The Slack Lines crew (@CHFFSlackLines) puts the fun in painful, financially crippling gambling losses. Read more about this panel of maladjusted social misfits here in our Week 1 introduction. They'd like to be the first to predict that the Boston Celtics will win the 2014 NBA championship.
Current Slack Lines Standings:
Luke O’Neil (@lukeoneil47): 18-14
Nick Altschuller (@altschuller): 13-19
Beau Sturm and J (@beausturm): 12-19-1
Jerry Thornton (@jerrythornton1): 11-21
Matt Roberts (@KidRob21): 10-21-1
Crazy morning here at Slack Lines HQ (which is a couch fort I build in my apartment every Thursday morning). The Sox won the Series, and though groggy, everyone's glowing. Except those who woke up to find their windshield smashed.
Wait a minute..."Who do you call when your windshield's busted"? Why, Dennis Drinkwater, you mad genius.
Suffice it to say, things are running a little differently today. Luke is rushed, having found a freelancing gig for a Mongolian newspaper that wants his hot take on playoff beards before yak polo season. Jerry is on 47 different radio shows, instead of his normal 46. I don't even know where Beau is. As the co-owner of a sports bar, he may be trapped under a pile of overturned stools and half-empty High Life bottles. Someone should really go check on him... Fine, I'll do it. Expect his picks on Twitter later.
On to the picks!
Matt on Cincinnati @ Miami (+3)
Who dey? Who dey? Who dey think gonna beat them Bengals? Noooooobodyyyyyy!
Well, it makes no sense to me either, but I can see how it’s fun to chant garbled gibberish in the terraces on Sundays. Methinks the grammar in the "Who Dey" chant has a direct correlation to the approved sale of Everclear in the state of Ohio.
What I was unaware of, prior to the exhaustive research I did five minutes ago, is that Bengals mascot Who Dey double majored in entertainment AND fun at Bengal University. Party time along the banks of the Ohio River indeed!
Over the last three weeks, the Red Rifle has been slinging it like he's back in the schoolyard playing Gary-ball at TCU. The Bengals now have more quality wins than any team in the NFL, and look like the world-beaters they were predicted to be before the season started.
The most outlandish stat of their run is Marvin Jones scoring four touchdowns on 19 snaps (and just 13 routes run) this past weekend. What does it all mean? In this prognosticator’s humble opinion, I can definitively say: I'm not sure.
The defeat Miami took at the hands of my Patriots last week was disheartening, to say the least. As a totally unskilled, untrained analyst, and admitted Belichick sycophant, I put the loss down to the crutch of the talking head, "halftime adjustments."
Bill is the best at this, you see. His counterpart, Joe Philbin, looks barely alive, and for some reason was clapping after a call went against the Dolphins. Not what Fins fans need out of Coach Joe, more a cadaverous crypt keeper than an NFL head man.
The Bengals are rising, the Dolphins are falling, and this spread is way too low, even if the game is at Joe Robbie Pro Player Land Shark Dolphins Sun Life Stadium.
Matt's Pick: Bengals
Matt’s Stone Cold Locks of the Week:
Nick Foles has been cleared to play, which is bad news for this pick because he’s a lot better than Matt Barkley. The good news for this pick is that Nick Foles still isn't very good.
Andrew Luck vs. Case Keenum has to be worth AT LEAST 7.5 points in Indy's favor. The fact that the rest of Indy is better than the rest of Houston is just gravy. Bet the proverbial farm.
For those tracking at home, that’s three 2.5-point spreads. This one, I'm going old school baseball manager on; I have a hunch. Road to the Super Bowl goes through Cleveland... And Joe Flacco looks like an eagle.
Jerry on Atlanta @ Carolina (-7.5)
I've always believed in the credo that it takes a big man to admit when he's wrong. Of course, I've also always lived by the credo that when he's wrong, the smart man denies his mistakes, changes the subject, or, if really backed into a corner, blames them on someone who's not there to defend himself. (Ahh, George W. Bush. How many jams have you gotten me out of?)
Well, this is one of those times when I have to own up. Because in the entire history of wrongness, no one has ever been more wrongly wrong than I’ve been about Cam Newton. I'd deny it, point out the window and yell "Hey, look! A squirrel!" or blame it on Bush, but I said it on the Internet.
And unfortunately, there's a little thing called Google now that'll bust me with yottabytes of incriminating evidence, so I have no choice.
I mean, maybe it's not the biggest blunder I've ever made. There was the time I got into a land war in Asia. There was the time I went up against a Sicilian when death was on the line.
But only slightly less well known is the time I was convinced that Cam Newton would be a colossal bust, and the latest in a long, inglorious line of bad QBs taken early in the draft. He'd be JaVince Carrcouch. Only worse, because I also assumed he was the dreaded Bad Character Guy. At the NFL Combine he alienated
almost everyone but the Panthers. He traveled with an entourage of sneaker company flacks. A camera crew comprised of his own PR jerkstores followed his every move. They knocked a NFL executive lifer to the ground without as much as a sorry.
I had him pegged as the personification of Everything That's Wrong with the Modern Athlete. Ryan Leaf's soul attached to Tim Tebow's arm and Albert Hayneworth's work ethic.
But I was wr-wr-wr-wr... well, let's just say mistakes were made. Newton has workedhard. He had a rookie season that was statistically inconceivable by any rational standard. The next time he does anything questionable will be the first. Last year he even passed the most difficult test a young, successful celebrity athlete can take: handling it well when, for the first time in your life, your team is struggling.
And this year he's bounced back to the point where he's eighth in the league in passer rating. The one thing he hasn't done is win. That is, until now. For the first time in Newton's NFL career, Carolina has a winning record.
And an even greater factor than Newton's solid play has been the Panthers D, which is as good as any in football. They're giving up a Soviet-defense-of-Stalingrad-like 13.7 PPG and 301 YPG. Attacking them should work out about as well for the Falcons as it did for the Nazis. Last week, Arizona, the dictonary.com definition of an average defense, picked Matt Ryan off four times, sacked him four more and hit him 11 times.
And that wasn't the worst of it for the Atlanta. A rookie going by the name of Andre Elllington, the 187th pick out of Clemson coming off a one-carry-for-three yards (3.0 avg.) performance in Week 6, rolled over the Falcons defense for 154 yards, including an 80-yard TD.
These are two teams heading in opposite directions so fast you could make a 6th grade math problem out of them. The trend continues this week.
Jerry’s Pick: Panthers
Three things happen this week in New England. The Red Sox win the World Series. At the duck boat parade, David Ortiz peels off his outer exodermal layer, revealing that he, in fact, is a sentient being who came to Earth to show the human race how to perfectly hit a baseball in October, then teleports back to his home dimension, his job here done. And the Patriots cover.
It was revealed last week that in joint practices with the Patriots, Greg Schiano told his players that they should listen to Bill Belichick and his staff when they speak and treat them like their own coaches.
The Bucs get a bump this week when Tampa's entire roster moves over to Seattle's sideline and let's Pete Carroll call all their plays.
Can we stop talking about government shutdowns and healthcare disasters and Kardashians just long enough to talk about the real crisis in America: What's happening to our primetime games?
It can't be coincidence that we get so many gawd-awful games. Is it a conspiracy? Like, are advertisers paying off the networks to show us garbage games, so commercials look better by comparison? Or is it our employers, so we'll all go to bed and be more productive on Friday, Monday and Tuesday mornings?
All I know is that the most interest I've had in a primetime game this year was Vikings vs. Giants in Week 7, and that was just because I was trying to decide whether I prefer the Giants' old-style glossy helmet or the Vikings modern, matte finish.
Beau on San Diego at Washington (PK)
This week, Oneida Indian Nation members called on the NFL to force the Redskins to change their name. Personally, I think that forcing an 80+-year-old team to change names is ridiculous. (So, too, do the Cold, Hard Football Facts. which outlined the entire history of the franchise and the name a couple weeks ago). But, then again, I still prefer the older, more violent Looney Toons.
I think the Fighting Irish is a kinda cool nickname. I think dodge ball should be played in school. I would, however, like to bet on the name change, but I haven’t been successful finding that prop bet. This is a call to action Mr. Danny Sheridan. Let us profit from this political incorrectness via gambling! Hoorah!
As far as the game goes, the Skins just aren’t any good. They’re among the worst in almost all defensive categories. On the other side, Philip Rivers is making a return as one of the elite QBs in the NFL. He has a passer rating of 101, a 74 percent completion percentage and only five picks—three of which came in Week 5 against the Raiders.
My only hesitation is that the Chargers are flying east, and as old as the Redskins name is the betting adage that one doesn’t bet on the team that has to travel across the country. Ask Seattle, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
Beau’s Pick: The team soon-to-be-formerly known as the Redskins
I’m taking the Cowboys versus anyone for the next four weeks. Romo is 20-3 in November.
Steelers @ Patriots (Under 44)
If the over/under was nine, I’d take it.
Michigan State (+5.5)
The Wolverines are the most inconsistent team in college football. The Spartans lost to the politically incorrect team known as the “Fighting Irish” in September, but they’ve gotten better every week since.
Nick on Indianapolis @ Houston (+2.5)
I’ve been taking a long hard look at Darrius Heyward-Bey, just sitting there on my fantasy waiver wire, like a day-old cinnamon bun on a bakery counter. So stale, but potentially so delicious.
Heyward-Bey, of course, was drafted seventh overall by the Raiders in 2009, after the undead Al Davis fell in love with his 4.3 40 time. The Oakland scouts neglected, however, to check if the speedy wideout had opposable thumbs, and over four seasons Heyward-Bey had more drops than Visine. He was eventually released by the Raiders, and signed a one-year deal with the Colts in the offseason.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve also been trying to trade Andre Johnson to anyone that’ll have him, like he’s the apple in my fantasy football lunchbox. (Note to self: Stop writing while hungry.)
Johnson is a six-time Pro Bowler who last year had 112 catches for 1,598 yards, but right now I’d trade him for Eddie Royal and a ham sandwi—DAMN IT.
*Takes five minute break to eat some Triscuits over the sink*
All this deliberation is due to bad luck and circumstance. With Reggie Wayne done for the year, Heyward-Bey becomes the ostensible number one receiver for Andrew Luck, currently fifth in QBR and seventh in Real Quarterback Rating.
With a sprained ankle and a wounded pride, Matt Schaub won’t be playing for the Texans, meaning the undrafted Case Keenum will get the second start of his professional career.
I don’t know Keenum’s passer rating, but do any of us need me to look that number up to know who’s the better passer and which wide receiver is in a better position to put up points?
Here’s a number for you: Over the past two seasons, the quarterback with the higher RQR leads his team to victory 86 percent of the time. Does that account for the spread? No. But it does account for talent? Yup. And the difference between Luck and Keenum should compensate for a 2.5-point spread.
Nick’s Pick: Colts
Kansas City is 8-0, but three of those games were squeakers over the Cowboys, Texans and Browns, and the Chiefs have no victories over teams with a winning record.
That said, they have the best pass rush in the league, and the Bills may be starting their fourth QB of the season—the Oakland-released Matt Flynn—as Thad Lewis has a torso contusion and the flu. On a related note, being a Bills fan right now must be as frustrating as sneezing with bruised ribs.
Does Dallas want to win the NFC East or not? The other three teams are doing all they can to giftwrap the division. The Cowboys have talent, much more than Minnesota, and they’re due for a statement win. I just hope that statement isn’t: No. No we do not want to win the NFC East.
Buccaneers @ Seahawks (Over 40)
The Seahawks on the road: a flock of mild-mannered aquatic waterfowl. The Seahawks at home: cyborg predators sent to destroy, like Hitchcock’s The Birds mixed with Terminator 2.
Luke on Chicago @ Green Bay (-10.5)
It's kind of hard to focus on football around here with the Sox winning the World Series at Fenway for the first time since 1918. You know how long ago that was? Here's a quick list off the top of my head of things that hadn't been invented yet:
- The NFL
- Hitler gags
- Time travel
- Basic rights for black people
- Time travel
Of course, before last night even mentioning the prospect of a Sox win felt like a jinx. I didn't want to get any of my bad luck on them.
As I mentioned last week, if I’d been following my own Slack Lines picks with actual, real-world money, I’d be ahead of the game. Instead, I didn't trust myself, and went 2-2 in official picks, but 0-4 in the ones where I actually spent money.
There's a difference between just picking a spread that you think is likely to win and really betting, at which point you have to make an effort to watch the damn thing. The truth is, the easier the game is to pick, the less entertaining it is to sit through, as it most likely features one, or oftentimes two, miserably shitty teams.
Normally this longstanding rivalry game would be a tough-fought contest of a high-flying offense versus a gritty defense, but this year's Bears can't even boast the latter anymore. And now that Cutler is out, what do they have?
Streaky receivers and Matt Forte (about the only reliable starter on my fantasy team). Chicago seems to be holding out hope that Cutler will play, but a groin tear is a tough thing to come back from.
"You never want to say never, but I will say it's highly unlikely that Jay will be playing on Monday night," said coach Marc Trestman. But backup Josh McCown didn't poop his pants the other day—going 14/20 with 204 yards and a TD—and 10.5 points is a wide spread.
My best advice would be to stay away from this game entirely. There are too many variables up in the air. Unless you pick up a little extra change on the Sunday games—maybe bet my weekly locks, which I oddly never do—and want to throw that money away because it feels weird being ahead. In that case take the team with the healthy QB.
Luke’s Pick: Packers
Remember when I said the early season hype around Miami was about to fall apart? Man, I was eating those words during the first half of last week’s Patriots game. Turns out I was right, though. The Dolphins can't block anyone, never mind the Bengals, who just crushed the Jets. I doubt they’ve improved their technique over the short week.
Raiders (-2.5) After last week, the questions are: Is Oakland surprisingly decent, or are the Steelers really as awful as they've looked all year? And what the hell is going on in Philly? Whatever it is, it's not good. I think the Raiders show us their turnaround isn’t a fluke.
Steelers (+6.5) I’ve got reservations about Pittsburgh, but I don’t trust the Patriots giving 6.5 to anyone, never mind a perennially tough team like the Steelers.
Until next week.
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