Tuesday, November 30

Downtown Report

Buckeyes slaughter michigan for the 7th straight time. Browns win a game they shouldn't with me in the stands. CaVs pull out a W, again with Francis in attendance. Hell, even the Monsters and Penguins each posted two wins this weekend. With the exception of another disastrous week of airballing on NFL games, this was pretty much a perfect weekend for me.

Figgs really said all that needed to be said about this one, a game that gives Ohio State nine out of ten against its one-time rival since Mr. Jim Tressel took the helm in Columbus. Go Bucks!

The photo at right is from the Pigskin Classic, a cleverly-designed race that takes place in Downtown Cleveland the day of the OSU-michigan "game" each year. It starts on W 6th and snakes around Browns Stadium, in part because Ohio Stadium is in Columbus and that'd be one hell of a far race. Over 900 sports fans braved some chilly wind and the first snow flurries of the year to run the 5K and enjoy the outdoor tailgate up until kickoff. This blogger notched his second-best 5K at 21:04 (last year's Pigskin time of 20:03 is my best), good for 42nd out of 937 racers, while Kim scored a PR despite the less-than ideal conditions.

Post-race, I had a decision: should I get cleaned up and re-dressed in different, cleaner Buckeye gear? Nope, headed right for Pacer's. Don't regret that one for a second. Now it's on to yet another BCS Bowl for the Buckeyes, who can hopefully exorcise some SEC demons and put an exclamation point on a 12-1 campaign in early 2011. Go Bucks!

After the Buckeye hubbub, Kim, Nick, and I had another decision: should we push our luck and go to the CaVs' nightcap against the Grizzlies, basketball's third dumbest-named team? We had four upper-level tickets that Nick snagged for the grand sum of $30, so we weren't in too much cash, and though the game would have been fun, we thought maybe we could flip them for a few extra bucks (Go Bucks!) and check out the game downtown somewhere. Wisely, we spurned a scalper's offer of $5 per seat (come on) and went to the CaVs' thrilling 92-86 victory over the Griz, spearheaded by some clutch shooting from Mo Williams. Yes, the same Mo Williams who buried the Bucks (Don't Go Bucks!) three nights hence at the buzzer. Go CaVs!

Cleveland's basketballers now sit at 7-9, and while that's nothing to suggest a championship run, it's not bad basketball, and it gives me ample chance to continue to rip on Kelly Dwyer's bizarre 12-70 forecast for the '10-'11 Caballeros. Somehow, I think we have a 6-60 stretch in us to notch that elusive 13th win.

Two pictures of myself in one article? What is this, amateur hour?

This photo is an homage of sort to the great Carl Weathers, who has fashioned one of the quietly great careers in the history of entertainment ever. Consider his resume: Apollo Creed in the Rocky films, Chubbs in Happy Gilmore, whatever he was called in Predator, his awesome role as an epically cheap version of himself in Arrested Development, and now the spokesman in Bud Light's "Here We Go" campaign. I LOL every single time he pops out of the playbook and yells "Here We Go." It's fantastic. Thus, you get me all Buckeye'd out in front of a "Here We Go" flag.

But onto the third big sporting event of the weekend: Browns-Panthers, an event to which I held tickets. The Browns were 10-point favorites headed into the contest against the woeful Panthers, and let me say: I hated taking that line. I take the Browns every week just because I support them fully, but who in their right mind would really give 10 points to take a 3-7 team with a storied history of losing games against eminently beatable teams and who the Sporting Gods regularly smite with great vengeance. If I'm not a Browns fan, no way to I take us there. Oh well.

So I had some trepidation headed into the game, mitigated somewhat by Cleveland storming to a 21-7 lead early in the game and looking like the club that knocked off the Saints and Patriots and very nearly toppled the Jets. Then Jake Delhomme took over, and it was quickly 21-20 Browns. Insert "someone tell Jake he's not on the Panthers anymore" joke here. The Browns eventually prevailed 24-23 on a missed Carolina FG as time expired, but I've never left a victory that felt more like a loss. It was so joyless because of the way it went down - I still have to keep reminding myself that we did, in fact, win, completing the clean sweep of the weekend. Go Browns!

Monday, November 29

We Don't Give A Damn For the Whole State of michigan

Before I get into the details of Ohio St's 37-7 win over michigan, I'd just like to start out by sharing some numbers that make me very happy...

7, as in consecutive victories Ohio St has over michigan
6, as in consecutive Big Ten titles and soon to be BCS Bowl appearances for Ohio St
9-1, as in Jim Tressel's career record against that school up north
0-3, as in Rich Rodriguez's career record against Ohio St
100-24, as in the combined score of the series in the three games under Dick-Rod
37/515 and 7/351, as in michigan's average totals of points/yards coming into this game, and what they picked up during it
32, as in the combined IQ of the michigan team and coaching staff
3, as in the number of times a michigan fan bathes in a month
17, as in the average age of third graders throughout the state of michigan
0, as on a scale from 1-1,000 on how much I give a damn for that whole God-forsaken state

Game Recap

Ohio St got off to a rare slow start in this game, and was actually lucky to be tied at 0 after the first quarter. OSU went three-and-out on its first two drives, while michigan moved the ball effectively for drives of 45 and 56 yards, respectively. Thankfully, scUM has zero faith in their kicking game, and their two solid drives ended in a turnover on downs and a Can't-Tie fumble, both deep in Buckeye territory. Terrelle Pryor went 4/5 on Ohio St's next possession, and led them to a Devin Barclay field goal.

michigan's pathetic special teams struck again at the beginning of the second frame, when punter Seth Broekhuizen kicked one off the side of his foot that went out of bounds after 18 yards and caused Matt Millen to use the word "shank-a-delic." Pryor made quick work of the short field, completing a pass to Taurian Washington (who is apparently still on the team!), scrambling for 11 yards himself, and hitting Dane Sanzenbacher for a touchdown.

Trailing 10-0, the wolverines had another good drive, although this one would be their last. Can't-Tie did most of the work with his legs (shocker) and Michael Shaw capped it off with a 1-yard run. With the game within only three points, Ohio St decided to stop fooling around. Jordan Hall took the ensuing kickoff back to the house, and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way for the Bucks.

Jermale Hines, who had himself a fantastic day, broke up another michigan 4th down attempt on the ensuing drive. Again, Pryor wasted no time getting Ohio St into the endzone, this time connecting with DeVier Posey for a 33-yard score. Can't-Tie came out of the game on the next series due to vagina soreness, so we were all treated to a look at T. Forcier. We didn't see him for long though, as Ross Homan immediately forced a fumble to give it back to the Bucks. With the chance to put an exclamation point on an excellent 2nd quarter, TP forced a ball into double coverage and was intercepted at the goal line. Ohio St settled for a 24-7 halftime lead.

The Force was back in to start the second half, and was picked off by Travis Howard on the first play. Two minutes later, Dan Herron broke one for a 32-yard touchdown, officially putting the route on. After applying some vagisil, Can't-Tie was back in the game for the wolverines, but michigan was forced to punt when Roy Roundtree dropped what had to be his twelfth pass of the game. michigan got a lucky bounce, and pinned OSU back at their own two-yard line. Boom Herron took the next play 98 yards for what should have been the longest play in Ohio St history. Dane Sanzenbacher, who started blocking his man at the 40-yard line and drove him all the way back to the goal line, was called for a bogus holding call at the 9. The play still went down as an 89-yarder, tying the school mark, and setting up Barclay for his second FG.

Herron did most of the running the rest of the way, putting Barclay in range for another successful field goal attempt near the end of the third, completing the scoring at 37-7. The Force closed out the game for michigan, leading one decent drive but missing two more 4th down conversions. Joe Bauserman was under center for the majority of the 4th for the Bucks, but didn't attempt a pass. Ohio St is completely dominant and beats that school up north, again.

Game Recap

Game Ball
As I do every year, the michigan game ball goes to Jim Tressel. 9 out of 10. 'Nuff said.
Game balls to date: Pryor (4), Herron (3), Tressel, Torrence, Defense, Moeller

Big Ten
As expected, Wisconsin trounced Northwestern, 70-23, and stayed ahead of Ohio St in the BCS standings, sending the Badgers to the Rose Bowl, most likely against TCU. I always root for Big Ten teams that aren't michigan in Bowl games, but especially after what OSU president Gordon Gee said, it would not look good for Ohio St or the Big Ten for Wisconsin to get beat by the Horned Frogs. Lets go Badgers!

Michigan St defeated Penn St to also claim a share of the conference title. However, it is a BCS rule that no more than two teams from the same conference can make a BCS game. That seems like a tough break for the Spartans, as they go 1-0 against the two teams they are tied with, but are the odd man out. I don't care what the other pros and cons are of the BCS, I don't understand how anyone can support a system that has UConn in its marquee Bowls and not Michigan St.

With Tressel receiving the game ball, I had to make another section to give a shout out to Dan Herron, who had another magnificent game. Boom ran the ball 22 times for 175 yards and 1 (should have been 2) touchdown. That comes out to a ridiculous 8.0 yards per carry. I certainly didn't expect this type of season from Herron, as this one and the Penn St games alone should be good enough to earn him a spot next to John Clay in the All-Conference backfield.

Secondary, More Like First-ary
After losing standout safety Kurt Coleman to the NFL last year, there were a lot of questions concerning the defensive backfield for the Buckeyes. It turns out that they were the strength of the #2 ranked defense in the nation. Yes, I am calling them the strength of a defense that features two of the best linebackers in the country, that's how good they are. I've talked before about Chimdi Chekwa's talents, and how teams don't even bother to throw his way. Devon Torrence and Jermale Hines have also been terrific, and Travis Howard has had a great end of the year, coming up with one interception and two fumble recoveries against michigan. This is all with the season-ending injury to Tyler Moeller, who looked to be the best of the bunch after the first three games.

While these guys get a lot of crap for not being "real" football players, they are still absolutely essential to a winning football team. Apparently whoever taught Rich Rodriguez how to coach forgot to mention that to him. Dick-Rod is so arrogant that he completely dismissed the idea of getting a good kicker and punter on his team, and boy has it crippled them this year. michigan is 4 for 13 on kicking field goals this year. Yes, four. There are several kickers that have knocked in four in a single game. It has gotten to the point where michigan doesn't even try anymore, going for it on fourth down five times (only one successful conversion) and having The Force pooch punt it once against Ohio St.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, it feels so good having confidence in your kicker. Nearly every time Devin Barclay heads on to the field, I am confident that we have three points coming our way. Thinking back, when was the last time you have really been nervous about an Ohio St kicker? The '90s? From Mike Nugent on to Aaron Pettrey to Devin Barclay, Tressel always seems to have an outstanding kicker.

Up Next: Bowl game, TBA
In all likelihood, Ohio St will be heading to the Sugar Bowl to face an SEC team. The way it works is that the Sugar Bowl gets the first choice of an SEC team not in the title game and one at large team. With Arkansas' win over LSU last week, they are the front-runner to face the Buckeyes. If Auburn gets beat by South Carolina in the SEC Championship and is knocked from the BCS title game, our opponent would most likely be Auburn, with the Sugar Bowl having its choice of either Auburn or South Carolina. Either way, it promises to be a matchup of a high-powered offense against a devastating defense. I'll provide a more detailed preview once the game is officially announced on December 5th.


Thursday, November 25

NFL Picks: Week 12

I hate the NFL.

Last Week

Andy: 5-11 (!)
Figgs: 8-8
Nick: 9-7
Bucko: 9-7
Gopo: 9-7

Nick's Money Picks ($): 2-1
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-2

Figgs: 82-72-6
Bucko: 79-75-6
Gopo: 79-65-6
Andy: 78-76-6
Nick: 78-76-6

Nick's Money Picks ($): 23-23-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 23-9-2

Thanksgiving games

LIONS (+6.5) vs Patriots
Andy: Patriots. Hard to justify a Lions pick here.
Figgs: Patriots
Nick: Pats. Wait, I can pick Tom Brady in a game the Patriots need on a big stage against a Lions team that can't close? Sold. ($ -7)
Bucko: Pats. Can't trust the Lions on TURKEY DAY.
Gopo: Pats. Not really sure who to pick in this one as the Pats D employs a 'bend but don't break' philosophy and tends to keep games close. When in doubt, go with the better team...

COWBOYS (+3.5) vs Saints
Andy: Saints. Nick very neatly made the points I wanted. Let's not get too comfortable with the Cowboys just yet.
Figgs: Saints
Nick: Saints. Dallas still sucks, the game is indoors, and Jon Kitna's still Jon Kitna. Time for the other shoe to drop. ($)
Bucko: Saints. Dallas is improved, but not that improved.
Gopo: Cowboys. Maybe I need to stick with my 'momentum' strategy a little longer as it seems the Cowboys definitely have in. Then again, so do the Saints... hmmm, I'm taking a flier on the fact that the Cowboys are starting to pull it together (although it's a little late).

JETS (-9) vs Bengals
Andy: Bengals. The Jets' last three games have been dramatic three-point wins over teams with 2, 3, and 4 wins. In other words, I'm not giving nine to take them.
Figgs: Jets
Nick: Damn do I want to take the Bengals, but Joseph and Odom are out. Fuck it. Jets.
Bucko: Jets. Their defense is too strong for the gals.
Gopo: Bengals. Jets have kept the last few games close against inferior opponents, the Bengals are definitely an inferior opponent, and Palmer is unbelievable at making a game seem close with some garbage time drives.

Sunday games
1:00 pm kickoff

GIANTS (-7.5) vs Jaguars
Andy: Giants. Browns shoulda beaten the Jags by two touchdowns a week ago; they'll find the Giants less forgiving.
Figgs: Jax.
Nick: Giants. Jax's tackles are out. Bingo.
Bucko: Giants
Gopo: Jags.

HOUSTON (-6.5) vs Tennessee
Andy: Texans. They need this to get to .500, and that's their franchise destiny.
Figgs: Titans.
Nick: Titans. Really like the Titans here, even with Rusty Smith. They've been winning with lousy QBs for years now.
Bucko: TIT-ans
Gopo: Texans.

ATLANTA (-2) vs Packers
Andy: Packers. Statement game. I can't wait for Bucko to write that Rodgers is going to get it done.
Figgs: ATL.
Nick: Falcons. Matt Ryan is 18-1 lifetime at home and I don't have to give a field goal. Gimme Georgia Dome.
Bucko: Packers. Aaron Rodgers is the shit, he'll get it done.
Gopo: Packers.

REDSKINS (-1) vs Vikings
Andy: Redskins. Minnesota and I are through.
Figgs: Skins.
Nick: Vikings. The Skins got really banged up last week, and the Vikes will come out swinging this week as an F-U to Childress.
Bucko: Vikings
Gopo: Vikings.

BROWNS (-10) vs Panthers
Andy: Browns, all fuckin' day. I'll be there.
Figgs: BROWNS. ($)
Nick: Browns. I'll be there too. Fuck shit up!
Bucko: Panthers
Gopo: Panthers.

BILLS (+6) vs Steelers
Andy: Steelers. I like Buffalo's spirit, but this isn't Cincy. Would LOVE to be wrong about this, though the stupid steelers will probably win by 5 just to add more fuel to my fire.
Figgs: Stillers. ($)
Nick: Steelers. No comment. ($)
Bucko: Steelers
Gopo: Steelers.

4:00 pm games
SEAHAWKS (+2) vs Chiefs
Andy: Chieves. I like Seattle better at home, but I think KC is a better club.
Figgs: Hawks.
Nick: Hawks. Seattle at home (3-1). KC on the road (1-4). Do it.
Bucko: Chiefs
Gopo: Seahawks.

RAIDERS (-2.5) vs Dolphins
Andy: Can I predict a tie?
Figgs: Raiders.
Nick: Raiders. So over the Dolphins.
Bucko: Raiders
Gopo: Raiders.

BRONCOS (-4) vs Rams
Andy: Rams. I dunno, I still don't buy the Broncs. Why did I take them last week, anyway? Dumb pick.
Figgs: Rams.
Nick: Rams. No team has been more inconsistent than Denver, and the Rams have lost three tough ones on the road. Four is definitely enough for me to take StL here.
Bucko: Broncos
Gopo: Rams.

BEARS (+3.5) vs Eagles
Andy: Eagles. I've been picking Philly and being right, and picking against Chicago and being wrong. Something has to give, and I say that something is Jay Cutler.
Figgs: Philly.
Nick: Eagles. The Bears' defense is way better than I expected, but their offense still sucks. I kinda want to talk myself into Chicago here, but I think Vick and/or Jackson break one or two big ones to cover this number.
Bucko: Eagles
Gopo: Eagles.

RAVENS (-8) vs Bucs
Andy: Ravens. I think they just have too much for TB.
Figgs: Ravens.
Nick: Ravens. What Andy said.
Bucko: Ravens
Gopo: Bucs.

Sunday Night - 8:20 pm
COLTS (-3) vs Chargers
Andy: Chargers, continuing their roll and improving their playoff position. I know, I know, Peyton Manning in a night game, but still.
Figgs: Colts.
Nick: Chargers. If someone can step up in the South this might just be the year the Colts miss the playoffs.
Bucko: Colts
Gopo: Colts.

Monday Night - 8:30 pm
CARDS (pick) vs Niners
Andy: Niners. Worst MNF matchup of the year?
Figgs: Fighting Troy Smith's.
Nick: Cards. The Niners just got shut out by the Bucs. At home. DA all day.
Bucko: Niners
Gopo: Cards

Additional Money Picks
Nick: Tease Patriots (-1), Steelers (0), Ravens (-2)
Figgs: Tease Patriots (-1), New Orleans (+2.5), New York Jets (-2.5)

Brandon Jennings: You suck

The Cavaliers got a HUGE win last night, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 83-81 on Mo Williams' buzzer-beating 20-footer. The game-winner came right in the face of Milwaukee's punk second-year guard Brandon Jennings, but neither his up-close-and-personal view of the dagger nor his awful haircut are what led to the title of this post. No, that would be his postgame remarks about the shot.

"It was a lucky shot. That's all I'll say about it - just a lucky shot."

What are you, six? He made a jab step, got a clean shot right over you, and drilled it - nothing at all lucky about that, just a solid basketball play. You got beat fair and square, and it's time to be a sportsman and admit that Williams made a good play. What kind of a little baby calls a shot like that lucky? Pathetic.

You know what's lucky, Brandon Jennings? Anything you throw up that actually goes in the hoop. Ever looked at your own numbers? You're a "career" 37% shooter who managed to vomit up a 1-for-10 day from the field last night. I'd say that one you knocked home was pretty lucky, if anything. Mo Williams, on the other hand, is a career 45% shooter who abused you for 25 points on 11-for-22 shooting. Were the other 10 baskets lucky, too?

BJ, in my experience, there's no such thing as luck.

Wednesday, November 24

michigan Week

Editor's note: Figgs asked me to insert "a degrading picture of michigan" to accompany this story before publishing it. Frankly, any picture involving michigan is somewhat degrading, so I went with the final scoreboard from last time the wolverines made their way to Ohio Stadium.

As I write this, it's been 2555 days since Ohio State last dropped one to the school up north. Here's to another 365.


I picked up a second job during the holidays, and this week I literally wake up and go from job to job to sleep, so I don't really have time for a full recap of Ohio St's 20-17 thrilling victory over Iowa last Saturday. But there really isn't much to talk about, other than the fact that the Buckeyes got a huge win. Terrelle Pryor was very ineffective throwing the ball (18/133, 195 yards, 1 TD 2 INTs), but won the game on his legs when he picked up a crucial 4th and 10 by scrambling for 14 yards late in the game on what would become Ohio St's game-winning drive.

Pryor's run came one play after he hit DeVier Posey with a perfectly thrown ball that Posey dropped. Trailing 17-13 with about 5 minutes to go at this point, Posey let a sure go-ahead touchdown slip right through his hands. With all three timeouts remaining and OSU at midfield, I expected the Buckeyes to punt, but Jim Tressel decided to go for it, and put the ball in the hands of his playmaker. TP responded by picking up the first down, then completed a pass to Dane Sanzenbacher to set the Bucks up at the goaline. Boom Herron took it in for there, giving Ohio St the 20-17 lead. The Buckeye defense didn't allow Ricky Stanzi and company an attempt at a comeback, forcing a quick four-and-out and keeping the Bucks' Big Ten Championship dreams alive.

Big Ten

Unfortunately, Michigan St and Wisconsin both won last week as well, maintaining the three-way tie for first place in the conference. I think Michigan St will lose at Penn St this weekend, but don't expect the same outcome from Wisconsin playing at home against a Northwestern team without its MVP quaterback. Even still, a win over that school up north would give the Buckeyes at least a share of a sixth-straight Big Ten championship and most likely a date in the Sugar Bowl.

michigan Week

For the first time in I don't know how many years, certainly in my lifetime, Ohio St-michigan will be played on Thanksgiving weekend. Due to this and other circumstances, this will be the first time in six years that I am not in Columbus for the game. The students at OSU did the traditional jumping into Mirror Lake on Tuesday this week, instead of doing it on Thanksgiving Day.

On to the game itself...well, this is going to be fun. Saturday is the one time a year where I can simultaneously do my three favorite things - drink beers, watch Ohio St win, and watch michigan lose. And it makes it so much sweeter that we are the ones causing the wolves' pain. I'm not the only one hating on michigan this week - Vegas has OSU by 17.5. You don't see two touchdown+ spreads in this series very often.

I anticipate the Buckeyes to run well, pass well, block well, catch well, and make Can't Tie look like the bitch that he is.
Predicition: Ohio St 88 michigan 0


Tuesday, November 23


I love reading the stories about the Yankees' negotiations with Derek Jeter this off-season. At $22.6 M last year, Jeter was without question one of baseball's most overpaid players. Point to his leadership skills and embarrasing Gold Glove all you like, but the guy OPS+'d 90 (8th out of 8 qualifying Yankee batters, i.e. last) and had the worst range of any starting shortstop in MLB (Range Factor). Say what you like about defensive stats, but when you're LAST, that means something.

Anyway, Jeter's deal with the Yankees is up, and the sides are negotiating a new deal. Jeter is technically a free agent, but do you really think he's going anywhere else? Now given his "production" last year (2010 WAR = 1.3, just below, for example, Austin Kearns and Russell Branyan) and the fact that he turns 37 next year, he can't realistically be worth more than, I don't know, $3 M a year? Naturally, the Yankees have offered him a three-year deal worth $15 M a year, vastly outbidding themselves for a player who was exactly as valuable last season as Yuniesky Betancourt. Did I mention that Jeter was born in 1974?

Hilariously, and not-at-all unexpectedly, his agent Casey Close finds this lowball offer "baffling." I find it baffling too, though perhaps not for the same reasons as does Mr. Close. My favorite line from the espn story:

[Close] argued that the team is not looking at Jeter's 16-year body of work in New York and is instead focusing on his age and off year in 2010.

Really? You mean they're evaluating his prospects for future production when trying to decide a fair amount to compensate him for future production? What a concept! I think the Yankees are focusing on Jeter's 16-year body of work in New York, and while doing so are focusing on the fact that they already paid him $205.43 M for said body of work (according to baseball-reference). That's not a typo - it's over two hundred million dollars. Close somehow seems confused that the Yankees don't want to continue paying Jeter for 1996-2010 even though they've already dropped a quarter of a billion for his services over that time period.

If I were the Yankees, I think I'd be inclined to play hardball, no pun intended. They can still totally win without Jeter (that one win over a replacement player he provides seems, well, replaceable) and they know that he (a) doesn't want to go anywhere else and (b) couldn't get more than $15 M a season anywhere else. Frankly, I'm surprised the offer was that high. As much as I can't stand supporting the Yankees here, I think I have to. At least I get to back them in an argument against a Yankee.

Thursday, November 18

NFL Picks: Week 11

Not only was the end of the Browns game last Sunday by far the single worst moment of the entire NFL season so far, it was also one of the stupidest covers the league has seen in some time. Seriously, an overtime touchdown by a three-point favorite from 37 yards out with 0:16 on the clock? Ridiculous.

In other NFL news, isn't it sort of ironic how many Steelers have gone down with concussions since they defended a certain linebacker's overly aggressive ways a few weeks back? The NFL apparently does have karma, though none of it ever seems to find its way back to Cleveland.

Here on FCF, we all hovered around .500, thanks to the aforementioned disaster and the Jacksonville hail mary. Nick made a last-minute switch to Jax, giving him the week's margin of victory - he must have known that play was happening. Only five games separate the top and bottom of our standings, and no one's sitting below .500.

Last Week
Andy: 7-7
Figgs: 6-8
Nick: 8-6
Bucko: 7-7
Gopo: 7-7

Nick's Money Picks ($): 2-4
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-1

Figgs: 74-64-6
Andy: 73-65-6
Gopo: 71-67-6
Bucko: 70-68-6
Nick: 69-69-6

Nick's Money Picks ($): 21-22-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 21-7-2

Thursday, 8:20 pm

DOLPHINS (-1) vs Bears
Andy: Dolphins. Tough schedule so far for the marine mammals. Their losses so far are to New England, AFC New York, pittsburgh, and baltimore. I'm saying Chicago isn't in that category.
Figgs: Fins. I bet on Miami before I realized Ty Thigpen was starting at QB. Then again, at least he didn't go to michigan. ($)
Nick: Fish. I'm going to keep going against the Bears. Either I'm going down or they are.
Bucko: Da Bears. I gave Andy a text earlier on Thursday with my pick. Andy's note: it said: "Da Bears"
Gopo: Bears. In Thigpen I don't believe. I've been getting screwed picking against the Bears all season, and I'm sure now that I'm picking them they will screw me by losing.

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff

JAGUARS (-1) vs Browns
Andy: Browns. The Browns used to excel at losing highly-winnable games like this - I want to think this is a New Browns.
Figgs: Browns. I absolutely believe we are the better team, we just need to show it. ($)
Nick: Browns. ($)
Bucko: BROWNS!
Gopo: Browns. I'm not sure how the Jags are winning games - think the Browns have the momentum and belief they can beat anyone right now (especially a mediocre team).

BENGALS (-5) vs Buffaloes
Andy: Bengals. Why does everyone hate on Carson Palmer so much here? Did he steal your girlfriend or something? I feel like there are many, many more hateable players in the NFL. Heck, Gopo, it was a hit from your team's player that ruined his knee and possibly his career - have some sympathy!
Figgs: Jills. I'll give Buffalo this, they have a lot of fight in them. That is something I don't think I can say for Cinncy.
Nick: Billskis. I've seen 12 year old girls throw a better football than Carson Palmer with their non-dominant arms.
Bucko: Bengals. Bills can't win two in a row can they? Taking the points and the gals in this one. Andy's note: Bucko, you're actually giving the points.
Gopo: Bills. Carson Palmer is going to have another huge garbage time fantasy day.

COWBOYS (-6.5) vs Lions
Andy: Lions. One of two things is true: either the Cowboys have their confidence back and will start playing well, or they still suck. I'm taking the points, given how adept Detroit has proven themselves at staying within that margin.
Figgs: Boys. Apparently they'll play for Garrett.
Nick: Lions.
Bucko: Lions. The Cowboy thing last week was just a fluke. They were just happy to get fatty out of there.
Gopo: Lions. That's a lot of points for a team that's been pretty bad up until last week. I will keep the faith that the Lions can keep it close.

TITANS (-7) vs Redskins
Andy: Titans. Simply can't take Washington after Monday Night. That was unreal.
Figgs: Titans. After seeing what Philly did to the Skins last week, I could see CJ setting some records in this one.
Nick: Titans. I bet the Skins have a chance to cover, but under no circumstances can I back them here.
Bucko: TIT-ans. The Redskins players seem to be giving up, too much going on in the locker room.
Gopo: Titans. I think the Redskins are just about ready to roll over and die on Shanahan.

CHIEVES (-9) vs Cardinals
Andy: Chieves. I've picked the Cards three times this season and missed every time, and KC is due to bounce back at Arrowhead.
Figgs: Cards. Just too many points.
Nick: Chiefs. KC is really tough at home.
Bucko: Chieves. What Andy said.
Gopo: Cards. Agree with Figgs - too many points on a team that plays pretty sloppy.

VIKINGS (+3) vs Packers
Andy: Vikings. They'll have one of those games like Dallas did last week where they put it together, then quite possibly suck again.
Figgs: Vikes. If Favre has anything left, this is the game he'll show it.
Nick: Packers. Go Pack Go!
Bucko: Packers. My boy is going to have a huge game.
Gopo: Packers. I hope Rodgers demolishes Favre then hooks up with Jenn Sterger after the game.

JETS (-7) vs Texans
Andy: Jets. Houston can't stop anyone, won't want to play outdoors, has an ailing QB, and has to feel like garbage after last week. Gopo, I disagree with calling the Jets "shaky"? Consider: they have the best record in the NFL, the 3rd-best point differential, control the ball (4th in rushing and 5th against the run), and have only lost to Baltimore (6-3) and Green Bay (6-3, and NFL's best +/-). That, my friend, is a stable team.
Figgs: Texans. I really don't know why I keep picking this team.
Nick: Jetropolitans. The Texans blow. Why hasn't everyone figured this out?
Bucko: Jets. Francis brought up some good points. Also, the Jets have a good "D" and the Texans don't have shit on "D".
Gopo: Texans. Too many points for me to take a shaky Jets team - I think the Texans keep it close at the end when their offense starts clicking in the fourth quarter.

STEELERS (-7) vs Raiders
Andy: Raiders. I dunno on this one, so as Figgs says, go against the Steelers. Also, Gopo, your 6-3 team is a "mess"? My goodness, you wouldn't last a month as a Browns fan!
Figgs: Raiders. I'm pretty iffy on this one, so when in doubt...go against the rapists.
Nick: Steelers. I really hope I'm wrong, but I think Pitt throws the ball alright with that super duper corner whose name I can't spell out of commission.
Bucko: Steelers. Just a flip of the coin on this one. I think they will keep the Raiders run game in check.
Gopo: Raiders. The Steelers are a mess and the Raiders actually are a decent team. Hopefully the Steelers win this one, but I think it will be close.

PANTHERS (+10) vs Ravens
Andy: Ravens. I originally wrote Panthers, but there's simply no way I can justify that. And what's with Bucko suddenly turning heel with this pick?
Figgs: Ravens. There is a good chance Baltimore can score 11 points in this game and cover. ($)
Nick: Ratbirds.
Bucko: Ravens. The Panthers just suck like all of you.
Gopo: Ravens. Ravens should be forced to play with all backups and Flacco.

4 pm kickoff

49ERS (-3) vs Bucs
Andy: 49ers. One of the tougher picks here for me. I dunno, the Bucs are kinda good,but not great, and I had been picking relentlessly against San Fran earlier in the year. But Troy Smith seems to have rejuvenated them and so I'll take them at home here.
Figgs: Niners. Let's go Troy Smith!
Nick: Niners in a spot play. Figgs, remember when you formed the "Troy Smith should give back the Heisman" Facebook group? Figgs' note: I stand by it. His performance in that title game was pathetic.
Bucko: 49ERS. Their offense is healthy and playing well.
Gopo: Bucs. I'm not sure the 49ers can convincingly beat anyone, so I'll take the points on this one.

SAINTS (-12) vs Seahawks
Andy: Saints. They're back.
Figgs: Saints. I'm confident with any spread under two touchdowns here.
Nick: Saints. I really want to grab those points, but I'll take my chances with the Saints.
Bucko: Saints. Have I mentioned I hate Pete Carroll?
Gopo: Seahawks. This weeks picks could be awful - not sure why I'm taking a flyer on the 'hawks here, but it definitely has something to do with the fact that 12 points is a lot.

RAMS (+3) vs Falcons
Andy: Falcons. I've enjoyed the Rams this season, I really have. But I think I need to take Atlanta here, only giving three.
Figgs: Falcons. I'm not so sure why this line is so low. Probably to bait me in to losing money. Well Vegas - hook, line, sinker. ($)
Nick: Falcons. The Rams have been great for me this year, but the Falcons are a much better team and they still get to play indoors. ($)
Bucko: Dirty Birds. As every one said, this is too low.
Gopo: Falcons. Rams are pretty legit, but this line is too low for a really quality team like the Falcons.

PATRIOTS (-3.5) vs Colts
Andy: Patriots. Looking forward to this one, no doubt.
Figgs: Pats. This is always the non-AFC North game I look forward to most every year. I don't like NE and I'm neutral on Indy, but there is nothing more impressive than watching these two teams go head-to-head.
Nick: Patriots. The Colts are now in the Pats' league right now with all of these injuries. Try to hide that erection, Bucko.
Bucko: Colts. Peyton will keep it within 3 at least.
Gopo: Patriots. I think the Pats just have it all together this year - fresh off the steamrolling of the Steelers, I see a beat down of the Colts.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm

EAGLES (-3) vs Giants
Andy: Eagles. Still in shock after Monday.
Figgs: Philly. This is exactly where I had the spread, so basing this on last week's performance, I'll take the birds.
Nick: Birds. I really want to take the Giants with the points to bounce back, but Philly has won four straight against Big Blue, and that was without Vick. ($)
Bucko: Eagles. Vick looks pretty damn good. Did Paul "Wrecking" Crewe teach him how to throw in the slammer?
Gopo: Eagles. Good line, good game, so I'm going with momentum and the home team.

Monday Night Football, 8:20 pm

CHARGERS (-10) vs Broncos
Andy: Broncos. Ten points?
Figgs: Chargers. Also right where my line was. A few weeks ago I was thinking that the mid-season Charger run might never come. Looks like I was wrong.
Nick: Bolts. This is probably three points too high, but can you see Denver winning this game? I really can't, plus San Diego has been very tough at home against mediocre opponents this year.
Bucko: Broncos. No legit reason just going with the Canton boy in this one.
Gopo: Chargers. They probably pull it together defensively after watching the Broncos put up like 50 points on film from last week.

Wednesday, November 17

Ten Points: Browns/Jets

1. That old feeling.

What a difference a month makes. Four weeks ago the Browns were 1-4 and getting ready to start third-string rookie Colt McCoy in Pittsburgh with subzero expectations. The team had definitely shown improvement, but they were having trouble closing out games and the prospect of starting McCoy excited no one.

Four games later we sit at 3-6 after splitting a four game stretch against Super Bowl contenders who have a combined record of 32-10. The defense has stiffened, the offensive line is above-average, Peyton Hillis has established himself as (yeah I’ll say it) an elite back, and Colt McCoy looks like the most promising Browns rookie quarterback since one Bernard Joseph Kosar. As rough as this loss to the Jets feels right now, if we keep things in perspective, we have plenty to be happy about.

And I’m not the first to say it – but although they returned in 1999, I finally feel like the Browns are back. I woke up Sunday morning and showered, shaved, ate, put on the colors, and did some homework. But around noon it hit me – I was nervous again. I haven’t felt anxiety before a game since late 2007. At one point during the game I had to fight off a Remote Toss. That, my friends, is a terrific sign. I spent the vast majority of the last two seasons watching the Browns like an objective, emotionless Vulcan. It seems like those days are gone, and I couldn’t be happier about it. After gritting our teeth through another tough Tribe season and watching a certain someone head south this summer, it’s going to be really fun to watch everyone fall in love with the Browns all over again. I don’t know about you, but I’m more ready to get hurt again.

2. Greater than the sum of its parts

When you think of “explosive offenses,” the Jersey Jets might not come to mind, but you can make a strong argument that they have the best offensive line in the league. This Browns defense will always be vulnerable to some coverage breakdowns because of the lack of depth and overall inexperience of the secondary. Eric Wright’s continued existence doesn’t help either, but I digress. The point is that if a team can run consistently on the Browns, then the Browns might be serious trouble, and the Jets are tough enough up front for their tandem of Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson to do just that.

Although Greene and LT2 did pile up a combined 129 yards, the Browns only allowed a stingy 3.4 yards per carry, which was great to see. Wildcat quarterback Brad Smith actually gave them more grief, carrying for 39 yards on 7.8 YPC.

Mark Sanchez had a nice day throwing the football, but if the Browns had hung onto a couple of those late sacks that he evaded, they might be celebrating their third straight win tonight. I know that there were three missed field goals, but the defense really didn’t give up that many points when you consider that they gave up 456 yards in five quarters of football, and they held the Jets to just 3 points in the second half.

Rob Ryan put together another dynamite game plan this week, and once against left me wondering what he could do if we give Tom Heckert another winter or two to improve this roster. Here’s hoping that Ryan doesn’t get poached by a team with a head coaching vacancy for at least one more season.

3. Shaun isn’t dead

While we’re talking defense, Shaun Rogers looked like his 2008 self again. Although he didn’t show up on the stat sheet, Rogers was constantly double-teamed and still managed to harass Mark Sanchez with regularity.

To compare Rogers’ attitude to Randy Moss’ is unfair, but I don’t totally buy that Rogers’ issues this season have been purely related to his mysterious ankle injury. His motivation hasn’t totally been there this year, but maybe the team’s upturn has poured some gas on the big man’s fire. Regardless of the reason, if Rogers can play the rest of the season like he did on Sunday, he can give the defense an entirely different dimension.

4. The aforementioned Eric Wright

What more needs to be said? Wright was toasted again today, most notably on Santonio Holmes’ game-winning touchdown catch and Jericho Cotchery’s impressive overtime catch in the middle of the field. The Cotchery catch was worse because the guy hurt himself early in the play, and Wright could have easily defended the pass if he hadn’t already given up on the play.

Wright’s confidence was clearly rocked when he was torched by Anquan Boldin back in week three, and he hasn’t recovered. My guess is that his lack of confidence combined with the pressure of a contract year has gotten to Wright. It will be very interesting to see what the market is for Wright, and whether or not he’s back in Cleveland next year.

Personally, I feel for the guy. Whether you’re playing sports, heading into your job, or taking an exam, there’s nothing worse than totally losing your bearings and feeling. I hope Wright can get things turned around because he is still vitally important to the defense, but the season is now over 50% complete, and I’m done holding my breath.

5. Peyton Hillis is the epitome of rugged masculinity

Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself waiting for a team to bring some Kryptonite and make Peyton Hillis look like a real boy. It hasn’t happened yet.

When healthy, Hillis has been an unstoppable force, and he had another solid day against one of the league’s best run defenses, picking up 82 yards on a healthy 4.3 YPC. Hillis is such a powerful runner that it’s easy to forget he’s also the team’s number two receiver. My spider sense tells me Hillis will be a good candidate for a new contract this winter.

6. Insert “Colt” pun here

As much as I thought the risk-reward proposition was attractive when the Browns grabbed Colt McCoy in the third round, I was very skeptical about the Texan’s pro prospects. Obviously four games do not make a career, but Daniel “Colt” McCoy is certainly on his way to proving me wrong. If he can pull it off, I will never be more excited to issue a mea culpa.

Like I said earlier, McCoy has been the most impressive young Browns quarterback we’ve seen in a generation. His extensive college starting experience and excellent preparation skills are evident, as he never seemed overwhelmed even against blitz-happy defenses like the Steelers and Jets.

McCoy is undersized, lacks the cannon of a Matthew Stafford, and doesn’t have the mobility of a Michael Vick. What he seems to have is that elusive “it” that separates good pro quarterbacks from the ranks of career backups.

I don’t want to climb aboard the bandwagon just yet, because we still have to see how McCoy handles the league’s adjustments during the balance of the season, but I’ve purchased my ticket and my bags are packed.

7. Yeah…about those fumbles…

The fumbles clearly have to stop. This team is good enough that if Colt McCoy takes care of the football and makes a few plays, they’re going to win more games than they lose down the stretch. And although losing multiple fumbles in a professional game is inexcusable, we should at least be happy with why the fumbles occurred.

Hillis and Stuckey fumbled not solely due to carelessness, but because they were fighting for extra yardage. You can say what you want about Eric Mangini – the guy certainly isn’t perfect – but he has these players ready to run through a brick wall for him. This Browns team fights harder than any I’ve ever watched.

In that regard, I can excuse the fumbles last week. However, playing hard and playing smart don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and that’s what the Browns need to work on down the stretch.

Chansi Stuckey had to recognize that the Browns were almost in field goal range, and that ball security was much more important than picking up one or two extra yards. Peyton Hillis has to realize that defenders are punching at the ball because they think he’s fumble-prone, and that he needs to cover up more when he’s taking contact at the end of a run. (On a side note, Phil Simms made the great point that Hillis’ bulging arms probably make it tougher for him to secure the ball one-handed.)

If the Browns combine the effort and desire that they’ve clearly demonstrated in the last few games with some situational know-how, then they’re going to be a very dangerous opponent.

8. Strategery

There has been plenty of talk about how Eric Mangini handled this game down the stretch, particularly in overtime. I won’t fault him for trying to throw for a first down, and if anything the Browns weren’t aggressive enough.

Even at 4-5 the Browns’ playoff hopes would be on life support, but at least they’d be alive. With five losses already, a tie would hurt the Browns much more than the Jets. The Browns really had nothing to lose and shouldn’t have been thinking about preserving the tie at all.

If you want to argue that the tie would be good for morale, I’ll bite. But whatever Mangini’s thoughts, they weren’t executed with any consistency. If you’re thinking tie, then you run three times, hopefully pick up the first down, and if nothing else you’ve created some room to punt.

But if you’re really playing for the win – and it’s what they should have done – then you not only should be throwing, you should be thinking “four down territory” during all of your overtime possessions.

Kicking the extra point after the fourth quarter touchdown was just as big, if not a bigger issue. The Browns were outgained and needed two missed field goals and a late touchdown drive just to force overtime. Starters Scott Fujita, Sheldon Brown, Joshua Cribbs, and Billy Yates had been knocked out of the game, and the Browns really had nothing to lose. They should have just taken their chances that Peyton Hillis could gain two yards for a two point conversion to end the game right there.

Even if they had lost, Mangini probably would have been praised for actually having the guts to go for the win. Part of the problem with most NFL coaches is that they don’t want to put themselves in a position where someone can point the finger at them for a controversial decision that resulted in a loss. All too frequently conventional wisdom is treated as gospel, resulting in coaches who are too scared to take a risk. Mangini may regret that decision in hindsight.

9. Playoff races heating up

Although the Browns would now basically have to win out to make the playoffs (and Romeo Crennel’s ’07 squad serves as a reminder that even 10-6 guarantees nothing), the NFL playoffs are the most exciting event in sports, and we’re just about at the time of year when teams will start to separate themselves. Largely for my own indulgence, let’s take a quick look at how the divisions are shaking out.

AFC East
The Patriots and Jets are both for real and should be counted among the four or five elite teams in the AFC. There is almost no doubt that both of these teams will be playing in January; it’s just a matter of who will win the division. That makes the way the Browns played them the last two weeks even more impressive. The Dolphins are 5-4 with a mess at quarterback, although I wonder if Tyler Thigpen will really be that much worse than Chad Henne. Bill Parcells has really helped right the ship in Miami, but I fear that regardless how good the rest of their team is, they may be stuck in that 7-10 win purgatory unless Chad Henne takes a sudden leap forward or they find a better alternative at quarterback.

AFC North
Home, sweet home. Given the recent attrition the Steelers have endured with serious losses on the offensive line and Aaron Smith heading to injured reserve, I’d put the Ravens ahead of the Steelers. That’s fine by me – I don’t have to deal with Ravens fans running around in filthy urine-colored jerseys making grunts and clicks at me through their toothless mouths. Unfortunately it would take a serious collapse for the Steelers to miss the playoffs. It is worth noting that the Browns whipped the Saints and Patriots one week before each of those teams beat the Steelers. If only the transitive property applied to the NFL. The Bengals’ window has closed suddenly, with Carson Palmer’s washed-upness finally rearing its ugly head.

AFC South
There’s an interesting race here with all four teams separated by only two games. In the coming weeks, I’ll bet that we see the Colts and Titans take the division race down to the wire, while the Jags and Texans fade away. The Colts also might just be a paper tiger, and they’ll be tested with dates against the Pats, Chargers, and Titans in the next month. Whoever loses the division race may have a tough time beating out the second place teams in the East and North for that last Wild Card spot.

AFC West
Although the records aren’t exciting, the West should give us a great race down the stretch. The Chargers and Raiders both look like teams nobody wants to play right now, and one of those two should beat out the upstart Chiefs. Josh McDaniels has sure run the Broncos into the ground in a hurry, hasn’t he?NFC EastWe basically know that it’s going to be the Eagles and Giants, but we’re not sure about the order. Whoever is left out will have to fight with the second place squads from the North and South for those two playoff spots. It is truly a delight to watch meddling owners Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones fail – it makes Randy Lerner look like Einstein for backing the Brinks truck into Mike Holmgren’s driveway.

NFC North
The Vikings are 3-6 and basically out of this thing, so will Brett Favre just go away? On a side note, if you haven’t seen the “Wrangler Open Fly Jeans” SNL sketch, it’s a great way to spend the next 69 seconds of your life. I keep waiting for the Bears to fall apart, and they keep making my wallet lighter. I still think that the Packers will beat out the Bears, who have a brutal schedule down the stretch, and have Jay Cutler just itching to throw down a four interception game. I know that there’s very little love for Michigan in this space, but you have to feel a little for the Lions. They are turning that thing around and playing really hard each week, but Matt Stafford just seems snake-bitten.

NFC South
The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs are all separated by just one game. The Bucs have to come back to earth at some point, right? They are 6-3 with a minus-18 point differential, and they have road games with San Francisco and Baltimore, then a home date with the Falcons coming up. I would bank on them losing at least two out of three, and ultimately coming up short in the Wild Card race. It is still a great season for Tampa. The Falcons and Saints are both playoff teams, and both have soft schedules down the stretch. Carolina had better take a long, hard look at Jimmy Clausen, because they’ve got a good chance to win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

NFC West
What a train wreck of a division. The Seahawks have a one game lead over the Rams at 5-4, making them the only team over .500. I want to pick the Rams to come back and win this thing, but who the hell knows? Mike Holmgren doesn’t look like a fool for allegedly offering tons of draft picks and a jelly of the month subscription to the Rams in exchange for the right to draft Sam Bradford. Watch for the 49ers to make a late push, but at 3-6 I don’t think they’re so much better than the Rams and Seahawks that they can catch them both. The poor Cardinals fans (all four of them) have gone from Kurt Warner to Derek Anderson in a year. That’s like watching Caddyshackon Monday night and popping in Caddyshack II on Tuesday. Yep, that bad.

10. Up next: at Jacksonville, EverBank Field, 1:00, CBS (DirecTV 707)

The underrated benefit of becoming a good team is getting better commentators. Last week we were unexpectedly treated to Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Simms isn’t the best (nor is he the worst), but Nantz has a voice that could make a wolverine purr. This week we’re back to our old pals Bob Macatee and Rich Gannon. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

If you’ve stuck around for the entirety of this column, you already know how I feel about the Jaguars. I don’t think that they’re a playoff contender, and they’re a great measuring stick for the Browns because of how they’ve played their schedule. The Jags are 5-4, but their wins have come against Denver (can score, no defense), Indy (overrated and a 3-6 team without Manning), Buffalo (bless them, they try), Dallas (I heard Romo’s ex is getting engaged?), and Houston (see: Denver). Their losses have come to San Diego (25 points), Philly (25), Tennessee (27), and Kansas City (22), all of whom are varying degrees of good. If the Browns are an above-average team right now (records notwithstanding) – and I believe they are – then they go into Jacksonville and win this game, even if they are a little shorthanded. Let’s get it done, men.

Prediction: Browns 27, Jags 20

Tuesday, November 16

Defense Lifts Buckeyes Past Penn St

Ohio St seemed to be just as drunk as I was in the first half of last Saturday's game against Penn St, trailing 14-3 at the break. Thankfully, the team and I began to sober up at halftime, and the Buckeyes rolled off 35 unanswered points in the game's final 30 minutes for a 38-14 victory over the Lions.

Game Recap

The Buckeyes were on the board first after a DeVier Posey 50-yard catch set up a Devin Barclay field goal. Little did we know, that would be all of Ohio St's scoring in the first two quarters. Terrelle Pryor and the OSU offense just couldn't move the ball a lick, while Penn St QB Matt McGloin looked fantastic. McGloin hooked up with Justin Brown and Derek Moye for touchdowns, putting the Nitany Lions up 14-3.

Meanwhile, Ben Buchanan was on to punt on all four of Ohio St's drives following the FG. The Buckeye defense was shaky at best in the first half, but they did come up with a huge play that may have turned the game around. With halftime just a couple of minutes away, Penn St decided to go for a 4th and 1 at the OSU 20-yard line. RB Silas Redd was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for no gain, leaving Ohio St thankful to only be down 11 as the teams headed to the locker room.

The second half was a completely different story. McGloin looked lost, PSU could not tackle Boom Herron, the ball started bouncing Ohio St's way, and I was coherent. Penn St punted on their first possession of the half, and pinned OSU back at their own 4-yard line (the 2-yard line after a false start penalty). Ohio St marched the length of the field in 11 plays spanning five and a half minutes, while only putting the ball in the air twice. Herron did the majority of the work and finished the drive with a touchdown, but was also helped out by a couple of nice runs from Pryor and Brandon Saine.

At this point, I leaned to the racist old man sitting next to me (He was actually a really nice guy that I ended up having several pleasant conversations with, but he was one of those people that was definitely a racist without realizing that they are. Let's just say that while referring to Terrelle Pryor throughout the game, the word "ghetto" was used about a dozen times.) and said, "This is where good Ohio St teams would come up with a defensive touchdown." True story. This apparently is in fact a good Ohio St team, as Devon Torrence tipped McGloin's pass to himself then took it back 34 yards to put the Bucks on top for the first time all game and making me look like a genius.

Boom ran well on the next OSU possession, but Pryor ended the drive by being intercepted near the goaline. Luckily, Ohio St's defense was not going to be denied. They gave the ball right back to TP after a three-and-out, and lady luck proved to be wearing scarlet and gray when Dane Sanzenbacher caught a 58-yard TD pass to put Ohio St up 24-14. Pryor's pass was intended for Posey, who was instantly met by two PSU defenders. The ball squirted out and directly into the hands of Sanzenbacher, who took it the rest of the way.

If that play didn't seal it, Travis Howard's pick-six two plays later certainly did. Pryor added another touchdown, this one to TE Jake Stoneburner, late in the game for good measure. Ohio St scores the last 35 points of the game and gives Jim Tressel his largest comeback victory of his career, 38-14.

Game Notes

Game Ball
Goes to...Dan Herron/Devon Torrence. It was a good day to be wearing #1 for the Buckeyes. Herron finished the day with 21 carries for a career-high 190 yards and a touchdown. On a day where Terrelle Pryor was largely ineffective (8/13 for 139 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), Ohio St just pounded their horse and he responded beautifully, gaining nine yards per carry. Old Man Racist and I agreed that it was the quietest 200-yard game you will ever see. It didn't look like he did anything spectacular, he just couldn't be brought down.

With all that being said, who knows how this game turns out if Torrence doesn't get that pick-six. It was a total game-changer, completely swinging the momentum towards Ohio St, getting the crowd back into it, and shaking McGloin's confidence for the duration of the game.
Game balls to date: Pryor (4), Herron (3), Torrence, Defense, Moeller

Big Ten
It was a pretty boring day in the conference outside of Ohio Stadium. The biggest news came when Northwestern upset Iowa, 21-17, knocking the Hawkeyes out of the Big Ten race a week before we could do it. Exceptional QB Dan Persa threw the game-winning touchdown for the Wildcats, but ended his season on the play when he ruptured his Achilles. That's a tough blow for N'western, as at 7-3 they are having one of their best seasons in years.

Elsewhere, Minnesota got their first conference victory with a surprising win at Illinois, Wisconsin continues to roll by putting up 83(!) against Indiana, and that-school-who-must-not-be-named beat a bad Purdue team. But I'm a glass half-full kind of guy, so instead of looking at scUM's win, I choose to focus on the fact that Can't-Tie had more turnovers (4) than he did yards per carry (3.1).

The Horseshoe
Man, is it ever a blast every time I am in Columbus. The weekend began with my buddy and I polishing off a bottle of Black Velvet on the four-hour trip down Friday night, and of course was headlined by Ohio St's victory. The win brings my Horseshoe record to 7-1. (I get more and more pissed at Limas Sweed every time I have to put that "1" there.) Let me say this, it is definitely a good idea not to sell beer at college stadiums. (Does anyone know if that is that a nation-wide rule, or on a campus-to-campus basis?) I was pretty far gone at the tailgate, but was able to re-group at the game by not drinking for four hours. If I would have had access at the game, I still may be passed out in the stands.

Up Next: @Iowa (7-3, 4-2), 3:30, ABC
The stakes for Ohio St are simple. Beat Iowa and they are a victory over michigan away from being Big Ten (co)Champions for the sixth-straight year and more than likely on their way to a sixth-straight BCS appearance. Lose to Iowa and they drop to 4th in the Big Ten standings and could be looking at playing in a second-tier bowl game.

Iowa's strength is their ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, as DE Adrian Clayborn is meaner than Big Ben when you take his roofies and RB Adam Robinson is closing in on the 1,000 yard mark. QB Ricky Stanzi can be mistake-prone, but has some big time weapons in receivers Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. It won't be easy to run against these guys, and the game may come down to whether or not Terrelle Pryor can make the big plays. I'm betting that he can.
Prediction: Ohio St 24 Iowa 16


Friday, November 12

NFL Picks: Week 10

Last Week
Andy: 6-6-1
Figgs: 8-4-1
Nick: 6-6-1
Bucko: 8-4-1
Gopo: 7-5-1

Nick's Money Picks ($): 4-0
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 2-1

Figgs: 68-56-6
Andy: 66-58-6
Gopo: 64-60-6
Bucko: 63-61-6
Nick: 61-63-6

Nick's Money Picks ($): 19-18-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 19-6-2 (!)

Bye week: Packers, Raiders, Saints, Chargers

Thursday night game
8:20 pm kickoff

FALCONS (-1) vs Ravens
Andy: Ravens. #wishtheycouldloseandcover
Figgs: Ravens.
Nick: Ratbirds. Baltimore wins almost every match up except QB, and Flacco's competent enough to help them get out of the ATL with a victory. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. If I'm Eric Cartman, then maybe Baltimore can be my Dark Lord Cthulhu. Go Ravens. ($)
Bucko: Da Birds. I'm sick of picking the Ravens.
Gopo: Falcons. Not sure what the line is just yet, but my guess is that it will be something like falcons +1-3. Taking the points and hating the Ravens full force at the same time? Sign me up.

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff

BROWNS (+3) vs Jets
Andy: Browns. #superbowl
Figgs: Browns. Last week I vowed to never pick against the Browns again. I am a man of my word.
Nick: Browns. You've gotta have heart. Miles and miles of heart.
Bucko: Jets. Completely agree with Gopo.
Gopo: Jets. I think the Jets stop the run and force McCoy to beat them. He might be able to do this, but I can't rely on a guy who has yet to throw a TD pass. I'll be pulling for the Browns in this game, but don't think they'll keep their streak going.

BUFFALOES (-3) vs Lions
Andy: Lions #justcoverbaby
Figgs: Lions. Again, I just can't give points with the Jills.
Nick: Lions.
Bucko: Lions. Bills will get a win, but I'm not feeling it this week.
Gopo: Bills. Changing this late Saturday for no real reason.

BEARS (+1) vs Vikes
Andy: Vikings. #lesseroftwoevils
Figgs: Vikes. Chicago is no good.
Nick: Vikings. Gonna keep riding against Chicago. One of these times I'm going to be right. ($)
Bucko: Vikings. I can't stand watching Cultler QB. His mechanics are terrible.
Gopo: Vikings. Vegas continues to think the Bears are good for some reason. Andy's right: they are the worst 5-3 team of all time.

BUCS (-7) vs Panthers
Andy: Bucs. #teamsineverthoughtidgiveseventotake
Figgs: Bucs. This a lot of ponts for a mediocre team, but Carolina is real bad.
Nick: Bucs. They're reliable against bad teams, and they almost upset the Falcons last week. ($)
Bucko: Bucs. This team is actually pretty good and the Panthers have no RB or QB worth a damn.
Gopo: Bucs. I really want to take the Panthers here, but every time I type the name down, I go back and delete it because it looks retarded.

JAGS (-1.5) vs Texans
Andy: Texans #rebound
Figgs: Texans. After winning some cash on Houston early in the year, they've cost me the past two weeks. Let's hope we can get back on the same page this week. ($)
Nick: Jags. Last minute change. Just a feeling, especially with the public leaning heavily on the Texans.
Bucko: Texans
Gopo: Texans. I will stick with my working hypothesis: the Jags are awful against mediocre and above teams.

COLTS (-7.5) vs Bengals
Andy: Bengals #stubborn
Figgs: Indy. Palmer is a fraud.
Nick: Bengals. Take the air out of the ball and run it.
Bucko: Colts. Once again why aren't the Bengals a better team.
Gopo: Colts. The only reason I would consider Cincy is because Palmer is an awesome garbage time QB and he's going to have a lot of garbage time.

DOLPHINS (+1.5) vs Titans
Andy: Titans #postbye
Figgs: Miami. Two pretty even teams, so give me the home team and the points.
Nick: Titans. Bye week, plus Miami can't move the football. ($ even)
Bucko: TIT-ans. Got to give Pennington a week or two before I feel comfortable picking the Dolphins.
Gopo: Titans. Tennessee will be ready for this one and the Dolphins are a pretty bad home team.

4 pm kickoff

BRONCOS (+1) vs Chiefs
Andy: Chieves #whynot
Figgs: KC.
Nick: Chiefs. KC should be able to chew these guys up on the ground. ($)
Bucko: Chiefs. Broncos really can't do much of anything.
Gopo: Chiefs. For absolutely no real reason - I think they just have lady luck on their side which has helped their confidence.

GIANTS (-14.5) vs Cowboys
Andy: Cowboys #toomanypoints
Figgs: Giants. I had the Cowboys typed in because this is a lot of points, but screw it, Dallas really blows.
Nick: Cowboys. 14.5 is a ton of points to give with a Giants team that isn't typically a big time scoring club. The Cowboys will play harder without Wade.
Bucko: Cowboys. I agree this is too many points.
Gopo: Cowboys. Changing this for no reason.

CARDINALS (-3.5) vs Seahawks
Andy: Cardinals #unwatchable
Figgs: Cards. Two things I hate picking, Seattle on the road and a team quarterbacked by Derek Anderson. Give me DA, I guess.
Nick: Cards. Charlie Whitehurst.
Bucko: Seahawks.
Gopo: Cardinals. Whitehurst is a below average college QB.

49ERS (-6) vs Rams
Andy: Rams. #sorrytroy
Figgs: Rams. I hate picking against Troy Smith here, but I just don't see the logic in this San Fran team being favored by this many points. ($)
Nick: Rams. The Rams should be the favorite, but I need to see them do it one more time on the road before I'm comfortable betting them.
Bucko: 49ERS. They are coming off a bye. I look for a huge game from Gore.
Gopo: Rams. 49ers are not a very good team and the Rams are starting to get themselves some momentum.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm

STEELERS (-4.5) vs Patriots
Andy: Patriots #samelogicasmysaintspicktwoweeksago #steelerssuck #worstteamever #jumpinalake #haterade
Figgs: Pats. Screw Pittsburgh.
Nick: Pats. Damn them all to hell.
Bucko: Steelers. I still believe that they might be the best in the league. I'm getting sick of their winning.
Gopo: Pats. Horrible analysis by Andy - Pittsburgh is not the worst team ever and the Browns definitely aren't the best team ever. Pats own the Steelers, and though I hope the Steelers win, this is going to be a 3 point game I think.

Monday Night Football, 8:30 pm

REDSKINS (+3) vs Eagles
Andy: Eagles #betterteam
Figgs: Philly. There is a chance Washington will have a Sexy Rexy sighting, and I only have to give three? Deal. ($)
Nick: Ealges. Trap game of the week? ($)
Bucko: Eagles.
Gopo: Eagles. As much as I don't want to admit it, the Eagles with Vick look like a pretty strong offensive team. I think they run away with this one.

Thursday, November 11

Thoughts From the Bye Week

Not even Ohio St being off last week and my internet being down the past three days could stop me from writing a post to hate on michigan. While I'm here, we might as well talk some Buckeyes as well.

If we pretend like the Wisconsin game never happened, here would be my thoughts on the Buckeyes' 2010 campaign:

- Terrelle Pryor is all we could have hoped he could be, and then some. Just give him the Heisman now.

- The defense is invincible.

- OSU is 7-1 against the spread and made me some bank.

- With the Big Ten title and undefeated season all but wrapped up, it's time to look ahead to Auburn/Oregon/TCU/whoever in the title game. I really think we could beat any of those teams.

Unfortunately, the Wisconsin game did happen, causing all of those statements to not be entirely true. Pryor has still really impressed me this year, but due to his poor performance against the Badgers and the fact that OSU is not a top-ranked team, his bid for the Bronzed Stiff-Arm is out. The defense has seemed flawless in eight of the nine games this season, but they let John Clay and the UW running game make them their bitch. OSU is 7-2 ATS. Still great, but the Wisconsin game really cost me. The undefeated season and National Title are obviously out, but a conference championship is still a possibility, which I'll break down next.

Big Ten/Bowl Outlook
Currently, our beloved Bucks find themselves in a tie for first in the Big Ten, along with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan St. The good news is that this means OSU controls their own destiny to claim at least a piece of a sixth-straight conference title. If Ohio St can win its last three games, which would include knocking Iowa out of the picture, they would finish the season with one conference loss.

The bad news is that Wisconsin and Michigan St seem poised to finish with one blemish as well, resulting in a menage-a-trois atop the Big Ten. The tie-breaker in this scenario would give the Rose Bowl berth to the team with the highest BCS ranking, which would be the Badgers. No arguments there - they whooped us fair and square.

The Spartans have a bye this week, then close the year at home against Purdue and at Penn St. Winning in Happy Valley will be no easy task, but unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Wisconsin's path the rest of the way is much easier. UW has home games against Indiana and Northwestern, and travels to ann arbor (who was recently found out to be a whore). N'western is decent, and will provide Wisconsin with their only chance to be upset.

Luckily, there is more good news. Assuming Ohio St and Wisconsin both win out, it is almost certain that each team would be invited to a BCS game. While the Rose is obviously what Big Ten teams strive for, I would settle for going to an NCAA-record sixth-straight BCS game in say, the Sugar Bowl. Possible opponents for the Bucks include TCU, LSU, and Nebraska. No one wants to play TCU, because it's really a lose-lose situation for big time programs. LSU and Nebraska both sound very intriguing to me. The Tigers would be a '07 Championship rematch, and the Huskers would be a preview of things to come with Nebraska joining the Big Ten next season. With these two powerhouses on opposite sides of the realigned conference, expect to see them play very often in the Big Ten Championship game.

Let me be clear, these are hypothetical scenarios which all involve Ohio St winning its last three games. Believe me, I am not taking these games for granted. At Iowa is going to be a very difficult game, and Penn St is certainly no slouch either.

michigan Sucks
Now for the fun part - it's rip on michigan time! Sadly, scUM outlasted Illinois last weekend in triple overtime, 67-65. The silver lining here is that there is still plenty of ammo to make jokes. Wow, is their defense bad. Don't think that the stats are inflated because of the 3 OTs - they gave up 45 points in regulation. In fact, it was the first time in the 131 years of the program that they gave up 40+ points in back-to-back games. You just can't make this stuff up.

Not surprising at all, Can't-Tie was banged up again in this game, and T. Forcier was forced (pun of the week!) to come in. I don't want to hear anyone say that CT "would have won the Heisman if not for his injuries." FACT: If you believe this, you are an idiot. I have said from the beginning of the year that he is always going to be hurt throughout his career because of his style of play. You simply cannot be under 200 lbs and carry the ball 30 times a game and expect not to constantly be fighting nagging injuries, especially against the physical defenses of the Big Ten.

It has been quite a few years, so my Geometry might be a little rusty, but let me throw some conditional statements out there for his supporters:

If Can't-Tie were to be considered for the Heisman, then he would have to stay healthy.
If Can't-Tie were to stay healthy, then he would have to change his style of play.
If Can't-Tie were to change his style of play, then he wouldn't be considered for the Heisman.
Ergo - Can't-Tie, Heisman, No.

Meanwhile, The Force came in and actually led michigan to the game-tying drive at the end of regulation, then won it in triple OT. This did not come without embarrassment, however. On his first play, The Force went to throw a pass and just dropped the ball, untouched. Illinois recovered and that obviously led to a subsequent TD because, well, michigan's defense is historically bad.

Oh yeah, and ann arbor is still a filthy, disgusting whore.

Up Next
Ohio St will welcome Penn St to The Horseshoe this Saturday. We all know JoePa picked up win #400 last weekend. What you may not know, is who is the second-winningest active coach in Division I behind Paterno. That's right, the Sweater Vest himself, compiling 237 W's in 25 years between OSU and Youngstown St. After his second impressive performance in a row, it looks like Matt McGloin will be under center for the Lions. I will be one of the 110,000 in attendance for this one, as will Andy, Nick, and my 6-1 record at The Shoe. The picture above is from my last appearance at Ohio Stadium, a 31-13 victory over Wisconsin.


Wednesday, November 10

Power Rankings revisited

We've already seen the soul-crushing situation at the top, but look at what we have down in the real meaty part of the NFL's curve, according to ESPN's staff:

The chief complaint I have with Power Rankings is that the authors tend to not take into account recent play and momentum. They basically just rank the teams as they fall in the season standings with a game or two adjustment here and there. Now, obviously, overall record is a fairly useful indicator of a team's "power," and I'm not suggesting that the rankings be completely divorced from wins and losses, but I do think more emphasis needs to be placed on the current stature of a team.

Sticking the Browns at 23rd here is a classic example. Yes, we're 3-5, but the past two games we've absolutely hammered the teams sitting at #6 and #9, and our most recent three losses came to the clubs ranked...wait for it...#1, #2, and #3. Yikes. (Good news: #5 comes to town this weekend! That's a brutal stretch.) Are you actually suggesting that just over 2/3 of the league is better than Cleveland right now?

Anyway, you'd think the Power Ranking team would factor in recent results and opponents a little more than they have here. Considering how dominant and disciplined Cleveland has looked the past two times out, wouldn't you take them over the five teams ranked just ahead of us? (I selectively cut the list there; Miami sits at #17 and they're not bad. I think we can beat anyone right now, but that's not the point of this exercise.) The Vikings are a disaster that barely squeaked by DA and his Cardinals last weekend; the Rams...well, they're not bad, maybe you could keep them above us; the Jaguars suck; the Bears are the worst 5-3 team in the history of eight-game samples; and the Redskins coach is calling his quarterback out of shape.

The Browns look like a top-half club to me. Deal with it.

Dear Sporting Gods,

Why do you hate us so much?

Yours in fandom,

Tuesday, November 9

Downtown Report after a great sports weekend

I was reading Sam Harris' The Moral Universe yesterday, and came to an interesting passage where the author describes the loss-averse nature of human reasoning. What this means is that people instinctively avoid risk more than they seek gain, and tend to view a loss more negatively than they would view an equivalent gain positively. Granted, this can be hard to quantify, but it can be done. For example, on average, when test subjects are presented with a hypothetical 50/50 bet where they might lose $100, they typically demain $200 as the potential reward for accepting the bet. I'm not sure if this is an evolutionary psychological mechanism intended to promote cautious, conservative decision-making, but it has some interesting consequences in the real world.

One of those is that I don't feel as positively about the past weekend in sports as I realize I should, because the steelers won last night on Monday Night Football. I hate the steelers as much as I can possibly hate a sporting entity, and their victory (a loss for me and for decent folk everywhere) is eclipsing the Browns' tremendous 34-14 victory on Sunday (a gain for me of clearly superior utility). Part of this is timing - the steelers game was more recent - and part of it is the loss-averse portion of my mind accentuating the soul-crushing negative that is a steeler win over the life-affirming positive that is a Browns triumph.

Conscious of these limitations of the mind (and of my own thinking, since I believe myself to be even more loss-averse than the average human), I'm trying to remain as focused as possible on the positives from this past weekend, an unqualified success for Cleveland sports fans that even featured my rec league basketball club claiming a victory in our debut game on Sunday night. With that preface, let's talk about recent events in FCF's world.

There's almost literally no way the Cleveland Browns could have played a better game than they did this past sunday in their dismantling of the Patriots, the team that still owns the best record in the NFL. For those of you scoring at home, that's an aggregate 64-31 beatdown of the defending Super Bowl Champions, followed by the team regarded by many going into this weekend's contest as the NFL's best. Not bad for a 3-5 squad.

But the Patriots game was in many ways more impressive than the Saints victory. The win in the Superdome was the product of a lot of things going right, and relied heavily on the Browns executing unusual plays and catching the Saints off-guard. You only get one game a year where you bust out a punt-pass, fake punt, and halfback pass to the quarterback, and the Browns played that card expertly.

Sunday, however, was just straight-up superior football from Cleveland. They were tougher, smarter, and more skilled than New England all day long in all three phases of the game. Colt McCoy didn't just manage the game - he made big throws and runs all day and compiled a 14-19 for 194 (101.6 passer rating) with no turnovers and a big rushing touchdown. Peyton Hillis ran over, through, and past Patriot defenders all day long for 184 yards and 2 TD's. The Browns defense gave New England nothing on the ground and made Tom Brady look average at best all day long. Special teams kept the Pats, who came into the game with an NFL-best five special teams TD's) in check all day, and consistently gave the Browns excellent field position. A complete team effort rewarded with one of their signature wins since returning to the NFL in 1999.

The question is: can they keep this up? After a game this Sunday against a tough New York Jet squad, the Browns have some really winnable games - @ Jacksonville, vs Carolina, @ Miami, @ Buffalo, and @ Cincinnati. There's no reason they couldn't be above .500 after that stretch if they keep playing the same smart, disciplined football they've proven themselves capable of playing the past two games.

Certainly, some of the credit belongs to the Browns' coaching staff, especially head coach Eric Mangini. The Browns have looked exceedingly well-prepared and organized against the Saints and Patriots, and that reflects well on the men in charge. Mangini is still up to some of his old tricks, waffling on naming McCoy the starter for next week. I'm not sure even he takes himself seriously at this point - Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are still at least semi-injured, and even if they weren't Mangini would have to be nuts to take the job away from McCoy at this point. Hopefully he goes out and collects another solid win so that even when the other fellows come back, it'll be crystal-clear who should be behind center.

Also, Braylon Edwards is coming back to town! I'm excited for him to drop a few passes and blame other people. I'll be there live and direct from Cleveland Browns Stadium to catch all the action this Sunday, hot of the heels of Nick and my attendance of the Buckeye game this Saturday in Ohio Stadium against Penn State. Now that's a weekend.

Ladies and gentlemen, your first-place Cleveland Cavaliers!

That's right, after six contests, Los Caballeros sit alone atop the Central division at 3-3. We're still the only team to knock off the defending East champion Boston Celtics. Someone at espn.com (JJ Adande?) came to the realization that, if the season ended today, the Cavs would be the East's 4th seed and would host an opening-round matchup against the#5 seed...the Miami Heat. It's true.

Three wins...that's only nine short of Kelly Dwyer's preposterous prediction of 12 for the season. I'm pretty sure we can manage a 10-66 effort down the stretch to surpass that particular expectation. This week actually affords the Cavs an opportunity to collect some more W's before making their first road trip out west for the year. This week features a home-and-away (I never liked the term "home-and-home") with the lowly New Jersey Nets, a Saturday night home tilt with the also-lowly Indiana Pacers, and a home game next Wednesday against a Philadelphia 76er team that one might describe as...lowly. Is it unrealistic to see the Cavs sitting at 6-4 after that stretch? I don't think so.

I got a chance to watch Cleveland's road victories against Philly and Washington this past weekend, and I have to say it was really fun to watch. I enjoy this team. Now, I'm not saying I like this better than being among the NBA's elite and competing for a championship each year. Obviously that's where it's at. But I like the new team's style, the emphasis on athleticism and team play, and the drama and uncertainty of close games they bring every night. I'm looking forward to following the Cavs during the entire 2010-11 season, and especially eagerly awaiting that elusive 13th victory.

Saturday, November 6

Friday, November 5

NFL Picks: Week 9

Hey, now that was a good week for our team of Experts! And yes, we're experts - if CBS can call Shannon Sharpe that, then we can claim the title as well. It's not like the guys on TV really know all that much more than avid fans like us anyway - I can wear a suit and speak in platitudes too. FCF notched a collective 19 games above .500, clocking in at 65% for the week, plus the steelers got beat, so all in all a good time. Figgs was a paltry 3-1 in his money picks, dragging his season average down to just 77%. Step it up, man.

In more positive news, the Browns are back in action for Week 9 - in a less exciting development, they have to face the owner of the league's best record in the New England Patriots.

Last Week
Andy: 8-5
Figgs: 9-4
Nick: 9-4
Bucko: 9-4
Gopo: 7-6

Nick's Money Picks ($): 3-2
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 3-1

Andy: 60-52-5
Figgs: 60-52-5
Gopo: 57-55-5
Bucko: 55-57-5
Nick: 55-57-5
Andy is listed first because he edits this post.
Nick is listed last because he picked the steelers.

Nick's Money Picks ($): 15-18-3
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 17-5-2 (!)

Bye week: Titans, Broncos, Rams, 49ers, Redskins, Jaguars

Sunday games
1 pm kickoff

BROWNS (+5) vs Patriots
Andy: BROWNS. Thought we'd be getting 6, but who cares? We're winning this one!
Figgs: Pats. I'm in a tie for first, I gotta go with my head. Hey, at least I'm not betting on it.
Nick: Browns. Don't get caught up in thinking about winning or losing this game. If we put our effort and concentration into playing to our potential - to be the best that we can be - I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game. In my book we're gonna be winners. OKAY? (Slow clap.)
Bucko: Patriots. It will be a good game, but I need another point here before I can pick the Brown. Maybe next week Andy.
Gopo: Patriots. I think the Patriots will be ready for the gimmicks and disciplined enough to win this game by at least a touchdown.

FALCONS (-9) vs Bucs
Andy: Bucs. I think the Falcons are solid, but Tampa Bay's done enough this season to justify me taking them and nine points. Other than Pittsburgh, they have avoided blowouts and even won a few surprises.
Figgs: Bucs. Tampa may actually not be that bad. They should be able to keep this relatively close.
Nick:Falcons. The Bucs are a little like the Rams - I'll ride them at home and/or against bad teams, but they've been blown at twice by two good teams. I count Hotlanta among the best in the NFC, so gimme these Falcons coming off a bye in the Georgia Dome. From the ceilin' to the flo...
Bucko: Bucs. Falcons probably win the game but, I see Blount have a good one again.
Gopo: Bucs. Falcons are really good at home, but the Bucs have been just sneaky enough that 9 points will sway me.

BUFFALOES (+2.5) vs Bears
Andy: Buffaloes. How many games this year do they really have a chance to win? They know they need this one. After two OT losses, they're going to finally get over the hump against a shaky Chicago club.
Figgs: Bears. The Bills should think about scheduling these Canada games against warm weather teams, not someone else that's just as used to the cold as they are.
Nick: Billskis. The Bears are the worst 4-3 team in history, and the Bills are fighting for inches. LET'S GO BUFFALO!
Bucko: Bears. The Bills will get one soon, just not this week.
Gopo: Bills. I'm going out on a limb and calling them the greatest 0-7 team of all time. That's right, I said it.

LIONS (+4) vs Jets
Andy: Lions. Why the hell not? The Jet shutout was amazing to me - they'll score a few points in this one, but I'm rolling Detroit again.
Figgs: Jets. The offense bounces back after being the first team to be shutout this year.
Nick: Jets, although a little tentatively after last week. Still, this line should be around a touchdown, right? Detroit won't stop their running game.
Bucko: Jets. What Figgs said.
Gopo: Jets. Not enough points here for me to take the Lions, but man did the Jets look awful in that last game. How do you get shutout by the Packers D? Half that defense is hurt! I'm thinking bounce back game.

PANTHERS (+7) vs Saints
Andy: Saints. We'll use Figgs' line here, and I will take New Orleans in a revenge game.
Figgs: Saints. I saw this line at NO -7. If it's anywhere around there they should cover.
Nick: Saints. We still haven't seen the '09 Saints yet, but last week was the closest they've come.
Bucko: Saints. Are the panthers even trying?
Gopo: Saints. The Panthers stink - I think they are the worst team in football this year.

RAVENS (-5.5) vs Dolphins
Andy: Dolphins. I think they've got a pretty balanced club and will keep it close if not win at Baltimore. In other news, I hate Baltimore.
Figgs: Ravens.
Nick: Fish. This should be a 3-3.5 pointer. The Dolphins have been better on the road, and frankly I haven't been overly impressed with any of Baltimore's wins anyway.
Bucko: Ravens. Just to piss Andy off.
Gopo: Dolphins. For some reason I'm still not sold on that Ravens team - they could have easily lost a couple of their games (including the Bills game).

TEXANS (+3) vs Chargers
Andy: Chargers. Any admiration I once had for Houston is gone - if Rivers' head is on straight he should throw for 400 against these guys.
Figgs: Texans. I feel this teams are about even talent-wise, so I'll take the home team getting points. ($)
Nick: Texans. Too many injuries for the Bolts.
Bucko: Texans. The Chargers are beat up.
Gopo: Texans. Taking the points for a decent home team? Sign me up. Plus, I think that Houston's left tackle is back and apparently he's the most valuable member of that team.

VIKINGS (-9) vs Cardinals
Andy: Vikings. One of the truly awful lines of the week, but I absolutely cannot take Arizona on the road with DA behind center. Can't.
Figgs: Vikings. If anyone in the league has a worse QB situation than the Vikes right now, it's the one starting Derek Anderson.
Nick: Vikings. Switched this twice and stared at this game for five minutes, but I keep coming back to the fact that the Cards can't score on the road, and that Derek Anderson is their starting quarterback. I wouldn't even bother throwing if I were Minnesota.
Bucko: Vikings. Who cares about Favre. AP will have a big game in this one.
Gopo: Cardinals. I really, really wanted to take the Cardinals here, but I can't see them keeping it close. Ugh. Fuck it, these are my picks - I'm fine with hating Favre and getting the pick wrong. I'm changing it.

4 pm kickoff

SEAHAWKS (+5.5) vs Giants
Andy: Giants. A week after the bye, playing a team that got smacked around in Oakland a week before. I know Seattle is better at home, but not this much better.
Figgs: Giants. Toughest one for me to call this week. Home or not, I just think Seattle is a lousy team.
Nick: Giants. I'll take Seattle at home against a bad-to-decent team, but the Giants' defense is looking good, they're coming off the bye, and they can run the ball. Okung will probably be out against for the Seahawks, too.
Bucko: Giants. The Seahawks have nobody. The Giants D will be awesome.
Gopo: Giants. The best bald QB in the league isn't even playing in this game. Yeah, Seahawks are at home, but I will not back Charlie Whitehurst.

EAGLES (-3) vs Colts
Andy: Eagles, in a Friday night switch. I think they'll come back strong after a bye week.
Figgs: Colts. Whatever the spread is, it seems Philly will be favored, and I like Indy straight up. ($)
Nick: Colts. Not giving points against the Colts when it looks like they're starting roll. That's a bad idea. ($)
Gopo: Colts. I have no idea why the Eagles are favored in this game. If I bet money on football games, I would definitely put coin on this one. Seems like Figgs and Nick are on board.

RAIDERS (-3) vs Chieves
Andy: Raiders. Kept it close the first time in KC, and riding a hot streak they should be able to knock off a KC squad that needed overtime to beat Buffalo at home.
Figgs: KC. Oakland is a decent team, but I'm not sure if they're good enough to be giving points yet.
Nick: Chiefs. Switched this late, but Oakland is beat up.
Bucko: Raiders. They're playing well of recent.
Gopo: Chiefs. I can't trust the Raiders to win a game that they should win. People are starting to think that the Raiders are a decent team - that's exactly when they throw in a giant turd of a game.

Sunday Night Football, 8:20 pm

PACKERS (-9) vs Cowboys
Andy: Cowboys. They have to do something right, at some point.
Figgs: Pack. Two words: Kitna, Jon.
Nick: Pack. Green Bay is better, at home in prime time, and still has something to fight for. The 2010 Cowboys are a complete abortion.
Bucko: Packers. I had to change this one. Packers defense looks pretty damn good.
Gopo: Packers. I think the Cowboys suck, and if the Packers employ the same strategy that they did against the Jets (stop the run, make the QB beat you), they'll be fine in this one.

Monday Night Football, 8:20 pm

BENGALS (+4.5) vs steelers
Andy: Bengals. I anticipate that some steeler-loving will unfold when I look at who's picked already and...yep. Fuck it, I kind of want to watch this game, and I can't sit there and half-want the steelers to win. Bucko makes a good point though: why aren't the Bengals better? They will be in this one. Figgs, games look too easy all the time, and yet Vegas keeps building giant casinos...
Figgs: Steelers. Even though I criticized Nick for doing so last week, I'm gonna lay some straight cash homey on this one. It just seems too easy. ($)
Nick: Steelers. Pittsburgh only allows 2.6 YPC and the Bengals' QB is Carson Palmer.
Bucko: Steelers. Why aren't the Bengals better? ($ -4)
Gopo: Steelers. The Bengals aren't any better because Carson Palmer is not a very good QB. I thought everyone knew this, why are people surprised that they are a mediocre team? Palmer puts up all his numbers in garbage time. He's had one good year (2005, maybe two if you count 2009, but he wasn't that good then) and people seem to think he's one of the better QBs in the league. I will never understand this.

Two more money picks for Nick
6-point teaser: Falcons -2.5, Saints -1
6-point teaser: Falcons -2.5, Saints -1, Packers -1.5, Steelers +1.5