise. McHale (from E!'s The Soup) plays a sleazy kinda-lawyer who has to go back to community college to earn a degree to resume practicing law.

- Parks and Recreation, second season premiered Thursday, September 17 on NBC. Of all the shows on this list, this one has the greatest chance of falling off. While I love Amy Poheler, Parks and Recreation really does feel like a low-energy, dumber version of The Office. It might be saved because it is on the same note as two other shows on this list, so I'll be catching a lot of it by accident anyway.

- The Office, sixth season premiered Thursday, September 17 on NBC. This was a "Michael being silly" episode, but I still thought it was a decent start. I'm also the only person who seemingly likes that Pam and Jim are sweet and don't have problems. Why does every TV couple have to be miserable for people to like them?

- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, fifth season premiered Thursday, September 17 on FX. Unlike Lost, I didn't catch up on previous seasons before the show restarted this year. As a result, I'll probably try to play catch-up with the show when I get a chance. Judging from the rest of my list, it might have to wait until next year for me to get completely on its schedule.

- Saturday Night Live, 35th season premieres Saturday, September 26 on NBC. Hey, the quality really does ebb and flow, but I still catch almost every episode of a season live. There are still five to 10 great, "must see the next day" sketches per season.

- Family Guy, eighth seasons premieres Sunday, September 27 on FOX. While it seems like a lot of my friends have moved on from this show, I still get a kick out of it every week. Yeah, as South Park points out, a lot of the humor relies primarily on asides and non-plot gags. Who cares? It is still funny, even if it doesn't have the critical value. Their spoof of The Empire Strikes Back is also scheduled for this season.

- The Cleveland Show, first season premieres Sunday, September 27 on FOX. I don't think this looks great, but I'll at least give it a chance because it is made by the Family Guy, uh, guys. I really think that Quagmire would have been a much better choice for his own show.

- South Park, 13th season resumes Wednesday, October 7 on Comedy Central. Yes, I'm surprised as anybody that this show has made it to a 13th season. I really have no idea what they'll talk about when the season resumes, but that's part of the appeal.

- The Venture Bros., fourth season premieres Sunday, October 18 on Cartoon Network. This is my favorite animated series, even more than Family Guy and Futurama, because it is so bloody clever at times. For those who have never seen it, The Ventures Bros. basically spoofs old spy shows and cartoons, especially Johnny Quest. Underneath this layer of spoof, there hums some good characters and mysteries, though, which is neat. I'm especially excited because it hasn't had any new content for more than a year, and even that "season" was only 11 episodes. Apparently, only two guys write the scripts and the animation is done old-school style, so the production time is really long.

- Lost, sixth (and final) season premieres January 2010, on ABC. See the start of this entry for more information, but I'm confident I can catch up on the other five seasons by the time it restarts.

I'm sure I've forgotten a couple shows, so feel free to ask me about them in the comments section.

Pickin' Pigskin with Andy: Week 2

Andy did get these picks to me right at 1 p.m., so none of the games had started yet. As a disclaimer, pretty much none of these are SFW, so read on if you dare.

KANSAS CITY over Oakland (3)

Andy: Kansas City

While this game will be testing Oakland’s shaky offense, the big question that remains to be answered is will Oakland ever play football well enough to win. My answer is no. KC played a Baltimore D that is better than Oakland’s last week and scored many, many points.

TENNESSEE over Houston (6.5)

Andy: Tennessee

Tennessee is coming off of a loss where they had victory in their grasp and lost it to a casino employee raping Steeler team in overtime. Due to this they are going to push Houston’s face into a pillow while they push through the teas.

New England over NY JETS (3.5)

Andy: I don’t pick Pats' games, it's bad luck

GREEN BAY over Cincinnati (9)

Andy: Green Bay

Cincinnati has a run stopping defense and is playing a pass heavy offense. Aaron Rogers will reach a rhythm and not be stopped, and while this is bad news for Bobby’s fantasy team and Ryan Grant, this is good news for the whole city of Green Bay.

Minnesota Over DETROIT (10)

Andy: Adrian Peterson

All Day is going to the Motor City and is about to run train on the entire Lions organization. I predict that AP will have a better time then Kanye West had at the VMAs.

PHILLY over New Orleans (PK)

Andy: New Orleans

The boys in Vegas are giving Phili excess respect this week for the piss poor line they gave them last week. The only problem is that they aren’t playing Jake Delsuckface this week, they’re playing the best offense in the NFC. Drew Breeses through this week.

ATL over Carolina (6)

Andy: ATL

This game is going to be sadder then Mike Vick going to a petting zoo. Atlanta is keeping its heat from last season while Carolina’s team all wants to play for New England. Falcons at Home means that the Panthers are going to be drowned and electrocuted.

WAS over St. Louis

Andy: Washington

This game is difficult to predict because both of these teams are huge under achievers. The only thing is that I believe the Skins have more self-respect then the Rams. Clinton Portis has two runs for 20+ yards and 25 runs for less then 3.

JACKSONVILLE over Arizona (3)

Andy: Ari

This is silly - Arizona is going to win by double digits. Jacksonville is already telling their QB to suck it because Tebow is going to be their starter next season, and because of this Gerrard will poop himself on the field like he does every game and lead his offense to 14 total yards.

SAN FRAN over Seattle (1.5)

Andy: Seattle

I believe that the Seahawks have something going this season, while the Niners will be more focused on Micheal Crabtree. Expect to see the Seattle receiving corps do something worth talking about

Buffalo over TB(5)

Andy: Tampa Bay

The Bucs are a better team than what people think, while the Bills thought that they had a game in the bag last week and gave up. Expect to see this team have a hangover that the Bucs capitalize on, leading to more Bills players having their lawns defiled.

DENVER over Cleveland(3)

Andy: Cleveland

What the Vegas boys forgot about this game is that the Broncos are a bunch of gays. The Cleveland Steamers leave a huge mound of disgrace on each of the Broncos Chests.

SAN DIEGO over Baltimore (3)

Andy: Baltimore

I think this pick is poor, but I hate the chargers. This game will be lights out when Ray Lewis fists Phillip Rivers

Pitt over CHICAGO (3)

Andy: Pitt

Chicago blows, and without Urlacher they have nothing to look forward to all season.
PS. Polamalu is a little bitch

DALLAS over NYG(3)

Andy: G-men

Why? Because fuck the Cowboys, that’s why

Indianapolis over MIAMI (3)

Andy: Miami

Why? Because fuck Peyton Manning that’s why. Don’t judge me, the Pats game is about to start.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Storytime with Amanda Meyer: Theme party phylum

In the words of The Beastie Boys, "If I knew it was going to be that kind of party I'd stick my dick into some mashed potatoes!" ... Yeah, I don't know what the means either.

So as previously mentioned, it’s now seeming like fall and it’s definitely back to school. Now, I don’t know if you know this, but Boston is kind of a college town and our city’s population has very recently swelled to 800,000, accommodating an additional 200,000 or so twenty-somethings. And what’s a better way for these co-eds to spend a night at than at a party? Specifically, at a themed party!

A ride on the Green Line last weekend reminded me of just how hip and happening themed parties are here. I would say that a good 60 to 70 percent of the parties I am invited to have some sort of theme. Popular themes include white and/or black parties, the 1980s, CEOs and corporate hos, Boston sports figures and the roaring twenties.

Now, I admit, from time to time I have been the host of such a party. Last year, my roommate and I got a tad drunk and we ended up whipping out our credit cards and buying some costumes online. It was July. Later that week the costumes arrived and we realized, “Oh crap! We just wasted $60 each on costumes... in July!” So we had a very, very premature Halloween Costume Extravaganza. (I want to make a quick side note, I was very happy with the costume, which was purchased here. I highly recommend the site if you find yourself invited to a themed party or if you are considering a career as a stripper and/or exotic dancer.)

I’m going to include some photos inspired by this party to really illustrate the rest of my story, which I call ‘The Three People You Meet at Themed Parties.’

First, we see the girl who drunkenly (though often these costumes are bought stone cold sober) bought an elaborate ‘army girl’ costume (and yes this is exactly what I bought, and you should all just stop laughing right now). These are the people who secretly (or openly) love themed parties and want to go above and beyond to fit in at the event, they are also usually female. These people are the ones who are “attending” on Facebook, who instead of bringing their own beer, brought their own tequila. These people aren’t just in costume, they have the makeup, shoes, and jewelry to complete the outfit. They are absolutely offended by the other types of people at this party.

This leads me to person number two. This person is called “guy in the horse mask.” This guy responded as “maybe attending” on Facebook, because he loves parties, but doesn’t love themes and is holding out for a better offer. When a better offer is not found, he will pull together a lame excuse of a costume at the last minute, but will ensure it has enough comic value for him to still get appreciation on the effort. This person is usually a guy, and his prime motivation for complying to the theme is the possibility of getting laid later on by one of the girls who fell into the first category.

The last type of person at a themed party is “that other dude.” This guy (and this person is almost certainly a guy) came for the booze and didn’t even bother to dress up, and he probably didn’t even respond to the Facebook invite. He knows he’ll get crap for his lack of dress, but only until everyone in costume is wasted, at which point they will promptly forget about it. This guy probably came under duress, as a date, or possibly due to peer pressure from a good friend. In the end, he still has as much fun as everyone else, possibly more, and the pictures on Facebook the next day are far less embarrassing for him.

Now I’m not here to pass judgment on any of these people, just a few observations I have made at the many parties I go to. I will even be so bold as to say that while you were reading that, you said “oh my gosh, it’s like she knows ME” during one of those descriptions. And by the way, since I clearly fall into the first category, if anyone has some cool and not overdone themes to suggest for my future parties, please let me know. I might even invite you and make you the guest of honor!

Pickin' Pigskin with Kristin: Week 2

[Left] The beautiful Kristin Hanson, on her wedding day, with some lucky dude. Every week, Kristin will be offering her counterpicks to Bob and Steve's picks.

KANSAS CITY over Oakland (3)

Kristin: Oakland (+3)

The Raiders seem meaner. I really think that in Kansas all they know about is corn, and other boring nice things, so giant people wearing eye patches should be able to come within at least three points. (Editor's note: Kansas City is in Missouri.)

TENNESSEE over Houston (6.5)

Kristin: Tennessee (-6.5)

The only way that Houston wins games is when somehow gusts of wind block Adam Vinateri's kicks in their dome. I'm not over it. And they didn't even win that game.

New England over NY JETS (3.5)

Kristin: New England (-3.5)

Go Pats! And apparently, the new Jets coach has been talking smack to try to keep up the Pats-Jets rivalry, because if the Pats-Jets rivalry went away, that many more people would not give a shit about the Jets. The Jets quarterback also looks like a 1970s porn star. And I think 1970s porn stars usually had Hep C, so they really shouldn't be athletic.

GREEN BAY over Cincinnati (9)

Kristin: Green Bay (-9)

I just really like cheeseheads, and if they're playing at home I get to see cheeseheads.

Minnesota over DETROIT (10)

Kristin: Minnesota (-9)

It's hard to have feelings about most of these games. The Lions pretty much suck. I feel kind of bad for them.

PHILADELPHIA over New Orleans (PK)

Kristin: New Orleans

They played well in their first game and didn't whose-his-face (Editor's note: Donovan McNabb) get injured again? That's part of his job. It's probably in his contract to get injured every year.

ATLANTA over Carolina (6)

Kristin: Atlanta (-6)

I'll have to leave my cell phone on during that game, because I heard I might be getting called up to QB for Carolina.

WASHINGTON over St. Louis (9.5)

Kristin: Washington (-9.5)

I have to say the 'Skins even though I don't think they're going to win. Maybe they left their offense at the home field, and it will rejoin the team for their home opener.

JACKSONVILLE over Arizona (3)

Kristin: Jacksonville (-3)

Jaguars are cooler than Cardinals, if you had to pick one for a pet.

SAN FRANCISCO over Seattle (1.5)

Kristin: Seattle (+1.5)

I know San Francisco did well last week, but now they're not really the underdogs anymore because they're favored to win. If they were feeding off being the underdogs, they have nothing left to eat.

BUFFALO over Tampa Bay (5)

Kristin: Buffalo (-5)

Either they're super mad and come out with something to prove after getting their asses handed to them by Tommy McBrady, or they return to the doldrums at the bottom of our conference. The second one is probably more likely because TO is too busy with his reality show to make any big catches, or at least he was last week. Either way, they'll probably still beat Tampa Bay.

DENVER over Cleveland (3)

Kristin: Denver (-3)

If they're at home, they might get lucky again. Also, the Browns? Really? Why not the Pinks, or the Sky Blues? Who wants to be a Browns fan?

SAN DIEGO over Baltimore (3)

Kristin: Baltimore (+3)

Baltimore has always been known for their defense, but they put up a lot of points last week. If they're not jetlagged, I think they have a shot.

Pittsburgh over CHICAGO (3)

Kristin: Pittsburgh (-3)

I know both teams had injuries. I think that the Steelers are starting from a better place, and maybe they'll be able to concentrate better without Hairy-Mr. Stupid-I-Want-to-Attack-You-with-Scissors-Face (editors note: Troy Polamalu). I know I'd be able to play a lot better if he got a haircut, or at least got relegated to the sidelines and wasn't able to look at me.

DALLAS over NY Giants (3)

Kristin: Dallas (-3)

As much as I don't want to pick either team, one of them has to win. And, I was reading that Dallas has a shiny new stadium, so if they don't win they should be really ashamed. Like a lot.

Indianapolis over MIAMI (3)

Kristin: Miami (+3)

I know this is a very foolish pick but Chad Pennington is good for nothing but upsets, or at least upsetting me. Yeah, they really probably won't win, because don't they really not have much of a run game, or defense? I know they don't have Mr. Magic Dreadlocks Man (Editor's note: Ricky Williams) tearing it up anymore and they don't have the Other No. 54 (Editor's note: Zach Thomas). I think all the pot finally made Mr. Magic Dreadlocks Man lazy and he doesn't want to run fast anymore. BUT THE COLTS STILL SUCK! HAHAHAHAHA!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pickin' Pigskin with Bob and Steve: Week 2

In an effort to get some more sports content up, I'll be doing a weekly football picks column with my buddy Bob during the football season. And, similar to the Sports Gal, his wife will be picking games as well; visit tomorrow morning for her picks.

KANSAS CITY over Oakland (3)

Bob: Oakland (+3)

When I was in Russia, I went to see Paul McCartney perform in St. Petersburg. It was kind of a neat experience to see a rock and roll legend in person, but it was definitely a little bit sad in a way, too. It is sad to see people when they are past their prime, and it seems even sadder when a someone was exceptional. That is why I'm kind of hesitant to buy the new Beatles Rock Band game — while it would be cool to play Beatles tunes, it would just remind me that two of them are dead and the other two are old.

I mention this because Kansas City and Oakland are like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Two formerly proud franchises that are now just shadows of their former selves. In fact, I bet it is somewhat worse to attend a Chiefs or Raiders game because at least Paul McCartney can still sing. That being said, I liked what I saw from Oakland better than what I saw from Kansas City last week. Oakland played respectably against San Diego, which should be very good, while Kansas City got absolutely roughed up by Baltimore. The Ravens look to be good this year, but not 38 points good. I like Oakland in this game, even if Cassel comes back.

Steve: Kansas City (-3)

I was absolutely shocked by how well Oakland played, and I can't decide if it's because they have a bit of their mean swagger back, or if San Diego has simply quit on Norv Turner already. I think there is a 50/50 chance of either, and Oakland getting Richard Seymour now makes Old Man Davis seem just a bit more sane.

That being said, I think people will be a bit too high on Oakland after that strong showing. I'm picking Kansas City just to go against the curve.

TENNESSEE over Houston (6.5)

Steve: Tennessee (-6.5)

After that horrible showing last week, I just can't trust Houston. The Titans also looked a bit better than I thought they would, although at this point, I still think they would be better served by handing the team over to Vince Young. Kerry Collins is ancient, and Chris Johnson is not Adrian Peterson, although he is at least a decent substitute – the Hydrox to Peterson's Oreo.

Bob: Tennessee (-6.5)

Why all the hate for Chris Johnson? I can't remember if it was Simmons, Cousin Sal, or another recurring person on his podcast, but somebody in the Sports Guy world was very down on him as well. The guy was fantastic last year—his rookie season—and is the “lightning” to Lendale White's “tequila-free thunder.” If Johnson doesn't put up good numbers, it is generally because he didn't get enough carries. That isn't to say he's better than Peterson, but people should give this guy some respect.

Actually, this matchup features two excellent runningbacks who got pretty much shutdown last week. Johnson showed flashes of life against a stifling Steelers D, while Slaton got shut down by a surprisingly frisky Jets team. The real difference here is going to be that Tennessee plays well on both sides of the ball. This one could be a blowout, and begin putting nails in the coffin of the en vogue sleeper team for this season.

New England over NY JETS (3.5)

Bob: Jets (+3.5)

How about that comeback last week? It is tough to evaluate the Patriots by 55 minutes of mediocre play and five minutes of fantastic comeback. Is the real team the team that was getting blown off the line of scrimmage and couldn't run? Or was it the team that forced a turnover when they needed it, could not be contained on offense, and got a big defensive stop to end the game? I am worried about the loss of Jerrod Mayo, since that means the Pats have a bad secondary and now a linebacker corps that is anchored by an aging Adalius Thomas.

The Jets, on the other hand, looked solid last week. They got a great performance from Sanchez, who averaged 15 yards per completion and ran all over a decent Texas pass rush. Their defense was able to contain an above average Texans offense, holding Matt Schaub to less than 10 yards per completion and forced a pick. They also stuffed future Texans superstar Steve Slaton. This matchup worries me immensely. I think Rex Ryan gives the home team J-E-T-S the swagger to upset the Pats.

Steve: Patriots -3.5

Okay, I think the Patriots get a blow-out for real here. Brady and the rest of the team was shaky in the first half, but I think they use the second half playbook with the spread offense a bit more. Also, overlooked in the final score was the performance of the Patriots WRs in the first half the game. It seemed like Moss and Welker both dropped a couple of balls that would have prolonged drives.

The Jets don't seem real to me. Or rather, at this point, me, you and Andy would give the Texans a run for their money. While Sanchez looked responsible and respectable in his debut, I think the Patriots will pick apart the super-aggressive Rex Ryan defense. He has them playing better, but I feel that blitzing a ton isn't the way to beat the Patriots. Generating pressure with your front four, like the Giants did in that Super Bowl, is the way to go. (Easier said than done, of course.)

GREEN BAY over Cincinnati (9)

Steve: Cincinnati (+9)

Ah, a match-up of my binkies! Who to chose? Even though they're playing at Lambeau Field, and even though they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Broncos, and even though they're the mother-effing Bengals, I think this line is far too high. Carson Palmer and Chad Formerly-Johnson have to be able to put up more points than they did last week, right?

I don't think the Bengals will win. However, I do think they'll keep it within 9 points. The Packers' offense didn't really impress me against the Bears. I'm also guessing that the Packers are getting a big boost because they're at home, but isn't Cincinnati freakin' cold this time of year too?

Bob: Green Bay (-9)

I think you're seeing things through orange-and-black (striped) tinted glasses. The Bengals just aren't good. Having Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson is great, but their running back is Cedric Benson. Their premiere wide receiver (other than Ochocinco) is one crime away from a long suspension and possible jail time. Marvin Lewis has shown no ability to rein in his team or win important football games.

If the Bengals even keep this close, it's because their defense is somehow quite good. This week, though, they don't have the good fortune of playing Kyle Orton and the typical Broncos Whitman's Sampler of running backs. Ryan Grant is still a solid RB and Green Bay has some aerial weapons. Combined with the fact that they're playing at home, I think this is a rout.

Minnesota over DETROIT (10)

Bob: Minnesota (-10)

Right now I am being forced to watch America's Next Top Model. I think that Tyra Banks forgot to take her medication before this season began; they are doing stupid little skits at the beginning of each episode and she talks in this faux French accent. Overall, it is painful to watch. And not just because I hated America's Next Top Model to begin with. Tyra Banks honestly makes me somewhat fearful for her mental sanity.

The Lions will be just as painful to watch this season. I don't see why this line isn't higher. Adrian Peterson runs all over the Lions, and Favre may have a week like Brees last week.

Steve: Minnesota (-10)

First off, how DARE you attack Tyra Banks! She is so insane that she is a national treasure. I wish they had a show like The Soup that followed JUST her shows and media appearances for its 30 to 60 minutes of satire. Like the idea of an all-Michael Jordan channel that one of Bill Simmons' friends pitched, getting a regular burst of Tyra's insanity would be the perfect start to my day. It would instantly make me feel better about my own life.

And second, yeah, I don't see how the Lions keep this one close. I still think they're better than most analysts give them credit for, but this isn't the week that they're going to break that streak, not as long as Adrian Peterson stays healthy. In my fantasy league, he had about 60 points by himself, and thank god I didn't have to face him that week.

PHILADELPHIA over New Orleans (PK)

Steve: Philadelphia

Philly is at home, and it is also home to The Roots. I think. I'm pretty sure that is their hometown, and I really do like The Roots. I mean, not enough to know where they are definitively from, but still. They have some hot tunes.

Oh, right – football. Even though McNabb is hurt, it seems like every time he is hurt, the Eagles somehow manage to win anyway. It doesn't matter if the QB is Garcia, Feeley or Touchie-Feeley. Therefore, I pick them to win against the Saints high-powered offense.

Bob: New Orleans

I don't get this line. Although you're right that the Eagles have shown a strange ability to win without McNabb (but a bizarre loyalty to the aforementioned QB), I think Kevin Kolb may have a rough first career start (then again, I said the same thing about Sanchez last week, so what do I know?). I actually don't really understand this line. Shouldn't there be a bunch of action on the Saints, who were able to score 45 points last week after forcing only three turnovers against the terrible Lions. In comparison, the Panthers coughed up the ball seven times last week, but the Eagles scored a touchdown less than New Orleans. Although Carolina has a better defense than the Lions, I doubt they were playing up to their usual standard after Jake Delhomme turned the ball over for the umpteenth time. I think there may be a few tear-stained cheesesteaks consumed in Philly to burrow sadness on Sunday.

ATLANTA over Carolina (6)

Bob: Atlanta (-6)

Every Week 1, there are teams that looks like they may not win a game that season. With the exception of last year's Lions, that usually doesn't happen. Carolina can't possibly be as bad as they looked Week 1. The defense looked good against McNabb, and probably would have looked better if it weren't for the fact that they were constantly working on short fields thank to Delhomme's ineptitude. They still got ran all over, but they shouldn't be as bad as they were last week.

That being said, I think Atlanta played well but not great against the Dolphins last week. Matt Ryan passed all over the Dolphins but Michael Turner was held to less than three yards per carry. The defense was able to contain the Dolphins, but honestly I foresee many teams containing the Dolphins defense this year (Chad Pennington blows). I think this game ends up close, but unless I see something better from Carolina I just can't pick them, particularly since Delhomme is on the road.

Steve: Atlanta (-6)

Turner isn't doing much to dispel the Curse of 370 belief yet, but I wouldn't trust Delhomme to sit the right way on a toilet at this point. Have they given him a vision test? Maybe he's color blind – that would explain a lot. I think Carolina has the better team overall, but unless Delhomme somehow gets the quick hook, they lose this one by more than a touchdown.

WASHINGTON over St. Louis (9.5)

Steve: St. Louis (+9.5)

This line seems too high to me. I realize that the Giants are the Giants, but I can't see an offense led by Jason Campbell putting up a ton of points against any team. His inability to be a threat to opposing defenses means that they can just tee off on Clinton Portis. I attribute this situation to Daniel Snyder, who probably freaked out Campbell at some point between his rookie and sophomore season. I imagine Snyder stroking a cat, making suggestions about how Campbell could “better help the Skins,” totally unnerving him as Campbell thought he meant something else entirely.

Bob: Washington (-9.5)

Fun fact: Jason Campbell never threw for more than two touchdowns in a game last season. He might not even throw that many touchdowns in a game this year unless they can find a way to get Santana Moss the ball. That being said, I think St. Louis is godawful this year. They gave up 28 against the Seahawks and weren't able to do anything against Seattle's defense. I would be surprised if St. Louis is picking anywhere but first overall in next year's draft. I think the 'Skins can score 10 points, and that should be all they need to cover.

JACKSONVILLE over Arizona (3)

Bob: Jacksonville (-3)

So I know Arizona made the Super Bowl last year, but they got beat by the 49ers last week. On the other hand, Jacksonville had a strong game on the road against Indianapolis where they held Peyton Manning and his 400 commercials to 14 points. This line should be higher.

Steve: Jacksonville (-3)

I agree that this line should be higher. I'm guessing that the Cardinals still have a lot of believers because of their Super Bowl success last year; this is dragging the line down. Maurice Jones Drew didn't have an incredible game last week, and since he's not playing my fantasy team this week, I think it happens against the Cardinals.

SAN FRANCISCO over Seattle (1.5)

Steve: San Francisco (-1.5)

At least for this week, I will hop aboard the Niners bandwagon. They're at home against the Hawks, who are no juggernaut themselves. Also, when Mike Singletary drops his drawers to reveal the big “2-0” tattoo he already confidently got in advance of the game, I think the Niners are really going to respond.

Bob: Seattle (+1.5)

I want the 49ers to do well, provided they aren't playing the Patriots. But honestly I don't think they're that good. They just barely held on for the win against the Cardinals, who honestly didn't have a very good game plan. Also, I think Seattle might surprise some people this year. I hope Singletary is careful and learned from NFL personnel who have had mooning incidents before, otherwise he might be paying an NFL fine “straight cash, homey.”

BUFFALO over Tampa Bay (5)

Bob: Tampa Bay (+5)

Mmm... buffalo wings. I feel sad for my parents, because according to TIME buffalo wings were invented in 1964. This means that there was a time where my parents were alive, but buffalo wings didn't exist. I'm not sure a world without deep fried wings covered in spicy sauce is a world I want to live in. Thank you, Buffalo, for inventing the buffalo wing. (Real men of geeeeeniuuuuus...)

I think Tampa Bay underperformed last week, while Buffalo overperformed. People seem to forget that a game against the Pats is many teams' Super Bowl, particularly a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a decade. The fact that it was a Monday night game during Week 1 made it even more so. Buffalo came to play, but couldn't keep that intensity for 60 minutes. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay got scorched by Tony Romo, who people seem to have forgotten is a dangerous quarterback. I think Buffalo has a letdown game while Tampa Bay bounces back.

Steve: Buffalo (-5)

I kind of wish I could just take a mulligan on this one, because I have no clue how this game will play out. I will go with Buffalo. On paper, there is no reason why their team or personnel should work in the slightest. They fired their coordinator, Trent Edwards isn't that good, Lee Evans should be unhappy that TO is around, and TO is TO. But yet, they were within a fumbled kickoff from beating the Patriots.

Tampa Bay looked as bad as Buffalo looked good, and unfortunately for the Bucs, I think the Freeman era is going to get started a lot sooner than they anticipated.

DENVER over Cleveland (3)

Steve: Cleveland (+3)

I'm not sure if it's possible to be lower on Denver than I am right now, and it is mostly for petty reasons. First, how they beat my Bengals last week is just a slap in the face. It's not enough that I follow one of the most pathetic franchises in professional sports – The Broncos apparently have to beat them in a shameful, flukey fashion.

Therefore, I'm punishing them this week by picking the Browns over them. I think Brady Quinn is better than people realize, and the talk of Derek Anderson starting over him is just folly. And hey, Josh, can you get my man Knowshon some more carries? He is a starting running back for my fantasy team. Thanks a bunch, sweetums!

Bob: Cleveland (+3)

I don't know which team to be more nonplussed by. Cleveland was never in the game against the Vikings after the third quarter while Denver needed that gift touchdown at the end of the game. I thought Denver was going to be good this year, but they were only able to put two field goals up on the Bengals before that final touchdown. Is the Bengals defense really that stifling, or was Denver hurt by their desire to use runningbacks like most people use condoms.

I think this all comes down to Eric Mangini—is he a Mangina or a Mangenius? He got a serviceable performance from Brady Quinn and Jamal Lewis has been surprisingly good for the Browns. If Cleveland's defense can show up—a big if—they win this game. For this game, at least, I think we'll see the Mangenius.

SAN DIEGO over Baltimore (3)

Bob: San Diego (-3)

This should be a good game. Despite the fact that these should be two of the stronger defenses in the NFL, neither unit really performed well last week. The Chargers were nearly upset by the lowly Raiders, while Baltimore gave up a bunch of points to the Chiefs (interestingly, the Chiefs and the Raiders play each other this week two. Did the NFL institute a losers' bracket?). On the other hand, these are still two powerful offenses, with the Ravens perhaps overperforming a little.

As Madden-esque as it sounds, this game is either going to be a shootout, or it won't. By this I mean either both teams will run up the score, leading to a game where the last possession probably wins, or the defenses will step up and we'll get a tough, physical battle. Perhaps now that Merriman's legal troubles are behind him and he no longer needs to think about cheap domestic abuse-“lights out” dance jokes, the Chargers defense turns it up and manages to win this game.

Steve: Baltimore (+3)

Well, you already covered the Merriman legal worries and “lights out” issue, so I'm not sure what else there is for me to talk about. I think the Chargers are just about ready to roll over and die on Norv Turner. If he loses this game, which I guess I'm predicting will happen, I think he's another loss away from losing his job.

Pittsburgh over CHICAGO (3)

Steve: Pittsburgh (-3)

Jay Cutler sucks. I think Denver's record and Cutler's QB stats this year are going to prove just how much Mike Shanahan meant to the Broncos and their players. With non-franchise Jay Cutler and no Brian Urlacher, I don't think the Bears have a snowball's chance in hell of lasting as long as a snowball in hell against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Speaking of the Steelers, I wasn't super impressed with their opening week performance, but I am glad that I have Brady and Big Ben on my fantasy team. I don't think any of the Steelers running backs will be effective this year – even though I do own Mendenhall – so I think I'll be able to package Ben's gaudy stats to another team for a running back that could help us, assuming none of the starters I have the back-ups for get hurt.

Bob: Pittsburgh (-3)

I'm going to come clean—I watch the Real World/Road Rules challenge. During the last season, Evan was challenged repeatedly to enter the duel. It was always very bizarre because Evan was clearly one of the stronger competitors, yet people would choose to challenge him over people who were obviously weaker. At least, it seemed like they were obviously weaker and perhaps sometimes emotions were the deciding factor in the choice to challenge him. Or perhaps people wanted to dethrone someone who was clearly good. Or maybe people were just underestimating him.

This line reminds me of that. How can Pittsburgh only be favored by three? I hate the Steelers as much as the next guy, but they were still able to beat a strong Titans team. Chicago, on the other hand, has a very uninspired Jay “Sugarless M&M's” Cutler. Perhaps people think Chicago will play well at home. Perhaps they think that teams will put their best efforts up against the defending champions. Or perhaps the Steelers are just being underestimated.

DALLAS over NY Giants (3)

Bob: Giants (+3)

Honestly, the Giants didn't look to good against a mediocre 'Skins team last week. The Giants may have won that game, but they scored only 16 points on offense and gave up 200 yards to awful Jason Campbell. Perhaps this can be attributed to some kind of hex. Curse of David Tyree, anyone? Curse of the Helmet? Curse of the Plax's Clubbing Sweatpants? Dead puppies, dead puppies, dead puppies? Somebody help me patent it before Dan Shaughnessy beats me to the punch!

On the other hand, I have a hard time seeing Tony Romo scorching the Giants like he did Tampa Bay last week. This is still a team that is two years removed from containing the 2007 Pats offense (ugh, helmet catch--I made myself mad again). I like the Giants chance at an upset.

Steve: Giants (+3)

How are the Giants even the underdogs in this? To steal something from Simmons and Cousin Sal again, there must be a huge contingent of rabid Dallas fans betting the S out of this game, since it's the first Giants vs. Cowboys match-up at the new stadium.

Yeah, based on their performances in week one, I would normally go with the Cowboys. However, the Bucs are just completely lost this year, and my nominee for the team most likely to challenge the Lions as losers of them all. Meanwhile, although I think the Redskins are owned by an evil guy, they still have some remnants of the decent coaching of the Joe Gibbs era. So, I think the Giants are even better than they were last week.

Indianapolis over MIAMI (3)

Steve: Indy (-3)

This line seems WAY too small. This game feels like a shootout to me, and since Ronnie Brown is on my fantasy team, I'm personally hoping for four TDs from him, despite a Dolphins loss. That's how I roll.

Bob: Indianapolis (-3)

I don't see how this is even within a touchdown, let alone a field goal. Peyton Manning is going to shred the Dolphins and the Colts will win easily. I hate the Colts.


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