Sometimes the stars will align, and you find yourself a part of something unforgettable.
About once a month, at my brother’s house, a veritable entourage of players in our fantasy football league will come together for a Sunday of feasting and football. Generally, we do this when the Philadelphia Eagles are off, or play a night game, because the last thing I want is to look man-childish and despondent in front of friends when my team is getting hammered.
Granted, I’d have LOVED to have witnesses for the Washington Redskins slaughter this past Monday….
Of course, not everyone in my league is an Philadelphia Eagles fan. For the first time this year, my friend Cory attended our gathering. Cory was born and raised in Jacksonville before moving to New Jersey during his formative years.
As you may have guessed by now, he’s the last surviving Jaguars fan.
Cory’s devoted too, once wearing a Tony Boselli jersey to my house and my friend Alex (a Steelers lover) had no idea who the hell he was.
Boselli, not Cory.
Anywho, as I said, Cory attended our gathering this past Sunday after a spur-of-the-moment invite Saturday night. He was looking forward to his team’s divisional game with the Houston Texans. The AFC South was packed tight like sardines going into the game, and a win by Cory’s Jags would increase their chances at a perceived-unlikely playoff run.
The Jags had a two score lead, 24-10, at one point, but Cory and the rest of us slowly watched it whittle away, as Houston would tie the game on touchdowns from Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter.
Underrated moment: Johnson’s on my fantasy team, and when he scored, I jumped up and screamed “YES!” before turning to Cory, and softly saying “sorry”. I guess you had to be there.
The screaming in my brother’s living room from a bunch of grown men would have shattered his windows with even a little more outward force.
Cory of course was happy as his team had done the impossible. We were all ecstatic because it was an amazing moment.
Underrated moment #2: Jacksonville’s mascot, a giant cat named Jackson DeVille, tried to chase down Thomas in the end zone during the hysteria, and my buddy Rob in the room yelled “HE’S BEING CHASED BY WINNIE THE POOH!”
And this is what football’s about. It’s not about scandal, it’s not about owners vs. the union, it’s not about talking heads, and it’s not about rule changes in mid season. It’s about being entertained on Sundays, enjoying a day off of work, letting your emotions out in a fun, possibly inebriated, way.
The more days we have like Mike Thomas and the “River City Ricochet”, the more we can look past the stupidity brought on by owners, announcers, troubled players, and the media.
Let’s forget all of that, and let’s bask in what football is supposed to be: fun.
Speaking of fun, I had a fairly fun week in week 10, going 9-5, capping off the weekend with my Eagles eviscerating Washington in historical fashion. While I don’t think they’ll give the Giants a similar beating, I still look forward to the spate of games this week, as all 32 teams are past their byes.
So let’s have fun!
WEEK 10: 9-5
FOR THE YEAR: 88-56
16. Baltimore over Carolina
We celebrate the return of the number 16 with the return of Baltimore’s violent tendencies. Their loss to Atlanta last Thursday was a last minute stunner, and they’ve had a few extra days to prepare for, arguably, the worst team in football. Mike Goodson, the new, unlikely face of Carolina’s offense, had a few nice moments against Tampa Bay, but if you think he and Tony Pike/Brian St. Pierre will have any chance against a scorned Ravens team, I’ll give you any odds you want and we’ll bet from there.
SCORE: Ravens 37, Panthers 7
15. New Orleans over Seattle
Speaking of “well rested”, the Saints are coming off of their bye, and Drew Brees was playing extremely well in the weeks BEFORE recharging his batteries. Add to that the likely return of Reggie Bush, and Seattle’s pistol-whipping of Arizona is now a thing of the past. The only thing interesting about this game, besides seeing if Brees can put up a performance like Tom Brady or Michael Vick from a week ago, is seeing Reggie Bush face Pete Carroll for the first time ever. I think Bush’ll make his ex-mentor look bad, but without illegal benefits this time.
SCORE: Saints 34, Seahawks 10
14. Green Bay over Minnesota
Chilly-watch is well under way, and the loss to the Bears last week just about renders them incapable of taking the division. A loss to the Packers would essentially shovel dirt onto Minnesota’s grave. After a tough game between the teams earlier this year, the story’s different now. The Vikings are a house divided, and the Packers are willing to come together in their footrace for first place with Chicago. Favre’s shoulder is a mess, so look for Green Bay’s defense to be the difference. If Adrian Peterson is ineffective, the game will be over in the third quarter.
SCORE: Packers 31, Vikings 14
13. Kansas City over Arizona
I’m putting a lot of faith into a team that let Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow make fools of them a week ago. Then again, Arizona’s been a plateful of sewage this season, and KC is merely inconsistent, not outright bad. Todd Haley was clearly embarrassed Sunday, and it spilled over into his refusal to shake Josh McDaniels’ hand. It’s been a tough week for the Chiefs, having to share first place with a resurgent Raiders, and they need to act now. A loss here would make them “not that team”, and Haley’s proneness to being frazzled won’t let that happen. Chiefs win it here.
SCORE: Chiefs 27, Cardinals 14
12. Atlanta over St. Louis
My enthusiasm for the Rams’ resurrection has cooled considerably, and the Falcons are heading the NFC pack for good reason. Having the wherewithal to beat Baltimore after losing the lead with 1:05 remaining makes you a contender, even if you had a little luck along the final minute. While Atlanta has this momentum, they should be able to beat the inconsistent Rams, so long as they don’t ride too high. Isn’t it amazing how the top two teams in the NFC South and West are facing each other, and yet the two sides look so diametrically opposed?
SCORE: Falcons 34, Rams 17
11. San Diego over Denver
The Chargers are coming off of a bye, and the Broncos blew their wad in one game against Kansas City. Am I required to elaborate further? As much as the media swooned over Tim Tebow’s involvement in a few scores, it’s not going to do a world of good against a Chargers team that squandered the first half of their season, and is now fighting possessively to try and retain their division crown. Unless Denver forces an insane amount of three-and-outs as they did against KC, this won’t go their way.
SCORE: Chargers 35, Broncos 17
10. New England over Indianapolis
Color me surprised to go against the Colts so high. Truth is, the Patriots pounded the Steelers like no one thought possible, and the bullet-riddled Colts barely held off a disappointing Bengals team. Bill Belichick is in “no mercy” mode, and he has to do whatever possible to stay neck-and-neck with the Jets in the AFC East. Belichick’s made a career of frustrating Peyton Manning, and if the Patriots offense brings it as they did Sunday night, the Colts linebacking and secondary troupes are going to have their hands full.
SCORE: Patriots 34, Colts 21
9. Dallas over Detroit
Is Jason Garrett the modern messiah? Not quite, but it was a nice way to restore hope by disciplining his team into an upset of the Giants. Granted, Eli Manning had a crap day and that pick six early changed the complexion of everything, but regardless, Dallas is feeling it. If they don’t let their guard down against Detroit, you can mark off win #3 here. The Lions looked like their old, pathetic selves against Buffalo of all teams, and without a consistent offense, they’re going to endure more pain from a Cowboys team that just remembered how to win.
SCORE: Cowboys 28, Lions 13
8. New York Jets over Houston
Two teams in need of a jump start. One can’t win when it matters, the other’s struggled with lower-tier teams. The first was thought to contend for the division, the second was thought to be a Super Bowl favorite. I’ll take the Jets, because at least they ARE winning, even if they need a pair of rabbit’s feet to beat Detroit and Cleveland. Houston’s watched all of their goodwill from earlier in the year vanish, and when things go bad, they go REALLY bad.
SCORE: Jets 24, Texans 14
7. Cincinnati over Buffalo
The TO Bowl! Props to Buffalo for finally being the last one on the victory train this week, but I think the win streak ends there. The Bengals gave a struggling Colts team all they could handle, and may have one if not for the costly fumble. Terrell Owens would love to put up a career day on his ex-employer (one of many), and if Carson Palmer can avoid his usual three picks-per-one touchdown ratio, this should be a walk for Cincy.
SCORE: Bengals 27, Bills 14
6. Philadelphia over New York Giants
Well, I’m hoping. I’m 6 for 9 in Eagles games this year, which gives a healthy average. The Giants front four, namely Osi Umenyiora, have been havocking offensive lines all year long, but the Eagles have also demonstrated some startling continuity in recent weeks, keeping Vick and Kolb off of their backs. So while the struggle begins with that matchup, you see how Michael Vick has been near flawless in the passing game, and the Giants secondary can be worked on. On the other side, the Giants running game has been its best weapon, but the Eagles run-stoppers have been stellar since putting Moise Fokou, a natural run stopper, in as starter. Good game, Eagles take it close, but considerably.
SCORE: Eagles 26, Giants 17
5. Tampa Bay over San Francisco
A true battle of quarterbacking enigmas, you have Josh Freeman, who is surprisingly hard to beat, against Troy Smith, who went under the radar thanks to both Brian Billick’s love affair with Kyle Boller and Steve McNair, as well as Joe Flacco’s fast start. I like Smith as a starter, but I like Tampa’s defense more. As long as Barrett Ruud can will the D into keeping Frank Gore from breaking loose, the secondary should be able to mess with Troy Smith’s head a bit. Should be closer than most people think, though.
SCORE: Buccaneers 20, 49ers 14
4. Tennessee over Washington
I don’t think this will be the blowout that everyone expects. Sure, Tennessee has dominated the NFC for a period of time, and this will be no different, but rest assured that Mike Shanahan won’t let this week go by without trying to rectify the horrible juxtaposition of McNabb’s huge contract and his disappointing outing against the Eagles. I think the defense shuts Chris Johnson down (Shanahan can make running backs, as he can break them), but Vince Young’s scrambling improv will be the knockout blow for the Skins.
SCORE: Titans 21, Redskins 16
This game wouldn’t have been interesting in August, but the former division rivals each have an interesting story to tell. The Jags are actually in contention for a share of the division lead with a win (and Colts loss), while the Browns have scored some astonishing upsets, and nearly took the Jets out last Sunday. It’s a coin flip game, but I’ll take Jacksonville. David Garrard won’t take Cleveland lightly, as the Saints and Patriots may have, and with a chance at the AFC South looming, there are no “trap games” on their schedule.
SCORE: Jaguars 24, Browns 20
2. Miami over Chicago
Why yes, I think Tyler Thigpen is capable of beating the Bears. I think it’s possible because Chicago’s a turnover machine, and the Dolphins, with Karlos Dansby as their quarterback mind-reader, can dissect someone like Jay Cutler to keep the field short for Thigpen. As long as Thigpen can master the “dump off” to Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, while letting “Hit n Ron” do their deal running the ball, there’s a good chance the Dolphins win a low scoring game. But that’s if the defense does their job.
SCORE: Dolphins 13, Bears 10
1. Oakland over Pittsburgh
Color me surprised as well. The Raiders had a week off, and are the quintessential fourth quarter surprise team. Pittsburgh’s smarting from the loss to New England, and while it seems unlikely that the Steelers will lose two straight at home, you have to remember that their offensive line let New England, not the best pass rushing team, mow down Ben Roethlisberger with free reign on Sunday night. Oakland just has to keep the game close and wear Pittsburgh’s offense out. The longer they keep Darren McFadden on the field, the more they can wear the defense out too.
SCORE: Raiders 24, Steelers 21
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