The Slack Lines (@CHFFSlackLines) crew puts the fun in painful, financially crippling gambling losses. Read more about this panel of maladjusted social misfits here in our Week 1 introduction. Or meet them at the Shriners Club potluck this Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa. (No need for more Jello salad.)

Current Slack Lines Standings:
Luke O’Neil (@lukeoneil47): 12-12
Jerry Thornton (@jerrythornton1): 10-14
Nick Altschuller (@altschuller): 9-15
Beau Sturm and J (@beausturm): 9-15
Matt Roberts (@KidRob21): 7-16-1

It's Rivarly Week in the NFL. The Pats play the Jets. The Steelers face the Ravens. The Cowboys take on the Eagles. There's a lot of hate in the air, and it's making me oh so happy.

And it reminds me that this Slack Lines competition has gotten way too friendly. This week, Beau pointed out that he and I have been neck-and-neck for almost a year, and my first reaction was, "That's kinda cool."

No! Necks are made for a' stompin', not for... being next to another neck. Unless we're fighting like giraffes, in which case: Neck-and-neck, to the death!

Time to put on my game-face (which is the same as my usual goofy mug, except UNSHAVEN), and bring the thunder unto the rest of you bozos. 

On to the picks!

Luke on Seattle @ Arizona (+6.5)
Last time these two teams met Seattle won 58-0. Since then, Seattle has gotten better, and Arizona has got Arizonier, but the Seahawks won't have the aid of their famed 12th man here in whichever weird Arizona town the Cardinals play in.

Actually, that seems like as good a test as any to figure out which one of these teams will win: I'm going to try to name as many cities in either state as I can.

AZ: Tempe, Phoenix, uh, Glendale, Scottsdale, Tuscon, Springfield (probably).
5.5, not bad.

WA: Seattle, Olympia, Walla Walla, Spokane, and... that's it.

branchNow I have Hole's Olympia” in my head. Man, that was a good song. Maybe that's a better metric for deciding. Let's look at the top-five bands from each area.

We've all heard of the biggest bands from Seattle, but it's not quite as big of blowout as you might think—Oh wait, Flagstaff! I've heard of that city, too. Anyway, here are the bands:

AZ: Meat Puppets, Gin Blossoms, MC John McCain, CeCe Peniston, Jimmy Eat World, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Blessthefall, Michelle Branch (!), Linda Ronstadt.

WA: Soundgarden, Nirvana, Sleater-Kinney—OK, Washington already wins. I don't know what I was thinking giving Arizona a chance here. That's probably a good approach to the football game.
Luke’s Pick: Seahawks

Luke’s Locks: 
Jets (+4) Betting against the Patriots every week has made me a happier, if poorer, man. Made my biggest bet of the week last Sunday in the Saints game, about five times as much as I normally bet, and man, was I ever happy to have lost that one. Would it have killed the Pats to win by one though? Thanks for nothing. 

This week they might win again, but it’ll be close enough that you can't turn down the four. Way too many injuries on this team right now to be too confident. Wouldn't be surprised to see Josh McDaniels go down with a hammy halfway through the game.
Ravens @ Steelers (Under 41) Take the under. Unless we’re talking about the number of punts over the course of this game, in which case, everyone bet the over.
Bills (+8) Whoa, whoa, whoa. Over a touchdown from a 3-2 Miami against a-not-as-bad-as-their-record (2-4) Buffalo? Nope. Take the points. Then take Miami out to the shed because their brief little run is about to end.


Jerry on Denver @ Indianapolis (+6.5)
As you can well imagine, given the fact that I write NFL gambling blogs as a side job, I'm a guy with a hugely successful track record when it comes to wooing the ladies. Yep, there’s nothing that makes panties hit the floor quite like a guy who spends his Sundays glued to the couch, ignoring a woman's needs like he ignores his personal hygiene. And if my career as a lady-killer has taught me anything, it's that you never go back to your ex. Not ever. In the words of the great General Patton, "I never conquer the same territory twice." 

Now sure, we've all had, say, a class reunion, where we tried to finish some old, unfinished business. It's why those things were invented. But when you've sealed the deal, and the relationship has run its course, the experienced lothario knows it's best not to go back. You can't rekindle that flame.  

Like any irrefutable law of nature, it works not just with women, but with athletes as well. Once you've reached the mountaintop with a guy, you can't, to steal a phrase from Thomas Wolfe, go home again. No matter how much you've loved and won with someone, when he's playing elsewhere you have to move on. The time to reminisce about those misty, water-colored memories of the way you were is after he's retired, and you're dropping the curtain over his number in your Hall of Fame or Ring of Honor or whatever. Not when he's trying to kick your nuts into the ground on the field of battle.

It's a lesson that's lost, apparently, on the Colts. Peyton Manning is coming to back to town, and to hear owner Jim Irsay talk about it, he's being welcomed back into Lucas Oil Stadium on a golden chariot led by the current Colts players dropping rose petals under his horses' feet. Ceremonies are planned. Speeches. Honoraria. Probably gifts and keys to the city, and maybe a huge cardboard check with his name on it. 


To circle back to my romance analogy, Irsay has invited his ex-wife over for dinner with her new husband and is fawning all over her while poor Mrs. Andrew Luck-Irsay has to sit there and be ignored. It's worse than inconsiderate; it's conduct unbecoming a true ladies (read: quarterbacks) man. And this will not work out well for Indy. Their ex will walk all over them and leave without helping with the dishes. Irsay, Peyton is just not that into you.
Jerry's Pick: Broncos

Jerry's Locks:
Chiefs (-6.5) The Chiefs cover in the NFL's latest Cities That Cheer Despicably When Their Starting QB Suffers a Horrible Injury Bowl.
Patriots (-4) The Patriots currently have $26 million in salary on injured reserve, $4 million more than any other team in football. At this rate, by the end of the year they'll take the field with Tom Brady and 21 undrafted free agents. And be 14-2. 

Meanwhile Rex Ryan is guaranteeing a win, but only if Jets fans can make as much noise as they did in a Week 2 win over New England in 2009. If Geno Smith keeps playing like he did last week against Pittsburgh, I guarantee there'll be noise. Just not the kind Rex is hoping for.
Panthers (-6) Sam Bradford is the quietest draft bust in NFL history.

Beau on New England @ NY Jets (+4)
Five seconds left...
Brady drops back, and...

rob ryan

That’s what the Patriots do to the Ryan brothers, time after time, after time.

Most of the other Slack Lines contributors, all Patriots supporters if I’m not mistaken, bet against their beloved team. But this beleaguered Steelers fan won't make the same mistake.

I see their point. New England has struggled. Tom Brady is ranked 20th in Real Quarterback Rating, even after his last-minute heroics against the Saints(as he threw a seemingly game-ending interception on the previous drive). The Patriots' best receiver is a rookie who was on no NFL draft boards. Gronk is still MIA. And yet, they sit at the top of their division.

It might not be pretty. It sure wasn’t in the Week 2 turnover party that ended in a completely yawn-inducing 13-10 win. You don't win with style points, but style points are the problem for Patriots fans. 

Patriot fans have been spoiled by record-setting offenses and blow-outs. It's blinded the New England fan base from this simple fact: Bill Belichick is the best game-planner in football. There's no one better. That's the reason the Pats are hanging around, now ranked ninth in Quality Stats Power Rankings. Where are the Jets? Thirtieth. 

It boils down to this simple matchup: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady vs. Sexy Rexy and Geno Smith. 

Good talk.

Beau's Pick: Patriots

Beau's Other Uncertain Guesses: 
Florida Gators (-3.5) 
Mizzou is coming off a HUGE win over Georgia. They aren't that good. 
(A quick note to all those college football fans who read us (Hi, dad), watch Louisville versus UCF on Friday night. Heisman-hopeful Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles will both be playing on Sundays real soon.)
Broncos (-6.5) Points be damned. Manning is out to show Indy what they let go. Luck may be the future, but Manning is the now.
Steelers (-2) No one hates the Ravens more than me.
Wait, that's not true. The Steelers do!
Throw the records out the window anytime these two lace 'em up. 

Nick on Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-2)
Mike Tomlin has forbidden somersaulting into the end zone. He said it’s to prevent injury, but consensus says it has more to with image. Somersaulting equates to tomfoolery, and the Steelers are a proud, historic franchise that wins with grit and determination. Do these look like leaders who would tomfool?














Weeks ago, the players left over from the 2008 Super Bowl decreed that no Steeler with less than four years experience could play pool, ping-pong or even shuffleboard in the locker room. You have to be a veteran to play shuffleboard. Sure, that normally means you’re a veteran of World War II, but still, that right has to be earned. After they went 0-4, Tomlin outlawed games for everyone.

And what happened? They won. But a victory over the Jets does not a season-turnaround make, and I can’t equate their recent success to their lame rule-making.

If you want your guys to win like men, you can’t ban professional athletes from performing moves perfected by toddlers at your local Gymboree. You can’t tell competitive people “No games! We’ve got a game!” (And you can’t have the 248th pick in last year’s draft starting at left tackle and expect Terrell Suggs not to get his.) Pittsburgh’s mess of a season is due to a pile of mixed messages.
Nick’s Pick: Ravens

Nick's Locks:
Seahawks (-6.5)
We know Seattle’s defense is stellar, but Arizona’s D is for real, as well. Until the second quarter of last week’s game, the Cardinals had gone eight quarters without giving up a touchdown. 

So why take the Seahawks? Even though they’ve lost three straight in Arizona? Because, as I’ve shown so far this season, I’m bad at this. And also because the Cardinals are second-to-last in turnovers, and Carson Palmer has thrown nine picks in his last four games. On the other side, Seattle has nine interceptions and 10 forced fumbles. Seattle will win in time of possession, and think at least one turnover is going back the other way.
Bears (Pick’em) Jay Cutler says he’s a changed man. RGIII says he’s the same guy he was last year. I don’t believe either of them, and on Sundays, being a jerk trumps running scared.

Chargers (-7.5) Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon came back from suspension last week and had 14 catches on 20 targets for 190 yards, which was a much-needed boost for a feeble offense.

But, while I’m no defensive coordinator, I’m pretty sure saying “Hey, double-team that one guy,” should solve whatever problem Blackmon poses for San Diego.


Matt on Minnesota @ NY Giants (-3)
*in Jeff Foxworthy’s voice*
"If your starting QB is so bad that his previous team swallowed $8.43 million in base salary just to cut him, you might be the Minnesota Vikings." 

Recently acquired Josh Freeman will, in fact, start for the Vikings, one week after signing with the team. What this says about his competition—that he could move immediately into the most-demanding position in professional sports after just a few days of practice—is beyond me. 

On one hand, you have Christian Ponder, who I previously thought had married down by jumping the broom with ESPN personality Sam Steele. Now it appears as though he cashed in before his stock took a dive. Well played, sir.

On the other hand, you have Matt Cassel, who’s making the Patriots look smarter with each passing day for somehow getting a second-round pick out of the Chiefs for him.

Freeman is a shoe-in to beat these two out; the only task left will be to learn that pesky playbook. Learning an NFL playbook in a week is the equivalent of cramming for a chemistry final when you skipped class all semester, but the punishment for failure is being throttled by 250-plus-pound man-beasts for 60 minutes. 

*in Dennis Leary’s voice*
"Eli Manning's QB-AH is sinkin’ fastah than Aaron Hernandez' murder weapon."

Thank you, I'll be here all week.

But in all seriousness, folks, Manning has a QBR of THREE in the fourth quarter of games this year. That’s only three points higher than Beau Sturm's fourth quarter QBR. And if dime-store analysis by talking heads has taught me anything over all the wasted hours spent watching grown-ass men crash into each other at terminal velocity, it’s that interceptions are bad. Turnovers, not good. Thank you, Troy Aikman. Matt's Pick: Giants

Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s Stone Cold Locks of the Century.... of the Week:
Browns (+10) Cleveland's stouter-than-expected defense gets a break with some key injuries to the Packers offense. No Cobb and no Jones will be an issue for Green Bay.
Dallas (+2.5) I'm not as sold as Jon Gruden is on the Nick Foles era in Philly, and their D will be shredded, yet again.
Chiefs (-6.5) K.C. isn’t the team to help Schaub and Yates get back on track. 


Until next week, folks. 

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