Slack Lines, Week 11: Undefeated Mediocrity
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. Now in Week 11, they're the same men, only poorer.
Current Slack Lines Standings:
Luke O’Neil (@lukeoneil47): 19-21
Nick Altschuller (@altschuller): 18-22
Jerry Thornton (@jerrythornton1): 17-23
Beau Sturm and J (@beausturm): 16-23-1
Matt Roberts (@KidRob21): 13-26-1
The standings are getting tighter by the week. Only two and half games seperate the leader from fourth place. Even Matt is still technically in the race (in the way that a cucumber is technically a fruit).
One funny thing about this year's contest is that I—your three-time Slack Lines champion—have yet to have a winning week. With every batch of picks, all I can hope for is a perfect split, like conjoined twins on the operating table, or an OCD-sufferer at Baskin Robbins. Yet here I am in second place.
If I can take the title without a single victorious week, it would be my crowning achievement. To bet so poorly yet come out on top would exemplify all this blog has set out to do: prove the futility of sports gambling, while being better at it than any of your deadbeat friends.
Auspiciously, I feel great about my picks this week, which can only mean I'm headed for another round of inevitable, glorious mediocrity.
Jerry on Indianapolis @ Tennessee (+3)
It's a tough week for both sides. Indy is coming off a 30-point ass-handing at home courtesy of a wounded St. Louis team. Tennessee took a beating in Nashville from a winless Jaguars squad. In interpersonal-relationship terms, they're both waking up, rolling over and finding out they spent the night with Mama Fratelli from The Goonies. (For the ladies, picture waking up next to a Slack Lines writer.) Though, if anything, Tennessee has a little more morning-after regret, since they were, y'know, Jacksonville's "first."
So you'd think the Titans and Colts would be each other's perfect matchup. Misery loves company and all that. But you'd be wrong. The last thing you want to see when you're miserable is someone equally miserable. What both these clubs need is a rebound game. Against someone that’s riding high and they can catch off guard. A team that metaphorically watched their booze intake and figuratively scored with the proverbial beauty queen. Not someone with the same severe hangover doing the same walk of shame to get shots at the same free clinic.
But since I have to choose, I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to Indy. Their performance last week, bad as it was, just felt flukeier. The Colts dominated the Rams in most statistical categories, but they turned the ball over five times. They suffered a rare bad game by Andrew Luck and the first-of-possibly-many great games by Tavon Austin, in his debutante coming out party.
All those ingredients combined to make the poisonous cocktail that made the whole night a blur. There's no way they have a repeat—whereas I'm starting to think losses to coyote-ugly teams like the Jags might just be Tennessee's "type."
Jerry’s Pick: Colts
Jets (+1) Buffalo president and CEO Russ Brandon complained that the league gives too many teams extended time off prior to facing the Bills—including the Jets, who came off a Thursday nighter the last time these teams met and are coming off a bye this week.
Finally, an explanation that makes sense. THIS is why the Bills are terrible year in and year out. And why they haven't been to the playoffs since they benched Doug Flutie before the Music City Miracle. It's not the fact that they're owned by Grandpa Simpson. Or their piss-poor drafts. Or the money they ate banking their future on Ryan Fitzpatrick. It's a vast conspiracy carried out by the sinister, black ops, shadow organization known as the NFL Schedule Makers.
Broncos (-8) Dwayne Bowe is the guest of honor at the '72 Dolphins annual Last Undefeated Team Loses celebration. Bowe's homemade brownies are the hit of the party, until everyone decides they just want to cue up Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz and just "Dark Side of the Rainbow" the rest of the night.
Chargers (-1.5) Call me a hopeless romantic, but I like to picture Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito getting together to watch the game, resolve their differences and male bond. Maybe with mediators to help them rekindle their lost bromance. Professionals like Jeremy and John from Wedding Crashers.
"You know, some like look at that unfinished text message where he was about to say he'll rape and murder your whole family and say it's half empty. But I like to think of it as half full..."
Luke on Washington @ Philadelphia (-3.5)
Last week certainly was a strange one. Everyone's heard the old cliché about any given Sunday, but the full text of that old adage is less well known: Any team can win on any given Sunday, unless we're talking about the Rams, Jaguars or Buccaneers. So what the hell happened?
I'm pretty sure that's a common refrain in D.C. and Philly this year, where both teams were supposed to have been contenders. Philly's offense under the guidance of future-first-ballot-HOFer Nick Foles has certainly been on a roll, and they're in Philadelphia this week, so you have to like them here, but here's a weird stat: Although they're 5-5, the Eagles have yet to win at home. That's not something you often see from a .500 club. Maybe it's all the scorn spilling out of the stands from the notorious Philly fans? It reminds me of how I used to do a lot better in sports as a kid when my dad couldn't make it to the games, as I didn't have to worry about disappointing anyone.
Kidding, my dad didn't love me enough to come to any of my games, but you get the point.
Speaking of getting points, I don't think you want them this time out. Despite the O-fer in Philly, the [NAME REDACTED]s can't stop anyone, never mind an offense who may be who we thought they were before we didn't think they were anymore, but now they seem to be back to who were they were supposed to be. I think.
Luke's Pick: Eagles
Colts (-3) If you can lose to the worst team in the league, you can certainly lose to one of the top seven or eight, which is, unfortunately for the Titans, what's going to happen to them this week. Then again, Indy isn't exactly riding high after getting their dicks handed to them by St Louis. But Jake Locker is out, and Andrew Luck isn't. That should be enough to do the trick.
Apropos of nothing, my wife looked up from TV the other day and asked, “Wait, there's a football player named Jake Locker? That's the fakest name I've ever heard.” True enough, although she's apparently never heard of the old AFL great Johnny Water... Jug... Thing. True legend right there.
Chargers (-1.5) I hadn't weighed in on the Miami mess until yesterday, mostly because I wasn't sure what to think. You can read some conflicted thoughts about trying to remain an NFL fan while also considering yourself a progressive here.
That aside, this mess still hasn't gone away, and, as we saw last week, Miami is clearly feeling the effects of the circus atmosphere. Doesn't look good for them getting a point and half at home against an up-and-down San Diego team, who look like they could end up bullying Miami all over the field.
Patriots (+2.5) This is another weird situation: New England getting points. Granted, they're on the road against a surprisingly good (maybe) Carolina. If I were the type of guy to bet on the Patriots I would take the points. I'm not, but there's no need for you to be a perversely superstitious weirdo like me.
Beau and J San Francisco @ New Orleans (-3)
Abita or Anchor Steam? Gumbo or Cioppino? Truman Capote or John Steinbeck?
These are just a few of the longstanding questions (in my mind) between New Orleans and San Francisco in the battle for most-kick-ass city. However, in terms of football, there’s no rivalry what-so-ever.
San Fran was title town at a time when the best the Saints had to offer was Jeff Blake—and not even real Jeff Blake. I mean Super Nintendo Jeff Blake. But even in Nintendo world, the Tom Rathman slant was indefensible, no matter how many deep balls you threw to Joe Horn.
So, much like I did in 1995, I brought a bag of Doritos and a six-pack of High Life to the basement in an effort to simulate this Week 11 matchup.
First, I got beat 35-10 by the Xbox-guided Saints. Then, when I took New Orleans against the cyber-Niners—BOOM! I hung a cool 60 on the vaunted Bay Area D.
But how about real, flesh and blood, National Football League football? Well,according to our site’s experts, teams with a better Real QB Rating in 2011 and 2012 went 441-70. Currently, New Orleans is ranked second, with a 101.74 rating. San Francisco comes in at 16th (78.31). Even worse for the 49ers, their defense, ranked fourth in passing D all the way back in 2012, now ranks dead last.
That doesn’t bode well for them, seeing as how they’re facing arguably the most versatile and potent passing attack in the NFL.
Beau and J's Pick: Saints
(But how about we add a side bet on what’ll come first for Aldon Smith: a trip to the Pro Bowl, or a trip to San Quentin.)
Beau and J’s Locks:
So far, my Cowboys Romovember call has been, well, the English language doesn't have a word able to aptly describe its badness. I'm 0-2 on those picks, and now the Lone Stars are thankfully on a bye.
However, in the same division, I look for the Giants to cover at home versus the Packers without their "Discount Double Check" guy.
Whities @ Ealges (Over 52.5)
This is the highest point total for any game this week, but I can’t see either team stopping the other.
Virginia Tech (-16.5)
Maryland has looked awful ever since they shut out my Mountaineers earlier this season. Virginia Tech isn’t having a great year either, but they just destroyed #11 Miami in the Orange Bowl, and Logan Thomas finally looked like the player Hokie fans have expected since his five-star high-school days.
Matt on Kansas City @ Denver (+8)
After an all-night drive from Denver on my way to Dayton, Ohio, I stopped in Kansas City for breakfast. After approaching a few groups of local Missourians for restaurant recommendations, each one pointed me to the downtown Denny's. I had the biscuits and gravy.
What’s the point of the story? 1) I like stories, and 2) any city whose major breakfast attraction is a Denny's deserves to be smitten by the Gods. Screw Kansas City.
In his article about the Chiefs possibly being the smartest team that ever lived, Kerry Byrne points out that Kansas City is number one in bending (not breaking), number seven in turning yards into points, and number one in the CHFF intelligence index. What this means to me is that coach Andy Reid has gotten the absolute optimal performance from his less-than-elite team. The Chiefs play great situational offense and defense, but how long can they keep winning while losing the yardage battles?
Those stats are meant as positives, but they come off almost as backhanded compliments. What’s going to happen come playoff time when the competition gets better, when the intelligence gap between the Chiefs and their opponent (say, the Colts) narrows, and when they need to make a sequence of big plays on offense in order to win. Can Alex Smith drive the ball down the field?
The QB question is really the only thing that gives armchair pundits like myself pause about the validity of the Chiefs. In the modern NFL, teams can win without a GREAT defense, but haven't shown the ability to win without GREAT quarterback play. As much as I enjoy bashing Joe Flacco, he had an amazing run last year, hucking and chucking the Ravens to the title. The last "game manager" QB to win a Super Bowl was Trent Dilfer in 2003, and he was backed by one of the most elite defensive units of a generation.
The Broncos and Chiefs play each other twice in the next three weeks, exhibiting a truly horrid trend by the NFL scheduling committee. I like the Broncos to win, but I expect the Chiefs to harry and harass old horsey-face and his duct-taped neck to no end.
Matt's Pick: Chiefs
Guy Fieri’s Bold-Flavored Locks of the Week:
Lions (-2) This is the time of year when I start having faith in the Lie-Downs, and they eventually rip the hearts out of anyone foolish enough to believe in them. I'm gonna ride the wave until judgment day.
Patriots (+2.5) HOMER ALERT!
Some keys stats go against this pick: The Panthers are the best team, league-wide, in getting off the field on third down, and the Pats are in the bottom third of the league in third-down efficiency. But I'm still picking the boys from Route 1.
Packers (+5) The Fighting Tolzien's getting five whole points versus the hapless Giants? Those of you who hadn't heard of Scott until last weekend must not be familiar with smash-mouth Big 10 football circa 2008-2010. Recognize and respect.
Nick on New England @ Carolina (-2.5)
The Panthers are the hardest-hitting team in football. Last week they ripped that title away from the 49ers, and in the process they concussed Vernon Davis, who’s less a man than a cyborg made of adamantium and vibranium. Linebacker Thomas Davis crushed Kendall Hunter, knocking the ball loose and, one assumes, Hunter’s incisors, molars and bicuspids. Drayton Florence had his turn at the San Francisco running back, and he lit Hunter up like a Christmas tree and a menorah, which he then combined to create a small forest fire.
Conversely, there’s the Patriots, who, if given a few handsaws and sticks to bite down on, could easily convert their locker room into a Civil War medical tent. Among the wounded is Rob Gronkowski, he of the meat head and the Faberge forearm. There’s the delicate Danny Amendola, who has a torn tendon in his groin and would probably pull an extraocular muscle reading an injury report. And then of course there’s Tom Brady, who, while relatively healthy, still runs like a quarter horse who needs his ears rubbed with a Remington. I’m sure Carolina’s pass-rushing duo of Charles Johnson (8.5 sacks) and Greg Hardy (6) would be only too happy to put him down.
Still, the Patriots are 10-1 over the past 11 years after a bye week. (Five of those wins were against the Bills, including four in consecutive years. Maybe Russ Brandon is on to something?) They’re 9-3 ATS in their past 12 Monday Night games, and they’re 8-1 in their past nine games as road dogs.
Plus, while the Panthers front seven is indestructible, their secondary is vulnerable. Take a look at the performances of these world-beaters against Carolina:
Week 2: E.J. Manuel, 27/39 for 296 yards
Week 6: Matt Cassel, 32/44 for 241 yards
Week 7: Sam Bradford, 21/30 for 255 yards
These may be a cases of the Panthers “bending but not breaking,” but now they’re facing the coach that invented that forgiving, alliterative term. Give Belichick and Brady 15 days to study a defense, and I think they’ll figure out a way to crack it.
Nick’s Pick: Patriots
Colts (-3) Rushing yards for Indianapolis last week: 18. Yards Andrew Luck contributed to that “grand” total: 17. (Are we all done giving the Browns grief for trading Trent Richardson for a first-rounder?)
If there’s one rushing story sadder than that, it’s the tale of Chris Johnson, who gave all his fantasy owners a glimmer of hope when he ran for 150 yards and two scores in Week 9. In every other game since Week 3, he’s been held to under 40.
This game will be won in the air, and there’s no way Luck gets outgunned by the Amish Rifle.
Raiders (+7) The Texans have lost seven in a row. One of their two wins was by three points. The other was by six points at home in overtime. Arian Foster is done for the year, and their head coach recently had a stroke.
I know no one trusts Oakland, but geez.
Ravens (+3) You may have noticed Matt picks Detroit a lot. That’s partly because his wife is a Lions fan, and I imagine he likes to keep a happy home.
Ma’ lady is from Chicago, and she predicts the Bears win this game. In related news, I am not as smart as Matt.
Until next week.
Follow @CHFFSlackLines for more inane commentary.
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