The theater of the absurd has continued for yet another week of pigskin pick’em. I’ve come to grips with the reality that my predicting destiny is to finish the 2012 season with exactly the same amount of wins and losses. Another incredibly average 7-9 performance leaves us with a 110-106-7 record for the season. You don’t need Mr. Sparks’ help to do that math.
Early in the year I mentioned a NFL contest held at many Las Vegas casinos called “Fiddle in the Middle.” The object of the game is to finish as close to .500 as possible. With a stunning 50.9 percent rate of success, I would definitely be in the running to win that contest if I wasn’t freezing my glutes off in Soldotna right now. I couldn’t fiddle any closer to middle if I was trying.
Let’s forget about football for a second and talk about my day. I’ve spent the entire morning chugging coffee while trying to figure out how I could go “Mike Gundy” on my kids at Skyview before we play Kenai Thursday night. That’s part of coaching right? You have to bring emotional speeches to pregame talks, otherwise what are you? You’re boring, and high school kids hate boring. It’s going to go something like this.
“Listen kids, I’m ineligible to play in this game, because I’m a man! I’m 30! Luckily, you guys can play, but you have to want to compete! It’s not enough to just wander around out there for 32 minutes. You have to love competition! This game isn’t about winning or losing, we’re not there yet. For us, it’s about focusing our attention on doing the little things that give you a chance to be competitive. When you add up all of those little things you can accomplish something big.
“I would love to experience the youth you kids possess again, but I’m old and washed up. I’m a man! I’m 30! Don’t take that youth for granted. Treasure these opportunities. These games will live in your memories for the rest of your life. If you compete, if you play your glutes off, you’ll enjoy those memories! Do not waste this moment! Now, let’s go get after it men!”
Truthfully, I probably won’t say anything close to that, I’ll chicken out, but I like to think that I will.
I gave you a preview of my pregame speech for a couple reasons. First, I didn’t feel like spending any time looking through statistics trying to come up with an educated guess on which NFL teams will cover the spread this weekend. I’m convinced my effort doesn’t matter. I’m finishing .500 regardless.
It’s my pigskin pick’em destiny. Second, the speech doubled as space filler, which is critically important when you’re suffering from a severe case of writer’s block.
Before we get to my picks for the upcoming slate of games, I want to give my condolences to those suffering from the Newtown, Conn., tragedy. There are incredibly evil people in the world. Americans have witnessed numerous examples of that, but ending the lives of so many young children, 6- and 7-year-olds, without discretion is beyond evil. It’s been an emotional week. You can’t watch the news without holding back tears. I just can’t comprehend how something like that is within human capabilities. Hell, if there is such a place, is far too convenient for this murderer.
ATLANTA FALCONS @ Detroit Lions +4
The Lions are coming off an embarrassing 38-10 defeat in Arizona to the Cardinals. The only way you can lose to Arizona is if you’ve tanked the season. Detroit has quit playing. The Falcons are still playing for home field advantage in the NFC. I’m siding with the team that will show up. Falcons win 31-24
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ Dallas Cowboys -1
Dallas, still in the playoff hunt, is only a one-point favorite against the 6-8 New Orleans Saints? Vegas is asking for Joe Public to side with the ’Boys and they’ll get their wish with that number. I’ll take the Saints. Tony Romo is long overdue for a classic Romo implosion performance. Saints win 28-27
Tennessee Titans @ GREEN BAY PACKERS -13
I hate laying 13 points, but the Packers are rolling and Tennessee is awful. The Titans defeated the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, but managed only 14 points despite the Jets committing five turnovers. Green Bay isn’t going to hand the ball to the Titans. Packers win 34-17
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ Kansas City Chiefs +7
The Chiefs are battling for the No. 1 overall choice in next year’s NFL Draft. Kansas City can’t afford to win this game! A win for the Colts will secure a spot in the playoffs. Indianapolis has struggled on the road this season, but I don’t see Chiefs putting up much of a fight. Colts win 28-13
Buffalo Bills @ MIAMI DOLPHINS -5
C.J. Spiller is the only offensive threat the Bills possess. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Miami has one of the best run defenses in football. Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has performed well at home all season. Can Buffalo rebound from the “fiddy-spot” the Seattle Seahawks dropped on them last week? Dolphins win 24-17
San Diego Chargers @ NEW YORK JETS -1
I can’t believe that I’m siding with the New York Jets. The Jets are terrible, but they’re finally benching Mark Sanchez in favor of Tim Tebow. Oh wait. … They’re not playing Tebow? They’re going with Greg McElroy instead? Hard to understand that decision, but how do you trust the Chargers right now? Jets win 21-17
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ Philadelphia Eagles +6
Which Eagles team is going to show up this weekend? This is the challenge of point spreads this time of year. How do you predict a team’s motivation level? The Redskins have been on fire for over a month. Robert Griffin III should be back in the lineup. Redskins win 31-20
Cincinnati Bengals @ PITTSBURGH
The Steelers have to have this game to stay alive in the AFC playoff race. The Bengals have been playing well, but they’re overdue for a bad performance. I just think the Steelers have won too many big games with this group of players to lose this contest at home. Steelers win 24-17
St. Louis Rams @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS -3
Tampa Bay appeared to be a rising team in the NFC just a month ago but four consecutive losses has left the franchise questioning the team’s direction. The Rams were inexplicably crushed at home by the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, effectively ending their playoff aspirations. Buccaneers win 21-17
Oakland Raiders @
CAROLINA PANTHERS -10
It’s incredible to back the 5-9 Panthers when you have to lay 10 points, but that’s what I’m going to do. The Oakland Raiders demand your disrespect! They’re that bad. Cam Newton has been playing much better of late for Carolina, a team that’s finishing the season strong. Panthers win 34-17
PATRIOTS @ Jacksonville Jaguars +15
This would normally be a spot that I’d like to side with the underdog. Spotting over two touchdowns is always tough, but I think any chance of New England overlooking the Jaguars is eliminated with the Patriots coming off a loss to the 49ers last Sunday. Brady Bunch win 43-14
@ HOUSTON TEXANS -9
Somebody has to stop Adrian Peterson at some point right? He’s the only threat the Vikings have! Christian Ponder can’t throw the ball farther than 20 yards. Percy Harvin is out with an injury. They’re going to give it to Peterson. I have to think the Texans are good enough to slow him down. Texans win 30-17
@ DENVER BRONCOS -14
After a minor challenge from Baltimore last week Denver’s schedule returns to its normal cupcake difficulty. Let’s compare the quarterbacks in this matchup, Brandon Weeden vs. Peyton Manning. Who in their right mind would back the Brownies? You just can’t. Happy J.D.? Broncos win 30-14
@ Arizona Cardinals +6
If the Bears were ever to play a good game this would be a good time to do it. The entire team, in the vision of its quarterback, has gone full blown Cutler implosion mode in recent weeks. Arizona is pathetic, though, and I refuse to select them for any reason after the 58-0 shellacking a couple weeks ago. Bears win 23-14
NEW YORK GIANTS
@ Baltimore Ravens +1
Both of these teams are floundering mightily. Odd considering how good these teams have been for the better part of the last decade. The Giants have an advantage, however because Joe Flacco isn’t their quarterback. The Flacco experiment in Baltimore appears to be coming to an end. Giants win 27-13
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
@ Seattle Seahawks +1
I feel real contempt for the 49ers. I can’t stand that team or their coach. Unfortunately, they’re really good at football. I don’t remember a regular season game in Seattle that’s been more hyped than this one. Anti-jinx policy requires I take San Francisco in the Clarion, but don’t be confused, you know where my loyalties lie. I’m not even going to predict a score. I refuse!