NFL Week 15: Early Bird Gets the Home Field

Frankly, I haven’t read all scenarios for the playoffs. I figure it’s all math gibberish and ultimately, whether or not a team on the bubble makes it in depends on so many things that it’s just too early to worry.

Here’s the part where I weigh in on the perfect season talk. Green Bay looked so dominate in the first fifteen minutes of play against the Raiders, that even the Raiders fans changed the channel. Not that it would’ve been a good match up anyways but seriously. I know, I know, every year we have this talk about whether a team can go perfect in the regular season. And then there’s Green Bay. Which seems to walk around with the kind of nonchalant confidence of  the biggest kid in the gym class right before picking sides in tug-of-war.

Yeah, no matter what happens, not only CAN they win but it’s just a matter of HOW. What weapons will Aaron Rodgers use to even the score up? Just how many sacks will Clay Matthews force to get to 4 and out?

Yeah, they’re that good, people. SO don’t worry if you’re team can make it into the playoffs. Can any team beat them?

Oh, and one point that does seem to be kicking around this week from various pundits. If God is gracing Tim Tebow with luck and therefore wins this season, then that must mean one thing:

Aaron Rodgers is God.

The Picks

Thursday

Falcons over Jaguars

Saturday

Cowboys over Bucs

Sunday

Dolphins over Bills

Giants over Redskins

Titans over Colts

Texans over Panthers

Packers over Chiefs

Bengals over Rams

Saints over Vikings

Seahawks over Bears

Raiders over Lions

Eagles over Jets

Cardinals over Browns

Patriots over Broncos

Chargers over Ravens

Monday Night

Steelers over 49ers

NFL Week 7: Be careful what you wish for

tebow

For all those Bronco fans that think today will be the second coming and that Tim Tebow will deliver them from the evil of the pit of the AFC West, I certainly hope you get what you are praying for.

Problem is the quarterback position isn’t the end of the Broncos woes. I’ve been hearing those extol the virtues of the Tebow, that he’s a “winner.” But this isn’t baseball, kids, and if you want to be a winner in the NFL, you have to start and finish the game on top.

Maybe Tebow will feel somewhat comfortable back in Florida for his lead off. Maybe it’ll help having some potential Gators fans circling around. But then again, you ARE playing the Dolphins.  Whatever happens today, I’m sure even if he has a mediocre game, most outlets will drain this news item until its sucked dry.

I’m still shaking my head at Goodell’s miss by NOT fining Schwartz and Harbaugh for their kerfuffle on the field after the game. If you can fine a linesman for taking his mic off, you’d better fine the top dogs of the team for unsportsmanlike conduct. But perhaps, he’s got something else in mind.

Speaking of coaches misbehaving, would someone tell both Rex Ryan and Norv Turner that neither one of their butts have a ring? Meanwhile, Marty Schottenheimer shakes is head and wonders what a coach has to do to keep his job. Apparently, blow a lot of hot air.

The Picks

Last week was a return to form with a great 10 – 3 showing. This week, I’m not near as confident as a lot of the fringe teams are at it against each other.

Texans over Titans

Browns over Seahawks

Lions over Falcons

GoatDolphins over Broncos

Chargers over Jets

Fingers crossedBucs over Bears

Panthers over Redskins

StarRaiders over Chiefs

Steelers over Cardinals

Packers over Vikings

Cowboys over Rams

Saints over Colts

Monday Nite

Ravens over Jags, 27 –7

Fantasy Island

The Bye was almost the Bye Bye week for me. I had a decent showing considering. But like a lot of head to head match-ups I’ve seen this year, I wind up hitting a player who’s team goes off during our match-up.

So I’m circling the drain and hoping that Philip and Antonio can both play and also keep me from being buried. With Jahvid Best out and no really good option left, it’s going to have to be Rivers and Gates best week to save my pigskin.

NFL Week 5: Commitment to the Game

alhelment

You can know a lot about football without knowing how pro football organizations work. It isn’t that difficult to understand that the NFL makes money. A lot of it.  And for a lot of owners, that is their role job in this money making enterprise; provide the money, hire people to manage the game.

Al Davis never hired someone else to manage the game for him. He was always involved, always visible, sometimes in head shaking ways. But one could never doubt his love of the game, his passion for the game, his commitment to the game and commitment to his team.

His fashion glasses, his expensive track suit, his presence on the sidelines all became indelible marks on the collective psyche that no one will ever replace.

As a Charger fan, Al Davis meant a whole host of other things to me as does his organization. But we learn the most from our closest adversaries and when they are at their best, their scariest, their most challenging, then they push us to excel. And excellence was a passion that Al Davis had for his entire life. We will all miss that. Rest in peace, Al. We already miss you.

The Picks

I had an amazing week last week: 15 –1. It’s a record and while I took a great amount of time reveling in it, everyone knows that they play the game because it’s unpredictable and you just never know. And I don’t bet games so ultimately, this is all about fun. And my fantasy league is definitely a lesson in humility right now.

Thumbs downSaints over Panthers

Fingers crossedBills over Eagles

Thumbs downBengals over Jags

Thumbs downGiants over Seahawks

Pointing upTitans over Steelers

Broken heartTexans over Raiders

High fiveColts over Chiefs

Thumbs downCardinals over Vikings

Thumbs downBuccaneers over 49ers

Fingers crossedChargers over Broncos

High fivePats over Jets

High fiveFalcons over Packers

Monday Night

High fiveLions over Bears 17 – 14

Fantasy Island

So I have a much better appreciation for injuries in the NFL now considering that I’ve had to do a few rejiggers of my team based on injuries. The big one hurting me? Antonio Gates. Whether Antonio can heal up and come up big later in the season, I’m waiting to see. And it’s a risk having players that are so symbiotic like Gates and Rivers on one team.

But I’ve been making good points overall, just getting routed in my head to head matches. But it’s a long season. Today, I chose to play Maclin over Green at wide receiver. I picked up Casey from the Texans to fill in for Gates at TE. Projections are I’m going to get routed. However, the week I beat the league in points, I was projected to lose by 20.

It’s why they play the game, baby! 

NFL Week 4: Who DAT? Sproles all dat!

Sometimes the way to really measure a player’s impact to a team is to look at that team’s performance after their gone. Sproles is all DAT!The Chargers 3rd down and kickoff return performance have been rather anemic despite the better-than-average September start. And frankly, Rivers is looking a little unnerved back there.

Could it be that he is missing his little helper? Darren Sproles is, to quote my favorite sports film Rudy, “five foot nothing, one hundred and nothing,” but there’s where the quote comes to a screeching halt. Sproles has incredible athletic ability including being able to have his 5’6” frame as one of the most effective pass blockers the Chargers had.

It’s good to see the Saints seeing all dat Sproles can bring to a game. I’m sorry that I didn’t have that faith in week 1 of my fantasy league. But nevermore.

On to the picks!

The Picks

Some really choice contests this week. Check it out!

Pointing upSaints over Jags

Fingers crossedChiefs over Viks

Pointing upBears over Panthers

Thumbs downTitans over Browns

Pointing upTexans over Steelers

Fingers crossed49ers over Eagles

Thumbs downRedskins over Rams

Fingers crossedBills over Bengals – Hoping the huge win last week isn’t a huge letdown for this week’s Bills

High fiveLions over Cowboys – Out of both Dreamers, still thinking the Lions are more real.

Pointing upGiants over Cardinals

Thumbs downFalcons over Seahawks

Thumbs downPackers over Broncos

Thumbs upPatriots over Raiders – While I think this will be close, the Patriots biggest defensive hole is its secondary. And I’m not sure how well the Raiders can pass. Plus, Belichick will have taken the car into the shop for a tune-up after last week.

Pointing upChargers over Dolphins – Might be more exciting to watch a replay of the 1982 classic.

Pointing upRavens over Jets – The Ravens really scare me right now. Really. Flacco is starting to look tight. which has really been their weakness.

Monday Night

Thumbs downBuccaneers over Colts, 14-10

Fantasy Island

Oh how the mighty have fallen fallen fallen. Up one week and decimated by injuries the next. Guess the honeymoon is over for me in Fantasy league. So a little shuffling had to be done.

Rivers is still a starter as are Best RB, Sproles RB, Smith WR, and Green WR. However, Jeff King is stepping in for Gates who likely will have an extended sit-out. Driver is healthy and back in.

Looking for some defensive love this week from Chicago against Cam Newton. Ooh, ugly! Folk could get a lot of play today when Jets take on the Ravens.

Game on!

NFL Week 3: Surprise, Surprise!

Run, Ryan, Run!

Well, well, well, if it isn’t Mr. Parity paying a visit to the most profitable sports industry on the planet. Even if the Bills choke like the, well, Buffalo Bills, or the Lions get declawed by the nearly shorn Vikings, jerseys for numbers 14 and 9 are probably selling pretty well about now.

Which just goes to show….Roger Goddell is a genius. No, seriously. You may enjoy the scoreboard antics of college ball. But give me the honest chance of any team winning on any given Sunday any day.

And if the Detroit Lions manage to win a very manageable game against a sun-setting Minnesota team, then wily Matthew Stafford will definitely have something to be smiling about: the rebirth of a franchise.

stafford

The Numbers – The Picks

Last week, after missing the starting week, I roared to a great showing of 10 – 6, which I reasonably proud of. Now then, it was a pretty easy week to call. Having said that, there weren’t a lot of brain teasers this week either. And I managed to throw a couple of Hail Mary’s in there too. I love this Parity thang!

– Bills over Pats – Yeah yeah yeah, call me crazy!
– Lions over Vikings
– Eagles over Giants
– Panthers over Jags
– 49ers over Bengals
– Saints over Texans
– Dolphins over Browns
– Broncos over Titans
– Chargers over Chiefs
– Ravens over Rams – I suspect this one won’t be pretty.
– Raiders over Jets – Yeah, you read that right.
– Bears over Packers – I still have faith in that defense.
– Falcons over Bucs
– Cardinals over Seahawks
– Steelers over Colts

MONDAY NIGHT

Redskins over Cowboys 17 – 14 (assuming Romo won’t play).

Fantasy Island

Last week, I thumped my fellow NFL.com fantasy leaguers with a whopping 120.52. My secret weapon? Philly’s Jeremy Maclin lit it up with 171 yds and 2 TDs winning the MVP award but barely ahead of Jahvid Best of the Detroit Rock Lions who ran for 57 yds and received for 66 yards with one TD a piece in those categories.

In the category of “Didn’t know what I had” goes Steve Smith who could’ve cemented me as a early season leader…if I’d played him week 1. But no matter, I have learned from that mistake.

I had to pick up an extra tight end as Antonio Gates foot seems to be ailing yet again. But in picking up Jeff King from Arizona, I’m hoping to at least have some decent numbers against the Seahawks secondary. My 2009 resurrection Chargers team has already shown signs of withering but adding Darren Sproles back into the starter’s ranks for the benched Gates will hopefully help. Rivers had a rough week in Boston but still put up impressive numbers making him “The Unbenchable One.”

Nick Folk, replacing Nate Kaeding, showed up in spades and happily filled in nicely. I’m quite enjoying learning about the players and how they fill into teams, even when they don’t win. Kinda a refreshing look beyond the W’s and L’s.

Check it TV: Human Target

If you’re like me, Jack Bauer’s schtick is getting a little old.  The barking orders, the threats, the yelling at Chloe that “There’s no TIME!”  Even the fight scenes are…dull.  Would it hurt Jack so much to crack a joke or a smile when he’s not torturing someone or shooting a source’s wife’s leg to get him to talk?  I mean, I’m not asking for television that asks any deep questions like what really makes up our personalities, our memories?  (If I was, I’d already be disappointed since FOX already cancelled that show!)  I’m just looking for some entertaining kick-ass that doesn’t make me squirm and can occasionally put a smile on my face. 

Trust me...to crack a smile in the face of danger.

 

Enter the latest TV translation of comic book:  Len Wein’s Human Target.  Or, more accurately, Mark Valley’s pleasantly sardonic mug.  Mark Valley’s last go-around on television was playing dead boyfriend/FBI partner  to Fringe lead (and real-time wifey) Anna Torv which was, in a word, wasteful.  I’ve been a huge fan of Valley’s since 2003’s Keen Eddie, where Valley played an even more comic police officer landed in Jolly Old England.  (See more below on that show.)  Valley has wandered through a few shows, most noticeably a lengthy turn through Boston Legal where he deadpanned his way through absurd conversations with lawyer slash crazy, Denny Crane (played to Emmy perfection by the Shatner.) 

In Human Target, Valley finally returns to his due as the lead, sarcastic wit and deadpan humor intact.  As bodyguard/detective Christopher Chance, he blends into the client’s life to identify the threat and flush them out.  There is plenty of sleuthing, action, and Valley’s sexy smirk.  And all manners of transportation.  Planes, trains, and automobiles have all been put through their action-packed paces.  Along for the ride and lending much needed banter are the ever likeable grumpas Chi McBride as Chance’s handler/partner and the resurgent Jackie Earle Haley as what happens when nerds like guns and ammo. 

To be honest, the show is light on surprises but handles their stories well.  There’s no artifice here that their plots aren’t out there (former Battlestar babe Trisha Helfer designing a super speed train…puh-lease!).  The action sequences, and they are the cornerstone of the show, are filmed well with Bourne Identity moves without my Mom’s shaky handheld camera film style.  Valley’s lead is well balanced with a seeming openness but man with a past attitude.  But McBride, much as he did in ABC’s failed Pushing Daisies, keeps the plot moving while providing the kind of fun banter from all the best buddy films, even lending a hand in the action (The episode “Rewind” provides some great hysterics in that department.  Are there pretzels on this flight?)  Jackie Earle Haley is on quite the roll and there’s a tinge of Watchmen’s Rorschach in his sinister but helpful hacker.  That edge makes his appearance always a little unsettling and ultimately enjoyable. 

So if you’re ready to tell Jack to lighten up a bit, give Human Target a shot, on Fox Demand and airing Wednesday nights 8/7.  And tell ’em Chloe sent you! 

Also Check IT:  Keen Eddie 

As fun as Human Target is, it will likely never surpass the madcap hilarity of J.H. Wyman’s Keen Eddie.  Yeah, it’s the classic Ugly American Copper story but its humor is so deftly played that you won’t escape an episode without rolling on the floor from something.  Hot secretary fantasy sequences?  Check.  Uncool but hysterical Brit partner?  Check.  Absurdly ridiculous plots?  Check.  And an added bonus for our guy friends, Sienna Miller…with her undies showing.  Yup, the show is impossible to describe but totally worth the frustration of too-few episodes.  

So pick up the DVDs or Netflix it.

Check it TV: Can you escape The Prisoner?

Obey...Resist...Cherry Cake!

With last week’s season finale of Mad Men, it seemed like a hole opened up in the universe where great TV spawned from.  Relax, fans of drama that keeps you guessing, AMC, the same network that hit one outta the park with their first original series sucks you into a wormhole with the revamp of the classic series The Prisoner.  I’d never watched the original, never even knew of its existence until this reboot which probably serves me just as well.  This latest incarnation is so full of….stuff…so much stuff I’m going to pull out my very own $0.25 word and call it phantasmagorical.  So much so, I fell like I’m actually tripping watching it.

The visual style is disorienting and if you blink, well, there’s a rewind button on your DVR remote for shows like this.  It’s Dark City meets Jacob’s Ladder meets Lost.  In fact, now that I’ve written it, I’m expecting Ben to walk out from that anchor, do some tuning, ask 6 of 9 where Locke is and convince you to get back to Shell Beach STAT.

The basic premise, well, the only thing I can relate, is that some guy (called 6) wakes up in a place called the Village, not knowing how he got there and convinced there is life beyond it.  The rest of the natives are an ensemble of happy residents, half-believers, and those actively trying to escape the ennui of their seeming shadow lives.  Quick cuts, time reorganizing, and the lights rolling as if you were strapped to a gurney (most obvious Jacob’s Ladder comparison) guarantee that you have to pay close attention in case the clues of what the F is going on are in front of you.  But I’m missing them and I’m developing a fear of large white cushy balls and little girls in school uniforms.  There must be a video game reference in this somewhere.

The show isn’t for the impatient.  There is no quick reveal and the point is surely misdirection so the ride and the mindplay are what are apt to suck you in.  In addition, the cast is impeccable….anyone want to dole out another award for Sir McKellan?  If you love a good mystery, love being taken for a sci-fi jaunt like a modern day Alice, then The Prisoner is a good bet to keep you entertained.  Check it out…with a full supply of red, green, and blue pills.  Just a little pinprick. 

The Prisoner is currently showing on AMC and, therefore, will be showing in heavy rotation and massive encore repeats until the next season of Mad Men.

Check it TV: The Good Wife

What would you do?
She's got the goods

There are a lot of legal shows on television so I’m not going to try and convince you to watch another one for the sake of…watching another legal procedural.  I’m also not going to try and talk this show up by taking pot shots at the other shows.  I’ve enjoyed many different legal dramas over the years.  I’m still working through my crack/cocaine addiction to anything with L&O in the title.

 

Having written that, the good wife does offer a new and refreshing starting point: a highly public scandal as the impetus for a middle-aged, affluent wife and mother re-entering the workforce.  It could have been a good gimmick, to spurn on viewing from a clear demographic still smarting from recent sex scandals such as a South Carolina governor who runs off to Buenos Aires to be with his mistress and a former presidental candidate’s love child.   All of this in the shadow of the biggest sex scandal, one right out of the Oval Office (which gets referenced in the pilot).

What I admire about this show is that it doesn’t use the circumstances of its protagonist to just get you to start watching.  It doesn’t shy away from the hurt, embarrassment, rage, shock, etc etc of a wife and mother finding out that the life she thought she had never really existed.   It faces it head on, making it just as much a story about the scandal as it is about survival.  What would you do in her shoes?  How would you cope?  Would you be able to take it “one day at a time?”

Two episodes in, I can tell you a few things that will keep me watching:

  • The writing:  Amazingly fresh, true-to-life, and consistent.  You know writing is good when you fell like you’ve had the conversation or heard that conversation ina hallway somewhere. 
  • Believable characters:  I admire that her son and daughter are both smart and still stunned, her mother-in-law bristles in every scene, her younger co-worker can’t help but offend with every other word, and her husband is still trying to make her feel guilty about not forgiving him yet.
  • The cast:  Stellar.  Anytime someone can get Christine Baranski to bandy intelligent arguments with some plucky upstart, you’ve got watchable TV.  Josh Charles is always on the mark, Archie Panjabi is a find, and Chris Noth…well, Mr Big playing the caught philanderer is GOLD!
  • Julianna Margulies.  She is so incredibly interesting you want her in every scene just to see every nuance of her facial expressions.  I hear Emmy, if the show can keep up the quality.

The Scotts, Tony and Ridley, who have filled theaters around the globe, have made other ventures into television.  This one feels well-crafted and has, so far, hit the right mix of “case of the week” and the inside-the-family interest story.  The additional story arc of whether her husband was framed for abusing his office is interesting but I’m hoping it doesn’t overwhelm the real heart of this show: a mother, wife, woman trying to piece her life back together after having it heartlessly torn asunder.  And seeing her do that is well worth checking out on its own.

the good wife is on Tuesday nights on CBS.

Check it DVD: Join the Carnivale!

I heart Carnies!!
I heart Carnies!!

Oh how the mighty have fallen!  The once ubiqitous Heroes premiered this week with barely a whimper in the media.  And while I’ve been very disenchanted with the show for awhile, except HGF alum Zachery Quinto, I was still willing to give it another chance.  And what do they bring out to try and resurrect flagging interest?  Carnies!  Super Carnies!  Which got me reminiscing about the HBO Series Carnivale.  Which is ironic on a couple of levels.  First, a good friend and I had been talking just last weekend about the show, trying to explain it to his wife as a weirder, meaner version of Twin Peaks.  Which is doubly ironic considering last week’s HGF alum Kyle MacLachlan.  And did I mention Michael J. Anderson who played the dwarf in Twin Peak’s Black Lodge plays the manager of the carnival?

All of this circuitous musing aside, Carnivale was a perfect fit for cable in its dark, brooding, epic feel.  It’s been tried before on television and usually comes out poorly or poorly supported.  And in the end, that was the demise of Carnivale as well, its carnie creepiness even too much for HBO, who cut its six season run short by four seasons.  But it did give us almost two perfect seasons of biblical weird, the battle of dark and light played out in the blowing sands and starkness of the Great Depression, a time of desperation, where souls got lost as well as entire towns.

The basic premise follows the traveling troupe trying to make their way through the carnival circuit.  From the very beginning, we are told about the two opposing forces and introduced to the strange trailer holding a hidden voice that directs carnival manager Samson to help an escaped fugitive farm boy, played expertly by Nick Stahl.   This farm boy has known he’s special and fights to both hide and understand his abilities and his dreams of a dark future.  That future seems inexplicably bound to a flawed and potentially evil California preacher played by one of my favs, Clancy Brown.  As the preacher struggles with his flock , he discovers he has certain abilities and prophetic dreams that drive him down his path.

One of the best ensemble casts ever put together, the stories weave about in uncertain ambles, taking you down dark places and daring you to look away.  Anchored against the vast darkness by hints of the goodness and pettiness of the everyday relationships within the troupe and town, Carnivale doesn’t quite reach its destination with its abrupt cancellation.  Sad especially when HBO seems determined to stop anyone else from finishing off this would-be masterpiece.  But there’s enough wonder and shudder in what remains to keep you guessing and marveling and the uniqueness that is this traveling show.

Check out both seasons of HBO’s Carnivale on DVD.   And don’t worry if you need to keep the light on afterwards.

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