WELCOME! If you’re here looking for the picks from Week 6 in 2009, you’ve come to the right place. But you’re probably not. So instead, go see my 2010 Week 5 picks here.
UPDATE: Some minor changes, but nothing worth writing about. Updated summary of wagers is here.
After two disappointing weeks in a row, the computer found its footing again and had a decent week. Although Gamblor’s picks were 6-8, it prioritized very well – hitting its #1, #3, and #4 picks. This was strong enough to finish with a weighted win percentage of 53.8% and turn a small profit of $15 (a summary sheet is here). If either of the two games that ended with goal-line stands (one that succeeded by the Arizona Cardinals and one that failed by the New York Jets) had turned out the other way, it would have been much better. Having Detroit cover through the back door against Pittsburgh was a nice treat, and instead of regretting the fact that I managed to sneak in a bet in on Jacksonville just in time to lose it, I’ll share the joy of other gamblers and laugh at how much money Vegas threw away by setting an insane line in an Indianapolis game that contained no surprises whatsoever. Although those goddamned Seahawks continued to make me look like an ass, the trends I outlined last week did a good job of proving my point that trends shouldn’t be trusted. If you’d bet on all five of the trends that I discussed (including the ones that overlapped each other), you’d have gone 4-6.
Despite my passion for the subject of politics, I figured I’d make a conscious effort to refrain from preaching in this column. Of course, with Rush Limbaugh having been considered to take part in a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams, that might have ended up being pretty difficult. But Jon Cummings has already got that subject covered for Popdose, so instead I’ll share my thoughts about the Nobel Peace Prize. Last week, when a clearly astonished Barack Obama was announced as the winner, many conservative Americans felt the same way that Vikings fans would feel if Brett Farve had been awarded the MVP before the season had even begun. The president is like America’s quarterback – he doesn’t call the plays (Congress does that – which shows you how dysfunctional a team would be if the plays were called by a committee), but he executes them and ultimately gets credit or blame for the team’s performance during the season. For those who thought the U.S. should have signed the veteran McCain to the starting job, seeing Obama receive the Nobel prize causes all kinds of conflicted loyalties.
Having the IOC spurn Obama and deny Chicago’s bid for the Olympic games was one thing – if Farve had lobbied for the NFL to bring the Superbowl to the Metrodome and failed, his detractors could make a credible argument that the costs outweighed the benefits and the city was better off without it. And they could celebrate seeing him humbled without feeling like they were disloyal to their team. But seeing Obama presented with the peace prize in advance of any tangible accomplishment (other than a generalized detente in world politics that had much more to do with the departure of George W. Bush from the White House) created a lot of confusion for conservative fans of the American franchise. In the same way that Farve retroactively earning his MVP down the stretch would ensure a playoff run for the Vikings, for Obama to fulfill the expectations of the Nobel selection committee would lead to a more peaceful world, the deaths of fewer American soldiers, and ultimately a more prosperous society. So it’s hard to root for him to fail when ultimately our success as a country is tied to his own. We might do our practice drills with the red squad or the blue squad, but when it’s time to strap on our pads, we’re all wearing red, white, and blue. If you don’t think this is true, just try getting into a conversation with a foreigner who is willing to point out America’s flaws and see how long it takes before you’ve got your country’s back – regardless of how accurate their criticisms happen to be. In honor of our president’s achievement and in hope for its justification down the road, this week I’ve compiled a list of the American presidents who would be the most fun to watch a football game with.
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The Top 5 U.S. Presidents to Watch a Football Game With:
5. Gerald Ford. Ford was regarded throughout Washington D.C. as an honest and straightforward guy – well-liked and trusted even by those who disagreed with his politics. And despite his reputation for clumsiness (immortalized by his historic wipeout down the stairs of Air Force One), Ford was without question the finest athlete to have ascended to the American presidency. As a student at Grand Rapids South High School he was the captain of the football team and an all-city athlete. At the University of Michigan he played on both sides of the ball (center and linebacker) and helped lead the Wolverines to a pair of undefeated seasons and national championships in 1932 and 1933. After graduation, Ford was offered contracts by the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers – both of whom he turned down to attend law school at Yale. And although he was sometimes regarded as a dim bulb (LBJ famously accused him of “playing too much football without a helmet”) it is guaranteed that Jerry was a wizard when it came to football and would be able to offer a ton of insight into the game if you were to watch one alongside him. The only reason he’s not higher on this list is because it’s unclear that he would be all that much fun to hang out with. Given his very well-developed Michigan roots, it’s predictable that Jerry Ford’s favorite team would be the Detroit Lions.
4. Ulysses S. Grant. Moving directly to the opposite end of the spectrum, the 18th president of the U.S. would have known next to nothing about the game of football – he died right about the time that it was developing into a legitimate sport. But given his reputation as an alcoholic, he’d probably be a top-notch drinking buddy. Grant became famous for his exploits in the Civil War, where his capture of the confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi solidified his place in history as a bold and brilliant military tactician and served alongside the Union victory at Gettysburg as one of the turning points of the war. Grant was well-respected by coach Lincoln, who once said of him, “I can’t spare this man, he fights.” And the man could teach Bill Belichick a thing or two about sportsmanship, as the generous terms he presented Robert E. Lee during the Confederacy’s surrender helped pave the way for a relatively peaceful reconstruction of the region. Although Grant would have to be schooled in the basic rules of football, it’s a guarantee that the tactical nature of the game would appeal to his intellect. And he certainly would have been game to crack open a brew as soon as the ball was kicked off on Sunday. Grant was born and raised in southwestern Ohio, so it’s safe to assume that he’d be a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals.
3. John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy fan has famously played touch football at family gatherings for ages, but in his youth John actually tried out for the real football team at Harvard. It’s not so much JFK’s affinity for football that would make him fun to watch a game with, it’s his ability to put together an unforgettable gameday experience. Due to his war injuries, Kennedy reportedly developed an addition to painkillers and other narcotics (fictionally chronicled by James Ellroy in American Tabloid), so it would be guaranteed he’d have some pretty fine nutritional supplements on hand. And with his Hollywood connections he’d put together a collection of trim that would make a bachelor party hosted by Joe Francis seem like a Weight Watchers meeting held in a convent. Given how the Kennedy clan has completely saturated the world of Massachusetts politics for generations, it is assured that JFK would be a big fan of the New England Patriots.
2. Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt was a pretty fascinating character, rivaling Ernest Hemingway in his unquenchable thirst for adventure. He led the Rough Riders in Cuba and was (posthumously) awarded the Medal of Honor. He coined the term “speak softly and carry a big stick” and completed the Panama Canal. He negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese war and won a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize. And this may come as news to most folks, but without Teddy Roosevelt’s influence, football as we know it today might not even exist. In 1905 there were 19 fatalities nationwide and Roosevelt demanded drastic changes to reduce the brutality of the game or he would shut it down entirely. The committee of Ivy League representatives that convened in 1906 changed the rules to allow the forward pass, which was the last major leap in the evolution of the modern game. Given his service as a soldier and his love of the outdoors, Roosevelt would be a champion at the grill and would be right at home tailgating. As far as his favorite team goes, Roosevelt once owned a ranch and had a horse named “Little Texas,” so I suspect that his football loyalties eventually would have found their way into the Lone Star state. But given his disdain for big business, it seems unlikely that Roosevelt would be interested in supporting Jerry Jones’ empire by rooting for the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, I think he’d be a fan of the perennial underdogs the Houston Texans.
1. Richard Nixon. Bear with me here. Hunter S. Thopmson hated Richard Nixon. I mean, he really, really hated him. When asked to pen a eulogy after the disgraced president’s death, the inventor of gonzo journalism wrote “Let there be no mistake in the history books…Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand…he was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency.” But in 1968, with his hatred of Nixon already in full bloom, Thompson accepted an invitation to accompany Nixon in a limousine ride to a campaign stop in New Hampshire under the candidate’s imposed condition that the two of them talk about nothing besides football. Hunter later admitted that he actually liked Nixon during those short hours, and said of the ride: “It was a very weird trip; probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done, and especially weird because both Nixon and I enjoyed it.” If Nixon could charm a man who later insist that the ex-president’s corpse “should have been burned in a trash bin,” he could charm anyone. Based simply on his qualifications, Nixon would be a blast to watch a game with. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of football, and was one of very few people aside from Howie Schwab who could fill in the location correctly every single time Chris Berman hollered the query “…FROM?” Nixon played football at Whittier college, so he’d be no stranger to the intricacies of the game. He’d have an inexhaustible store of ethnic and racist jokes that you be horrified to find yourself laughing at. And he loved his martinis – he could suck down gin faster than you could pour it on the ground. Nixon was a big fan of the Washington Redskins and had a well-established relationship with their late owner George Allen. Nixon was sufficiently involved with the team that a failed reverse the Redskins attempted in a 1971 playoff game against the 49ers (that was supposedly called in by Nixon) has been forever known as “Nixon’s Play.”
This week, once again, Gamblor is a big fan of the underdogs. And again, considering that underdogs are performing at about 5% below their historical average (46.7% this season compared to 51.5% historically), I feel just fine about that. Or at least I would, if it wasn’t sufficiently insane as to make Oakland into it’s third highest bet of the week. A summary sheet of its bets can be found here.
Gamblor’s Pick: Houston (+5)
Bet Amount: $0.18 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: Cincinnati seems to be getting better ever week. Isn’t it time that they got a nice, easy opponent? Well, they won’t here. Despite their record, Houton is fully capable of beating just about anyone in the league on a good day. The main question in this game is whether Cincinnati’s defense can contain Houston’s offensive muscle. Given their incredible win over Baltimore last week, I doubt they’ll have enough left.|
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Detroit (+13.5)
Bet Amount: $16.04 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: Once again, poor Detroit has to play punching bag to an offensive powerhouse. Green Bay’s offense has been underperforming so far this year, but the tools are all still there. This one should be a walkover for the Packers. Enough so that they’ll cover a double-digit spread? Sure, why not.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Minnesota (-3)
Bet Amount: $15.86 (Flip)
|WHY IT’S WRONG: This is one of just two exciting matchups in the early games, and it’s the only game of the day where Gamblor is betting on the favorite. But I don’t agree. I’m going to make the bold prediction that Brett Farve suffers his first meltdown of the season, as Adrian Peterson gets shut down and Farve is forced to try to move the ball through the air. After an easy game against St. Louis last week, he’ll be feeling cocky and Baltimore’s defense will bait him into making some bad decisions with the ball. Baltimore’s offense should be able to take advantage of the opportunities their defense provides them with and win this game outright.|
NEW YORK GIANTS
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Gamblor’s Pick: New York Giants (+3)
Bet Amount: $37.19 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: It’s very easy for anyone to look good against the Raiders, so it’s no surprise that the Giants looked completely unbeatable last week. The Giants haven’t really been tested yet this year (Dallas has proven to be thoroughly overrated). The Saints have, and have passed with flying colors. But I think the week off with actually hobble them, as they’ll be losing their momentum and it will take some time to get their rhythm back. I’m hoping for a nice surprise from the Giants here in Gamblor’s biggest bet of the week.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Cleveland (+14)
Bet Amount: $1.64 (Hedge)
|WHY IT’S WRONG: After giving Cincinnati a tough time two weeks ago, Cleveland quickly fell back into their old form (imagine the silhouette of a dog vomiting down a sewer). They could set the line at 38 in this game and I’d still take the Steelers. Tomlin won’t like that the defense let Detroit fight their way back into striking distance late in the game last week; he’ll make sure they slam the door shut nice and tight in this one.|
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Tampa Bay (+3)
Bet Amount: $18.78 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: Gag. Does anyone (including the coaches and players) actually care about the outcome of this game? I don’t get the sense that either team particularly cares any more, so even though this should be a tough divisional rivalry, it will turn out to be a dull affair. I’ll take the points on the off chance that they’ll factor in.|
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Gamblor’s Pick: Jacksonville (+3)
Bet Amount: $3.10 (Flip)
|WHY I AGREE: This game features two more teams that can’t be bothered to care. Cassel and Haynesworth have huge contracts and play for terrible teams, so there’s absolutly no motivation for either one to put his body on the line. This is anyone’s game to lose, so I’ll once again take the points in hope that they matter.Â But it’s not worth caring about this game, so I’m actually going to round down and avoid making a bet on this one.|
SAINT LOUIS RAMS
Gamblor’s Pick: St. Louis (+9.5)
Bet Amount: $16.96 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: This is where St. Louis finally breaks their funk. Jacksonville had a nice little run, but their crash landing in Seattle brought them back to earth in a big way. But with a bye coming up, won’t they be focused? They should be, but St. Louis will (rightly) perceive this as one of their few potential wins this season and bring their A game.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Arizona Cardinals (+3)
Bet Amount: $32.63 (Hedge and Flip)
|WHY IT’S WRONG: Both of these teams surprised me last week by playing much better than I expected them to. Each quarterback should make mincemeat out of their opponent’s secondary, so where’s the edge to be found? The line says that these teams are very evenly matched. I think Seattle looks a lot stronger against weak opponents than they really are, so it’s possible that this line is a bit inflated (though Gamblor is telling me the exact opposite). But since Seattle keeps burning me, I’m going to take a contrarian position and predict that they’ll win this game handily.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Oakland (+14)
Bet Amount: $30.08 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: It’s painful to have to bet this much on a game like this. Is this an effort by Vegas to revitalize the economy in Philadelphia? There is simply no line that would be high enough to get anyone to bet on Oakland after their performance during the last three weeks. Philadelphia has the potential to put up 60 points in this game and I’m not kidding. Oakland’s players know that another season has gone straight down the shitter and have literally nothing to play for except their next contract (hopefully with another team). But there’s no point in bothering with that now because the Eagles are going to make them look inept no matter how hard they try. After McNabb throws for five touchdowns in the first half, Vick will see serious time and he won’t let up a bit in his efforts to prove his worth.|
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Gamblor’s Pick: Tennesee (+9)
Bet Amount: $12.03 (Hedge)
|WHY IT’S WRONG: Tennesee gave it their all against Indianapolis and emerged as a laughingstock. They won’t have anything left for the Patriots. Belichick will use them to assuage Boston fans’ fears about the future of the season and they’ll end up taking a savage beating. Tennesee had the best record in the NFL last year at 13-3, and at this point they’re looking like they’ll be lucky to go 3-13 this year. They won’t be picking up their first win here, and sadly they won’t even come close this time.|
NEW YORK JETS
Gamblor’s Pick: Buffalo (+9.5)
Bet Amount: $24.98 (Hedge)
|WHY IT’S WRONG: This is a great matchup for the Jets, but can they cover? Until last week they were looking a lot like last year’s Ravens – a fantastic defense supplemented by an efficient offense and a rookie quarterback who doesn’t make too many mistakes. That’s a great recipe for a playoff run, but not for covering a large spread like this one. I think the Jets will cover here, but only just barely.|
Gamblor’s Pick: Chicago (+3)
Bet Amount: $10.57 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: How will Chicago respond to having a week off? Quite well, I suspect. Cutler will have made the most of having the opportunity to work with his receivers, and Atlanta will continue its yo-yo dieting by collapsing again after such a convincing win in San Francisco.|
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Gamblor’s Pick: Denver (+3.5)
Bet Amount: $4.38 (Hedge)
|WHY I AGREE: There ought to be a lot of emotion in this game, since San Diego took Denver’s place in the playoffs by serving them a humiliating defeat in the last game of the season. With Cutler out of the picture, San Diego won’t be taking this game as seriously as they should, but Denver certainly will. They’re still not getting the respect they deserve, and they’ll be fired up coming into San Diego. Plus, the Broncos know they’ve got a week off coming up, so they won’t hold anything back here.Â It’s always more fun to have something to root for on Monday night, so I’ll be rounding this one up to the minimum ($5) and getting a bet in.|
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