Thursday, October 30, 2008

Open Letter To Al Harrington

Dear Al,

When you demand a trade publicly, it's normally not a good idea to go out on opening night and suck harder than a porn star with asthma.

Mixed emotions after the game. I didn't think they'd even compete with New Orleans, and certainly never envisioned them leading by one with less than thirty seconds to play. The defense was, at times, actually existent. Maggette brought a nice slashing style of play that was a refreshing change of pace from last year. Not sure how long they'll be able to rely on Jackson at the point. Why Nelly came to this same conclusion with less than twenty seconds, and then decided he'd put in DeMarcus Nelson (their new undrafted (whoo!) rookie point guard, who had played all of five minutes tonight before his strange appearance at the end of the game), I really don't know. For all of the good things I saw, and I did really enjoy watching them play tonight, many of the same problems as last year exist. Nelly still doesn't trust his entire team, really only playing about seven tonight, and wears out those he does. (And, yes, Al, obviously you are among the "trusted ones" -- why else would you be given the last-second three despite the screams of horror from every Warrior fan watching the game?)

Oh well, on to Toronto!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Eight

I'm really not at all confident in this picks. If I had to pick the quality of my picks I'd go REALITY (-14) over Brad's Predictive Powers.

Tampa Bay (+2.5) over DALLAS
I think most people just assumed the Dallas collapse would be in their first playoff game. Maybe they're just trying to get it out of the way early. So early, in fact, that they miss the playoffs, and don't have to worry about choking it away. As for Tampa Bay, they're not pretty (their kind of offensive balance rarely is), they couldn't cover against Seattle at home, and I really shouldn't trust them on the road, but there's really no reason they can't whip up on a a Dallas team that has completely lost its way. Expect big things from Antonio Bryant.

Washington (-7.5) over DETROIT
How many times can one person keep taking Washington to cover a big spread, and always come up short? Good on you, Detroit fans, for not selling out Ford Stadium. More fans of bad teams need to do this. Stop rewarding bad behavior!

MIAMI (+1.5)over Buffalo
This seems like a classic trap game to me. Miami isn't half bad, and we're still unsure whether Buffalo is anything more than half good. I'll be cheering for them, but it seems just the kind of divisional game that Miami wins.

St. Louis (+7) over NEW ENGLAND
Here's my reasoning here. Nobody expected St. Louis to be as bad as they were the first five six weeks of the season. Nobody thought they'd be good, mind you, but they had some offensive weapons. Those weapons are finally starting to come into their own a little. I don't buy New England's blowout against Denver, who played some of the most inept football of the season.
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over St. Louis

Just learned that Steven Jackson isn't playing today. No confidence at all that the Rams can continue their winning ways without him.

San Diego (-3) over New Orleans
The Saints already had enough excuses for losing this week, between the "we were playing in London" and "Reggie Bush is injured," but they apparently felt they needed a third one with the steroid scandal. Both teams need this win badly. I just don't see where New Orleans gets it points, other than maybe a breakout game (finally!) for Colston.

New YORK (JETS) over Kansas City
The Chiefs are feeling good about that enormous contract they gave Larry Johnson a couple of years ago, aren't they? Surely they have to be considered one of the most frustrating teams to be a fan of. A class act like Brett Favre can't lose a game like this. Christian Okoye has called him and given him hints on how to beat the Chiefs.

PHILADELPHIA (-9) over Atlanta
This line seems high at first, until you realize that Atlanta hasn't really played that well on the road -- their game at Chicago being the exception. Philadelphia is a completely different team when Westbrook is in the game. Their defense is more fierce, their offense more crisp. If he is in fact healthy, Atlanta won't be able to handle them. If it's a close game, though, young Matt Ryan has shown that he has tricks up his sleeve and will do more than cover.

Arizona (+4) over CAROLINA
I like this Arizona team. At some point they have to pull out a compelling road victory. Carolina is just the kind of team to serve one of those up on a platter. I'm not as prepared as I was a couple of weeks ago to crown Carolina the team to beat in the NFC.

BALTIMORE (-7) over Oakland
Young JaMarcus & his corp of pretty good runners has not yet faced a defense like Baltimore. Barring a Flacco a few untimely Baltimore turnovers, always a possibility, I've no clue how Oakland even moves the ball to get into field goal position. McGahee owners should get to rejoice two weeks in a row.

JACKSONVILLE (-7) over Cleveland
The only threat here is that Jacksonville overlooks this game in anticipation of their epic showdown with the Bengals next week (followed, incidentally, by Detroit). Take heart, Colt fans, they're bound to sleep on one of these teams.

HOUSTON (-9.5) over Cincinnati
Speaking of Cincinnati, they're in need of Daunte Culpepper right about now, no? With Palmer out for the season, how else do they win a game?

New York (Giants) (+3) over PITTSBURGH
A couple of factors working against Pittsburgh here. In addition to their injury problems, esp. at running back, Pittsburgh is in a position that they can drop a tough game and still be okay. The Giants have a two-game lead over Washington, but they need a nice convincing win to get the bad taste of the Cleveland game out of their system. Right now, nobody is really scared of them anymore. Beating up on San Francisco meant nothing. More just seems on the line for them here.

SAN FRANCISCO (-5) over Seattle
West Coast football has been pretty dire out here this year, but the drama has been wonderful! First, you had the wonderful Lane Kiffin-Al Davis saga. Was sad to see that end. Then you had the 49ers take down Mike Nolan. Well, more precisely, you had Mike Nolan being the classiest guy in the organization and say, "Hey, if you're going to fire me in two weeks, just fire me now!" And they did. And thus begins the Mike Singletary-era. It will be a very short era indeed if they can't get beat Seattle. I'm going out on a limb, given the epic numbers he put up last week in Tampa, but Seneca Wallace just wouldn't scare me much. The one thing Seattle has going for it is that San Francisco (esp. J. T. O'Sullivan) cannot hang onto the football -- they've a -8 in turnovers. The bad thing for Seattle: theirs is -6.

Indianapolis (+4) over TENNESSEE
Everything points toward a convincing Tennessee win this Monday. This is why I'm taking Indianapolis. It being so close to Halloween, it only seems appropriate that Indy play this week's living dead zombie that won't go away. They need this game way too much to drop it.

Last Week: 6-8
Season: 48-51-3

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Train Wreck

I don't normally jump on little gaffes politicians make, not even when they're funny, but this is one of the best ever.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Next Up . . .

There have been a lot of "other shoes" dropping in the economy lately. But there is one that is Yao Ming-sized: credit card debt.

Welcome to the next crisis. (Link 1) (Link 2)

Those arguments I've seen in other quarters that the absence of bread lines and the fact that Americans can watch football on plasma screens that project a clearer image than their eyes actually allow -- and, oh look, because of this the economy keeps growing, like clockwork, like nature -- proves the stagnation of real wage growth isn't a problem, those arguments are increasingly worth about as much as the balance transfer check I just filled out.

But don't fret, they'll always have their moralistic appeal to greed as the primary culprit (if we were all but a little more responsible, Bank of America couldn't take advantage of us like they do!). Why admit a systematic, materialistic deficiency when an abstraction alone will do the trick?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Bright Spot of a McCain Win

. . . . the Bay Area will suddenly become affordable, if all the good-hearted liberals around here are sincere in their conviction to move to Canada. I'm a get me a Marin county mansion!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pass the A-11

I first heard about the A-11 offense a couple of weeks ago, in a very short, very cryptic report on the local news about about Piedmont High School's football team. I didn't really follow up on it, though. The New York Times did for me.

Steve Humphries, the assistant, had an idea: What if the offense featured not one quarterback but two? Not bad, Bryan said, but things would really get interesting if all 11 players were potentially eligible to receive a pass.[...]

Piedmont’s basic A-11 formation calls for a center flanked by two guards, who are essentially tight ends. Two quarterbacks, or a quarterback and a running back, line up behind the center, with three receivers split to each side. [...]

Prior to each Piedmont play, only the center initially goes to the line of scrimmage. The two “guards” and the split receivers each stand one and a half yards off the line. Then, just before the ball is snapped, Piedmont shifts into formation for the signaled play. With this simple movement, the possibilities for eligible receivers become dizzying.

Intriguing, no? If only my high school's team had been this interesting.

Here's Piedmont in action: (note: you'll probably want to watch w/ the sound muted or low)

Friday, October 17, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Seven

I'm not sure I'll top my predictive powers last week. Or, more optimistically, I'm starting to get a feel for these teams and what to expect out of them. The one thing that has become clear, though, is that we know more about how bad the bad teams are than how good the good ones are. More about that in the picks . . . .

BUFFALO (-1) over San Diego
Definitely and obviously one of the harder games to pick. If you have money, stay the hell away from it. We know neither of these teams is awful, but we've still no clue at all if either are good. It's pretty amazing, though, how quickly everybody jumped off Buffalo's bandwagon after they were destroyed in Arizona, even though they had the heart-and-soul of that team knocked out of the game. Nobody even bothered to amend their judgment when Arizona proved against Dallas that, at least at home, they're a damn good football team. And yet now, San Diego beats the Retirement Village Patriots, and they're hitting their groove? I'm not so sure. Plus, San Diego was absolutely awful the last time they hit the East Coast. They win this week and I might start getting some confidence in them.

CHICAGO (-3) over Minnesota
Because both of these teams are so delightfully mediocre, I think we have a pretty firm idea of what they're going to be about the rest of the way. They'll play good teams tough, and get beat by inferior teams. And when they play one another, all bets are off. Chicago has to want a little redemption against the Minnesota, after Peterson embarrassed them last year on their home turf. Plus, and it's weird to even think this, Chicago would actually seem to have more offensive efficiency. But, really, who knows. Might be a wonderful 15+ point game for the kickers.

Pittsburgh (-9.5) over CINCINNATI
After spending years watching Bengal football, I know one thing ... the Steelers own the Riverfront. It seems like it's a home away from home for them, in terms of their sheer domination down there. If they were playing any other team, I might go for the underdog -- arguing that there might not be a real sense of immediacy for the Steelers, considering their dominance in that division right now. They hate the Bengals too much, though, to let up. This one gets ugly early. Palmer will be breathing a sigh of relief from the sidelines.

KANSAS CITY (+8) over Tennessee Tenessee (-8) over KANSAS CITY
I just deleted a paragraph about how Tennessee walks all over Kansas City, and will probably regret doing so, but decided that this game kind of screams out as a potential upset. Or at least as a potential scare. Sure, Kansas City has the league's worst rushing defense, but Tennessee's running attack (even w/ Chris Johnson) isn't what it was with Vince Young. And surprisingly enough, the KC secondary isn't half bad: they've only given up five passing TDs so far. Plus, doesn't it just make sense for the another AFC South to give the Colts a chance to rip the stake from their own heart?

I completely forgot last night that Larry Johnson is suspended. No chance in hell they pull this one off without him. Pray for Tony Gonzalez this week.

Dallas (OFF) over ST. LOUIS
The line is turned off here because nobody knows if Romo is going to do his best Steve DeBerg impersonation. Either way, it really shouldn't matter. How hard is it to hand the ball off to Barber and let him wreck havoc? Dump the ball to Witten eight to ten times. Hit T.O. about four to six times. How has this turned into rocket science all of a sudden for the offensive geniuses at Big D? BTW ... the solution to their growing problems with T.O. is clear: hire Charles Haley to scare him straight.

MIAMI (-3) over Baltimore
I'm still not sold on Miami at all, and do not think they'll cause the same kind of problems Indy did last week against Baltimore. Baltimore is 2-3, but their three losses are against three of the best teams in the league (Tennessee, Pittsburgh & Indy). And yet, they still can't score, no matter who they play. Miami, at the very least, has shown some creativity in all of their games. The AFC East's standing really could be pretty interesting by the end of this weekend.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-10.5) over San Francisco
If SF can figure out a way to protect O'Sullivan (which they've not yet shown they're capable of doing), they could make this one interesting. O'Sullivan will make a couple of plays, but he'll make more bad ones. Welcome to 49er football. Let me say something about the Giants. I can't remember if I said it before, but I never once so far have said, "The Giants are the best team in football." In fact, it really kind of infuriated me that people seemed so set in that belief. They may very well get things together, but the only win that really impressed me was against the Redskins. The rest of their games were against the worst of the worst. Eli is still erratic. Plax is a ticking time-bomb. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon of a fluke Super Bowl champion. Just not doing it. But yeah, they should cover this week.

New Orleans (+3) over CAROLINA
I went out of my way to praise Carolina last week, and then they went and looked absolutely awful on the road against Tampa Bay. Now, of course, Tampa Bay is pretty good, but looking that bad is still pretty inexcusable. They're facing a worse defense, but a considerably better offense. New Orleans just seems hungry to me, and not winning in fluky ways. If anything, their losses have been fluky. They just seem more "there" than Carolina right now -- esp. with corp of receivers they have (bolstered even more by Colston's return). I normally do not excuse the lack of a conventional running game, but right now in non-playoff football, it may not matter all that much. (Incidentally, Reggie Bush made me wonder recently why so few teams allow points for kick return TDs. I can see not allowing yardage points -- I was in a league that did that once, and we ended with Dante Hall as the number one WR -- but some kind of reward for kick returns seems fitting, esp. for players like Felix Jones and Bush, who also contribute offensively.)

HOUSTON (-8) over Detroit
Houston may be shit-stained to me, but Detroit is outright shit.

Indianapolis (-1) over GREEN BAY
Indianapolis just knows how to win games even when they're not playing like they'd like. Green Bay, not so much. Green Bay can't do well the one thing Indy can't stop: the run. And Indy's pass defense will burn you if given the chance. Green Bay is just not a tight enough unit to survive Indy's opportunism. They make you pay for your mistakes ... and Green Bay is not yet a mistake-free football team. Indy makes their fair share of mistakes, too, of course, but I've just not seen that killer instinct in the Packers. If anything, I've seen the exact opposite.

OAKLAND (+3) over New York Jets
I've no reason for this pick at all. It just seems like one of those random scores you see, pause a second over, and move on. I mean, really, would it shock if you the Raiders had a random win against Brett Favre? The Jets could win this game by forty, and we still wouldn't know if they're any good. They could lose by ten, and we still wouldn't know if they're bad.

WASHINGTON (-7.5) over Cleveland
I'm not yet ready to concede that Washington is awful after one horrible performance in St. Louis. Really, you're almost invited to overlook the Rams. It's probably bad for the Browns that they beat the Giants so badly last week -- now nobody will be sleeping on them. I'd love to see Cleveland turn it around. Braylon Edwards has been sitting on my bench the past couple of weeks, and I'd love to have cause actually to play him. But, I found their success last week a little dubious. One ... you simply cannot win with that many false-start penalties. Well, they obviously did win, but the football gods will not tolerate it on a regular basis. Two ... for some reason the Giants just stopped using Jacobs, despite the fact he was getting close to six yards a carry against Cleveland's not-so-good run defense. I don't think Zorn will make that mistake with Portis, who has suddenly turned into a fantasy monster. (If I can just get him and Westbrook on the same page, I'll cruise through the rest of my season.)

TAMPA BAY (-10.5) over Seattle
Ugh. Flex scheduling cannot come soon enough. Come on ... I live in the Bay Area, so I get stuck with at least two awful games in the day already. Monday night is ruined by the asshats on ESPN. Sunday night is supposed to be the highlight of my day. Not only will this be an awful game in terms of real football, can you think of a game that has less fantasy implications? Earnest Graham ... Warrick Dunn (maybe) ... Engram ... and who else? Poor Seattle. Maybe you should've kicked the football team out and kept the Sonics.

Denver (+3) over NEW ENGLAND
I reserve the right to change this pick sometime Friday afternoon/evening. I need to check up Denver's injury report. But really, I have a hard time seeing how this isn't kind of a replay of last Sunday's game against the Chargers. Marshall and Royal owners' eyes should be lighting up at the prospect of 40-yard bomb after 40-yard bomb.

Last week: 9-5
Season: 42-43-3

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Recent Developments in the Market

Huh ... all these years I was told socialism was not only un-American, bad enough, but that it was bad for business too.

Now, of course, the charge led by Gordon Brown to nationalize banks isn't socialism per se. Oh, but it is entertaining to poke fun at the free-marketeers. One thing to recall when you hear them say, as you certainly will if you are apt to listen to them at all, that the market's rise today (& likely beyond) is an indication that the economy's fundamentals are and were strong, and that all we ever need to do is wait for the bull market to return, is that the floor of this particular fall was established primarily because of governmental action. The "invisible hand," as it were, did not sprinkle its faerie dust and save the day here.

It is, in part for this reason, that it is wrong to assert that because the bull always wins it is somehow a more natural state for the market than the bear. Capitalism does what capitalism must do to survive: if that means incorporating aspects of socialism and/or authoritarianism (e.g., China), it will. That the speculative market craves profit and growth, and a non-speculative economy requires them, and that they will forcibly (if necessary) adapt in such a way to make this happen, is not necessarily the stuff of nature. Continual growth is, rather, the stuff of viruses and cancers, not the natural workings of a healthy body. The market, rather, and by that we must include governments, whose stake in the market is as speculative as any individual or hedge fund manager, responds to the natural -- that is to the vicissitudes & material limitations of time, death, and decay -- and evolves accordingly. The way in which it evolves, however, is not necessary. THAT it evolves can perhaps be said to be "natural" . . . into what it evolves and by what it means, not really. Adaptation and evolution are not singular narratives that explain after the fact how we got to where we are now and forecast where we are headed, as though there were no other courses possible. Rather, to speak of adaptation and evolution is to reflect on the full range of possibilities before us at any time, and to realize that possibilities (that are being) embraced are no more natural than those that were (or are being) rejected or ignored.

Owning up to the unnatural element of nature, as it relates to the market, seems essential in actually coming to grips with its declines and keeping its rises in perspective. More importantly still, it reminds us that thinking otherwise is not only acceptable but fundamental to the processes of nature.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Six

I've thrown out my back and I'm battling a day-long bout of the hiccups, so I've been a little too miserable to post my picks. There's a bit of respite now, so I'm going to take advantage of the window. Here you go . . .

JETS (-5.5) over Cincinnati

If Palmer was playing, I’d take Cincinnati here in a heartbeat, and even advise you to grab Chris Henry. The Jets passing defense is atrocious, after all, and the Bengals were due one break-out game. Good thing I didn’t write this up last night like I normally do. Palmer is now a Friday scratch, the Bengals are stuck with Fitzpatrick, and the Jets are off to the races with a blowout win.

ATLANTA (+3) over Chicago

Chicago has been a weird team to watch. They seem, at times, really intimidating and decent. And then, if you watch closely enough, they look really soft and mediocre. Atlanta is not as bad as we want them to be. I think they scare the NFC South this week with a nice win.

INDIANAPOLIS (-4) over Baltimore

I’m all over the place with this Colts team. I really have no clue what kind of shape they’re in. Granted, they should not have covered last week. And, granted, they should not have beaten the Vikings either. BUT … they did! We can bitch and moan about the cheapness of the wins all we want, but until that stake pierces the heart the vampire he’s still dangerous. I’ve no doubt that Baltimore’s defense will cause a lot of problems, but I have just as little doubt that their offense will make just enough mistakes on their own side of the field to give the Colts a chance at the end to pull out another cheap cover. This will result in me & everybody else writing off the Colts, and then watching them knock make the playoffs as a wildcard and knocking off the AFC West champion in the first round.

Carolina (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY

I’m starting to like this Carolina team. I see them winning this one, and still nobody paying attention to them. They’ll drop a few along the way, but they’re nothing to stop them from peaking at the right time of the season and running through the playoffs. They are solid on both sides of the ball, especially on defense, and give me a reason (barring injury) their offense won’t get better as the season progresses.

Detroit (+13) over MINNESOTA

Maybe this is why that ex-goalie shot himself in the face. He looked at his tv listings and saw he was going to get stuck with this crap-fest. I don’t blame him. I really hate this game. Hate it even more that I feel like I have to take Detroit. I don’t trust Minnesota to score thirteen against LITERALLY the worst defense in the league. At some point the Lions have to find some element of pride, right?

WASHINGTON (-13.5) over St. Louis

Washington, on the hand, I’m learning to trust.

NEW ORLEANS (7.0) over Oakland

Oakland could have some success against New Orleans’ defense. They run the ball pretty well – and this should be bolstered by Fargas coming back. And Russell is competent enough to complete passes if you give him time (much like Frerotte did on Monday against the Saints). So, this game could be closer than what one might expect. But in the end, the Saints just have too much firepower. Even if the Raiders get an early lead, as they’ve been doing all season, I see no reason that the Saints can’t reel off seventeen straight in the second half. Not to mention this is basically a must-win for New Orleans.

Miami (+3) over HOUSTON

For a long time, I’ve been kind of infatuated with the Houston Texans. Really, for no reason at all. Sort of like obsessing over the really plain-looking girl in the office. The one who is never flirtatious. Who never dresses provocatively. Who has been married faithfully for ten years and has four kids. And is likely a Mormon. Really, just let it go. What transpired last Sunday against the Colts was a bit like learning that the object of your office obsession was actually one of the stars of 2 Girls 1 Cup – you just didn’t realize it because at work she wasn’t cover in shit. Likewise, now, the Texans will never but be shit-stained to me.

Jacksonville (+3.5) over DENVER

Let’s see … Denver’s defense is awful. Denver’s offense is playing without Royal and Scheffler. And yet at 4-1 are sitting pretty in the AFC West. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is coming off a tough loss to Pittsburgh, and has everything to lose by losing this week. I’ll go with the desperate here.

Dallas (-5) over ARIZONA

There are going to be a lot of people taking Arizona here, I think. They’ve seen the Cowboys stink it up the past couple of weeks, and they’re worried about “America’s Team.” Oh dear, they’re not even the best team in the NFC anymore, we’re told. This may be so, but Arizona is the all-time king in suckering people into overestimating their potential. A bit like, say, Arizona’s most famous politician, no?

SAN FRANCISCO (+5) over Philadelphia

Word has come down today that Westbrook is out. Philly is not just a different team without Westbrook … they may actually think they’re playing a different sport. It’s something to behold, actually. Plus, again, San Francisco is not nearly as bad as what we think they are. They’re bad, don’t get me wrong. But they’re getting close to that coveted “competently bad” tag. I am a bit worried, though, that Sullivan might not make it out of this game alive.

Green Bay (+2) over SEATTLE

Green Bay is suddenly as crappy as Mike Holmgren is fat. I did not see this coming. I thought they’d have a nice bounce-back win last week against Atlanta, but that defense of theirs stunk it up once again. If they do so again, this time against a worse offense, then they’re really toast. This game is not worth watching, listening to, watching recaps of, thinking about head of time. I feel dirty for even writing about it.

SAN DIEGO (-5) over New England
The conventional wisdom is that anytime Norv Turner gives Bellichek five points you take the points and run. Maybe I should, considering San Diego's deer-in-the-headlights game last week in Miami. I think they throw a wrinkle in what we think we know, though, and win convincingly this week.

New York Giants (-7.5) over CLEVELAND
I'm clearly not ready for a world in which Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning. That must explain my present condition. At least you East Coasters have a reason to go to bed early on Monday.

Last week: 5-7-2
Season: 33-38-3

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Where's the Chimney?

I first heard about rooftop gardens when I was living in Cincinnati a couple of years ago. Apparently, against all odds & expectations, the Dept. of Architecture (I think) at the Univ. of Cincinnati is actually one of the trail-blazers here. It's good to see that city leaders are actually getting behind the idea.

Don't count out the Queen City. In many ways, I miss her dearly.

. . . . I could really go for some Camp Washington Chili right about now.

Friday, October 03, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Five

(Home team in caps.)

GREEN BAY (OFF) over Atlanta
Will he play, or will he sit? This isn't just a question that Green Bay fans are asking of Aaron Rodgers, it is something I've been asking of my fantasy team since he left with a gimpy shoulder last week. I've no clue about the severity of the injury, let alone the pain he's feeling, but it's hard to see him sitting. Seeing him do well, on the other hand, is different.

Tennessee (-3) over BALTIMORE
Damn you, Chris Johnson! I sat him last week, reasoning that he'd have a hard time getting much done against the Vikings' front line. One quarter in, and my decision had already cost me a win. I'm not making the same mistake this time around. Baltimore's defense is looking as good as it ever was, but I think a little caution is merited -- esp. when playing against what is quickly becoming a Tennessee juggernaut. Thus far, Baltimore has faced the likes of Jamal Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall. This week, I think ... I hope ... Johnson exposes them like he did Minnesota.

San Diego (-6.5) over MIAMI
This San Diego team is like most of Leonardo DiCaprio's latest movies. Flashy lead actor that everybody thinks actually has legitimate chops, but nothing I'd ever spend money to see. Have you seen the preview of his new one with Kate Winslet? It looks like Mad Men, doesn't it -- except for the minor detail that the movie looks like a bayonet to the balls. The problems are legion -- a slow-starting LT, and a woeful defense. LT owners, take out, he rewards you this week. The stats behind Miami's defense lie. As for the defense, I do not see Ronnie Brown replicating the performance he had against New England. Without that, I'm not sure Miami can keep up. This game, I think, will tell us a lot about what we can expect out of both teams the rest of the way. I could be saying that, though, because it's one of the games I'm stuck with out here and desperately need a reason to care.

HOUSTON (+3) over Indianapolis
I really can't be picking against the Colts, off a humiliating loss two weeks ago and a bye last week, can I? Oh, wait, I guess I did. Houston has some things working in their favor. Slaton appears to have the goods to do the kind of things the Colts cannot stop; Schaub actually plays pretty well at Houston; and Houston's WRs are more competent than they're given credit for being. Indy could very well gut out a win here, and nobody would be surprised. From what I can tell, unlike the rest of the league, nobody in the AFC South is actually afraid of the Colts. They may not know too well what it's like to beat the Colts in the grand scheme of things, but they do know they're beatable in the regular season. This is why Indy's divisional games are often so entertaining.

Seattle (+7) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Have you heard The Roots' "Birthday Girl"? There are hundreds of reasons this song shouldn't work on me. It comes at the end of one of the hardest-hitting CDs in recent memory, filled with brilliant social commentary and incendiary lyrics ... and absolutely doesn't fit the tone of the album at all. More importantly, it features the lead singer of Fall Out Boy. A damnable offense normally. And yet, somehow, it works. It all works. It's not a great song, but it makes me laugh every time I hear it. The moral: sometimes in life the recipe doesn't tell you whether the dish will be good. I've said some harsh things about Seattle this season, and I think it's been with good cause. But this week, against the Giants at home (always a scary prospect for Eli), I think Seattle surprises a few people here.

Washington (+6) over PHILADELPHIA
I don't get how Philly is favored by this much. Did Vegas not watch the Dallas game? Or maybe they assume they only won because Dallas decided to play with one hand tied behind their back -- a like McCain, I think, in choosing Palin. Either way, Washington seems really disrespected here. They deserve our respect, if but for a week.

CAROLINA (-9.5) over Kansas City
Kansas City comes back down to earth this week. Carolina isn't a great team, but they don't do anything badly either. Denver had a stupid loss coming. It was no indication of life in the Chiefs. Big week for owners of Panther players, I say.

Chicago (-3) over DETROIT
I think I've said it here. And if not, I should've. Chicago is going to be a tough out all year. Even in comes where they should win, like this one, I think they'll make it tough on themselves. Orton has shown, though, that he punishes you if can't bring any pressure. And as luck has it, 'can't bring any pressure' is what Detroit's defense yells every time they break huddle.

DENVER (-3) over Tampa Bay
So begins the quick jumping from the Bronco bandwagon. Not so quickly, people. THe AFC West is still wide open. This is going to be one of those games that slips through the cracks for casual football fans. But I think it is also one that a lot of people will be switching to via DirectTv. Tampa Bay is a curious team. So far, they seem to have an ability to play up or down with whoever they're playing. I expect much the same on Sunday. They have just enough juice to stick with Denver's defense if it turns into a shoot-out, and just enough defense also to turn it into a ugly slug-fest. Denver puts them in a bind, though, because they can thrown AND score points. It could be a replay of Tampa's first week loss to New Orleans.

Buffalo (+1) over ARIZONA
Buffalo just wins. It's rarely pretty, but have they given us any reason to pick against them yet?

Cincinnati (+17) over DALLAS
Just on general principle, I can't pick somebody -- esp. not this weird Dallas team -- to cover a spread this big.

New England (-3) over SAN FRANCISCO
I realize I'm picking against a lot of home teams. That doesn't bode well for my record. Oh well, that's already going to hell anyway. There is one good thing about having SF games on my tv each week. It's always fun to see QBs get crushed on nearly every play. With luck, J. T. Sullivan may soon replace David Klingler as the QB I've seen sacked most.

JACKSONVILLE (-3) over Pittsburgh
Both of these teams have an uncanny ability to disappoint opposing fans. Your team is on the verge of pulling off a nice win, and yet they always find a way to rip your heart out. Interestingly, they also have an uncanny ability to have their own hearts ripped out. Neither team goes into that good night quietly. This one will not be pretty. In fact, it could be three-and-a-half boring quarters, followed by a late flurry. I'm taking Jacksonville only because they're healthier.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Minnesota
The curse of Daunte Culpepper endureth!

Last Week: 5-8
Season: 28-31-1