The Carnival is Coming to A Close

TrumpCarnival

Since January 20 of this year – hell, since the start of the 2016 Presidential campaign in what seems like eons ago but was only about two years back – the people of the States of America have been subjected to a macabre three-ring circus that is the Confederacy of Dunces united under Orange Foolius. Like a drunken clown with Tourette’s, the SCROTUS (So-Called Ruler of the United States) has veered from one controversy to another, infuriating opponents, supporters, and the entirety of the world as a whole and sometimes at in one statement. With this Mr. Hyde approach, many say that the embarrassment in the White House is distracting the public from some of the more heinous aspects of his Confederacy’s actions.

There is some truth to this. As a friend has pointed out to me several times (and we’ve debated heartily), instead of taking action to relieve Puerto Rico from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, the Jackass-in-Chief decided to launch his crusade regarding an issue that had all but died, the protests of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick regarding the treatment of young blacks at the hands of law enforcement and the general inequality that still exists in the country. Continuing a streak of disingenuous behavior that has been a hallmark of his existence, let alone his stint as the SCROTUS, Orange Foolius instead wrongly made the protest about dissing the military, the National Anthem, and the flag, which of course whipped up the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals of his slavering base. This served to distract the public for quite a few days as more than three million Puerto Ricans, without power, food, and potable water, suffered after the storms of Maria had passed.

Now, however, perhaps the carnival is coming to a close.

Yesterday the Vice Chucklehead, the Albino Howler Monkey to the twisted organ grinder that the SCROTUS is, decided he would insert himself into the mix. In a $250,000+ bill to the taxpayers – he came from Los Angeles to Indianapolis (reportedly to see the game, which was honoring future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s number retirement into the Colts Ring of Honor), then returned to Los Angeles once his panties got in a twist – Vice Chucklehead saw the 49ers continue the protest that EVERY TEAM in the National Football League is now doing. With his Victoria’s Secret finery firmly twisted in his rectal cavity, he walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium in a snit, purportedly as a part of a plan between him and Orange Foolius.

TrumpBigotry

In the past, there would have been plenty of dithering over the Albino Howler Monkey’s actions. Instead, there has been a blistering rebuttal of his actions and the fabricated plan by him and the SCROTUS to continue pushing the divisive issue. Indianapolis Star sportswriter Gregg Doyle penned a searing takedown of Chucklehead, blasting him for a political grandstanding that even Stevie Wonder could see. CNN pointed out the costs of the charade while NFL players and social media castigated the duo for the futility of their divisiveness.

There are signs that the patience of the people for the BS this administration is dishing out is coming to a head elsewhere. Although he is in the middle of a primary fight that could determine whether he’ll remain in the Senate, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has issued a tome where he rips the takeover of the Republican Party. Entitled Conscience of a Conservative, Flake repeatedly attacked Orange Foolius, his abrasive, wafer-thin skin attacks on opponents and allies alike and his attempted takeover of the GOP. His fellow Arizonan, Senator John McCain, has also stood against the SCROTUS on several occasions, most notably the health care discussion.

The blasting from inside the party has recently come to head, however. Over the weekend, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who will resign his seat and not seek reelection in 2018, was the target of the Twitter screed of a 13-year old girl – oh, wait, that’s the ignoramus who squeaked his way into the most powerful position in the world. In several Tweets, the SCROTUS piled lie upon lie ON AN ALLY HE NEEDS TO PASS FOREIGN POLICY LEGISLATION. These were easily swatted aside by Corker and his aides, who repeatedly pointed out where the SCROTUS was a lying bastard while calling his administration an “adult day care” where someone had “missed a shift.”

BobCorker

These actions are a noted change from what has preceded. In the past (this writer included), the press and the people have been peering too closely into the abyss, trying to divinate from the tea leaves, the cryptic tweets and the tossed off statements (like the “calm before the storm” comments from SCROTUS last week during a dinner with high-ranking military members) as to what the jackass is intending to do. This isn’t a criticism of the press or the public as this is what we’ve become used to…you know, when we have sane people that were in positions of power and took under consideration what might be in the best interest of the nation rather than just themselves. With the Carnival Barker in charge, however, people may be realizing it’s time that there was a change.

It has SLOWLY become obvious that people aren’t paying as much attention to what SCROTUS says as what’s going on with actions in the Congress and on the foreign policy stage. For example, while Orange Foolius and his Albino Howler Monkey continue the organ grinder ploy in Indy, there has been moves towards nonrenewal of the Iranian nuclear deal, something that the SCROTUS has been advised against by virtually every breathing human in the administration. There is also the Russian investigation ongoing, which is a Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn plea bargain away from finding serious criminal and electoral misconduct by the SCROTUS campaign leading to the 2016 election by special investigator Robert Mueller.

These things…and many others…aren’t escaping the attention of the people. At least those that are on watch.

The filtering of the white noise BS from this supposed head of state is only the start, however. It is time that people across the board – from the media, to those in either party, to worldwide leaders – finally stand up against the stain that is tarnishing what the country is about. Call the SCROTUS on his falsehoods, his lies and his “smoke and mirrors” attempts to divert attention from his complete and total inanity and inability to even act like a human being, let alone the leader of the free world. Call him out on his blatant racism and support for white nationalists, the Nazi Party and the KKK, which he continues with his dog-whistle actions regarding the NFL and his treatment of the Puerto Rican people (compared to Texas and Florida). CALL HIM OUT…the painfully vain, thin-skinned narcissistic bastard wouldn’t be able to handle it.

MattisMcMasterKelly

It is time to start to watch this scumbag, his words, and his actions. The carnival sideshow is over and it is time to hold this person responsible rather than allow him to shift the blame elsewhere (another dubious trait he has). It is time to make sure the “adults in the room” – Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a “dead man walking”…he’ll be out in a month) – ride this petulant child and make damn sure he doesn’t make a misstep that would inflict further damage on this country or the world. And it is time to make this SCROTUS act like he either wants to be the leader of the country or pitch him aside, starting with the 2018 midterms.

Advertisements

The Odious Remains of The GOP Presidential Carcass

When they reached their apex a few months ago, there were 17 different people that wanted the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States in 2016. This simply means that there were 17 warm bodies – although degree of warmth was questionable – because ideologically there wasn’t much difference. Even with former “Libertarian” Rand Paul, who danced closer to the far right wing of the Republican Party with the hope to do something his daddy Ron never could do – win the GOP nomination – they were all basically cut from the same cloth even if their gender was different.

TheWalkingDead

Everyone knew that it was unmanageable. Thus, the bodies began to pile up on the side of the road like an episode of The Walking Dead after Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors had battled through Atlanta. Before a single vote was even cast in the primaries, such party “luminaries” as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal ended their campaigns that were still virtually in their infancy (seriously, Walker’s candidacy was all of two months’ old). While the political zombies feasted on their decomposing flesh, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former New York Governor George Pataki were both offed before a vote was cast.

What all these men had in common was they were the true epitome of “zombie” campaigns. For all practical purposes, they were only existing in name only as they drew little support from the voters and the “big money” donors didn’t exactly give them the time of day either. After the voting started, the candidates that decided to leave were among the living but became “zombies” soon after they drew no reaction from the populace.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum all had the good sense to get out after Iowans basically ignored them and they were joined by (we’re not sure what she does) Carly Fiorina, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (who received all of 12 VOTES – that’s people, folks, not delegates – in Iowa) a week later after the cold shoulder in New Hampshire’s primary. But the big stunner came this last weekend after the South Carolina primary concluded.

JebBushWIthdrawal

Long ago thought to be the lockdown “shoo-in” to be the nominee for the GOP in 2016, former Florida Governor Jeb! Bush instead proved to be the perfect illustration of how not to run a campaign. After being out of the bruising world of politics for over a decade (he last ran for office in 2003 for a second term as Governor of Florida), Bush was ill-prepared for the partisan world that politics has become today. To be honest, from the start he never looked as if he wanted to be President; he never actually took the gloves off and had to fight for a political position (hell, his last name is Bush and he probably has ridden that his entire political life). When he gave his withdrawal speech on Saturday night after drawing a dismal 8% of the vote in a state his family once dominated, he looked a beaten man, one that wanted to head back to the safety of a Board of Directors rather than the Oval Office.

You would think with the zombies chowing on the flesh on the sidelines (and, if you think about it, wouldn’t the world of The Walking Dead just be the most foul-smelling existence to be a part of?) that the odiferous scent would be left behind the five candidates that still stood and moved on. Instead, the odious remains of the GOP Presidential Carcass are at the same times worse smelling than the dozen people that are now but a memory. Yet one of these people, no matter how distasteful they may be, will emerge as the Republican nominee for President of the United States.

Let’s start with the next one that will be run down by the zombie hordes, Dr. Ben Carson. Carson is right now being kept in the race by those who want to keep Ted Cruz (we’ll get to him, have some patience) down. In essence, Carson carves away some evangelical votes that Cruz would normally get, something that happens when a man has a painting of himself with JESUS FREAKIN’ CHRIST in his home. Then again, Carson loses some of that evangelical vote if they’re Muslim because he believes that Islam “as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution” and therefore anyone who is Muslim he would not “advocate for being in charge of the nation” (Carson would backtrack that statement faster than an NFL cornerback defending a Peyton Manning pass route).

But that isn’t even the most idiotic (and therefore odious) statement Carson’s ever made. In a speech several years ago, the good Doctor opined that the pyramids on the Plains of Giza in Egypt were there for the Bible’s Joseph “to store grain” instead of tombs for the pharaohs. Carson also suggested a theory about the spread of Ebola by constructing a massive conspiracy that someone could use urine as a biological weapon. Finally, there was his most recent Tweet that the biggest threat facing the United States at this time was immigration…hello, Doctor? Have you been watching the debates going on around you at all…you know, the one’s you’ve been standing there as a part of for the past few months? There’s a whole list of issues that you might have come up with other than one that has been trod so many times there’s literally wear marks on it. It appears that Dr. Carson may just be a brilliant neurosurgeon and a complete imbecile in other areas.

Then we have what many are calling the “last moderate Republican” left in the field, current Ohio Governor John Kasich. Throughout the GOP debates, Kasich has labeled himself as the choice for those who are looking for someone who will “work across the aisle,” a moderate who will listen and work with Democrats in Washington, D. C., simply because he has in the past. Kasich is quick to point out that, while in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001, he helped pass balanced budgets as first the ranking member of and then the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Kasich notes that this was the last time that the budget was balanced on the federal level, something that is shockingly true in this campaign of lies.

Hiding behind this “moderate” demeanor, however, is a right-winger of the nth degree. His House voting record and that of his Ohio governorship (not to mention hosting a Fox News program between 2001 and 2007) demonstrates that Kasich is far from being a moderate Republican. This week, Kasich signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood…not directly but “any organization that performs or promotes abortions.” That would prevent $1.3 million of Ohio funds from going to the organization, which would use those funds for HIV testing, health screening and domestic violence prevention (and for those of you assholes who say they can get that at the emergency room, why isn’t your ass there for your meds?). Furthermore, instead of prison reform, Kasich believes that there should be more “for-profit” prisons, just so we can see judges crookedly rig the system against the weakest members of society to turn a fucking buck for the state and the owners of the prisons. Finally, Ohio is one of the states with some of the most outlandish incidences of police abusing their authority in the nation – yet Kasich has done nothing about such occurrences.

TweedledeeTweedledum

Next we have Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and it really doesn’t matter which one you call what because they are virtually the same cartoon character. The twosome both currently reside in the Senate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted “Rafael” (yes, his real name) Cruz, and their paths to where they are now being virtually identical. Both were elected to the Senate with their eyes firmly affixed towards the Presidency rather than doing anything for their constituents; both are uncompromising bastards who would rather die on a mountaintop than intelligently discuss any logical solution to a problem (Cruz more so than Rubio) and both are religious ideologues that, if a Muslim…hell, if a Catholic… said half the shit they said (Cruz said “Glory be to God” upon winning Iowa; Rubio said he would base his decisions “on his faith first” and fuck the facts), they would be screaming religious zealotry. But there’s something far worse in their cabinets than this.

Both of these men are first generation Cuban-Americans (Donald Trump – yes, we’re getting to him – would say Cruz is something else), the proud offspring of their parents who came to the United States to give them a better life than the one they had under a Fidel Castro-led Cuba. Two men who have benefitted quite well from the system of life in these United States, worked hard and garnered an education…who, now that they have received every benefit of said system, are trying their damndest to make sure that someone else doesn’t repeat that performance, that there isn’t another occurrence where someone under similar circumstances to theirs would EVER see the chance to be…them.

This would be the utmost in hypocrisy, innuendo and outright falsification if it weren’t for the leader of the remaining clowns in the GOP car, billionaire Donald Trump. There is literally no way to begin to list the litany of falsehoods, bullshit, antagonistic jabs, attacks (both verbal and physical) and statements that he has offended virtually every person in the United States with, so let’s just start with his latest efforts. First there was Trump’s assertion – and his demon spawn Eric’s backup – that waterboarding was nothing that didn’t happen at a “college frat party” (note you don’t see either of these fucking bastards strapped to a board for a few hours of fun, do you?).

Then Trump tried to recount the discredited story of the famous General John Pershing during a campaign stop in South Carolina. According to the Orangutan Mutant, General Pershing supposedly executed 49 Muslims (it isn’t stated during which U. S. military action this occurred) with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, an obvious jab at the Islamic faith’s beliefs about pigs. All the stupid ass Trump managed to do was once again offend more than a billion people and an entire faith, which in this world today might be necessary to work with somewhere down the road.

It wouldn’t be so bad if this misogynous, xenophobic, race-baiting knuckle-dragger wasn’t leading the GOP Presidential race. But, then again…let’s look at the GOP that supports him.

In South Carolina, where he won a resounding victory, of those who support Trump:

70% believe the Confederate Flag should still fly over the South Carolina state capitol
38% wish the South had won the Civil War
80% support banning Muslims (ALL Muslims) from entering the United States
62% support a national database for Muslims in the U. S.
33% believe that Islam should be ILLEGAL in the U. S.
31% support banning LGBT people from entering the U. S.

I’m convinced that the GOP bottom-dwellers – who now seem to have taken over from those that have any semblance of sanity – have about as much couth as a gutter snipe and seemingly share part ownership of the same reptilian brain. Trump for months now has gotten away with every faux pas (once again, too numerous to mention) that, in the past, would not only have ended other people’s campaigns but any career in any legitimate pursuit they previously held. Are these people voting for Trump this stupid? (I’ll answer: yes.) Are these people this delusional (Once again: yes.). Are they this out-and-out racist? (I’ll say it…yes.)

The GOP could and should have stopped this when he opened his mouth with his announcement he was running. As soon as he ripped into Mexicans, the GOP could have said, “Thanks, but no thanks, you’re not running as a member of our party,” but the GOP realized that there’s about 40% of their party that are this ass-backward as those statistics above present and that they would agree with the spittle that Trump spews. It is truly a sad moment for a once proud party.

There are those that say they like Trump’s “honesty” and his non-PC approach to things. If these “supporters” were all fired up for honesty, then they wouldn’t be looking at Trump, who has to have a scorecard to keep track of the lies that he’s told. As to not being PC? I challenge Trump to take a stroll by himself – no bodyguards, no weapons – down some streets in this country and make the same statements he has used during this campaign…he’d be picking up his teeth from the street if he did, at the minimum.

So among five men cut from the same cloth as the twelve people who came before them, not a one is worth a damn. All they look to do is deny or take from the citizens of the United States (quick, name one thing they’re looking to do FOR the U. S. citizen? Can’t do it, can you, and don’t give me the bullshit about “making America great again,” “lowering the national debt” or “improving our military and their morale” because we know you shoveling horseshit). The odious remains of the GOP have the stench of the zombies that perished in the past on them, they just haven’t had the decency to go ahead and die just yet.

Super Bowl 50, Part Two: So Who Wins the Big Game? Depends On What the Bet Is…

SuperBowl50

After two weeks of hype, waiting, practice and some drama – people tried to turn Panthers QB Cam Newton’s “black quarterback” comments into a controversy, without much success, and the Broncos practice team player S Ryan Murphy was sent back to Denver (and will probably be cut from the team at first opportunity) after being questioned in a prostitution sting – we’ve actually come to the point where the teams will actually play the game. The Carolina Panthers, the champions of the NFC, will square off against the Denver Broncos, the victors of the AFC, to determine who will receive the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the 50th time in the National Football League’s history. The two teams that have made it this far have definitely shown they are worthy contenders for the crown.

For the Carolina Panthers, if you would have told them in Training Camp they would be playing in the Super Bowl, they would have thanked you. Coming off a 7-8-1 season – although the champions of the NFC South – the Panthers weren’t exactly scaring anyone. The team had let RB DeAngelo Williams go to the Pittsburgh Steelers, preferring to stick with Jonathan Stewart as the full-time running back, and during Training Camp lost their electrifying WR Kelvin Benjamin to a devastating knee injury. While Newton was a known commodity, it was expected that the Panthers would have some difficulties doing much of anything with a revamped offensive line, a no-name wide receiving corps and a suspect defensive unit.

For the Denver Broncos, it almost seemed as if this was their final shot. After being crushed by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos came back and won the AFC West again with a 12-4 record. After taking their first round bye, however, they were upset in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last year by QB Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. This led to the firing of John Fox, the hiring of new head coach Gary Kubiak and the “now or never” approach as QB Peyton Manning entered his third year at the helm of the Broncos and they came into this season with questions lingering about his health.

As they always say, that’s why they play the game. Carolina rocketed off on a 14-game winning streak, only losing to the Atlanta Falcons on the road late in the season, before righting the ship and beating their last three opponents (last regular season game against lowly Tampa Bay and two postseason games against Seattle and Arizona) by a combined 118-49 score. Denver, despite losing Manning for more than a quarter of the year, rode the #1 defense in the NFL to a punishing victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.

In taking a look at Super Bowl 50, we’re going to break down the offense, the defense, the special teams and the coaching. Then we’ll reveal our all-important pick…but be assured, there’s many ways to win on Super Bowl Sunday.

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks – When it comes to the men running the teams, it is difficult to say who has the edge. Athleticism definitely would go to Newton, but experience would by far go to Manning. Both fit perfectly into their own systems, have faced adversity during the season and pulled their team through the problems. If you’re really going to get nit-picky, Manning’s been to this dance four times now (he’s 1-2 in his previous trips), while Newton is making his first appearance. By the slimmest of margins, Manning will take the edge in this category. EDGE:  BRONCOS

Running Backs – This category is a no-brainer. When Manning is on the field, the running game is somewhat of a second thought, used more as a change-up from the passing game than the “run the ball to set up the pass” style of the Panthers. The Panthers will pound a defense mercilessly, even when it doesn’t look like it is doing anything. The Panthers philosophy is that, eventually, the running game will weaken a defense after enough time that Stewart will break out on a run. Stewart, who finished the season 11 yards short of 1000 yards (and missed the final two regular season games) has been outstanding during the playoffs; expect him to at the minimum keep the Broncos defense honest by adding the potential for a running attack alongside Newton’s running and passing abilities. EDGE:  PANTHERS

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – This one is going to be a push. Manning has WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as his options but, even though he had a decent season, Thomas led the team in dropped passes, letting a ball hit the turf on roughly 5% of his targets. Newton’s favorite target, TE Greg Olsen, can be shut down if a team is willing to risk putting a defensive back on him. The Broncos may try this, but they have to be concerned that WR Ted Ginn, Jr. (who led the Panthers with 10 TD receptions) or Devin Funchess (5 TD receptions) doesn’t burn them somehow. As I said, this is…EDGE:  PUSH

Offensive Line – The Denver offensive line has been held together with baling wire and bubble gum for much of the year. The exact opposite holds true for Carolina, which has been able to have a relatively steady lineup through the entire year. This is going to benefit the Panthers greatly as the Broncos, with the #1 defense in the NFL, are a tenacious and aggressive unit who will look to pressure Newton into mistakes. Whichever side controls the game will probably dictate which way the Super Bowl goes but, for the purposes that we have spelled out here, I’ve got to give…EDGE:  PANTHERS

DEFENSE

Defensive Line/Linebackers – Both teams have front sevens that are the best in the game today. The Broncos are technically ranked as the #1 defense in the NFL, but the Panthers gave up fewer points per game than their counterparts from the Rocky Mountains. Both teams are led by a tandem of outstanding linebackers – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware for the Broncos, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis (who is expected to see a great deal of action despite having a broken arm sustained in the NFC Championship Game) for the Panthers – but it is the Broncos who have the better pass rush, sacking the opposing quarterback 59 times during the season versus the Panthers’ 44.

Defensive Backs – Counteracting the front seven is the fact that the Panthers led the league in takeaways (+20) versus the Broncos (-4). The Panthers intercepted the ball 24 times during the season versus the Broncos’ 14, with Panthers DB Josh Norman having a breakout rookie season in returning two of his four picks for touchdowns and, with teams trying to avoid him, Kurt Coleman ending the year among the league leaders in interceptions with seven. The best Bronco in that category was DB Aqib Talib, who could only pull in three on the season (although he did return two for touchdowns).

The effectiveness of Davis could very well be the linchpin of which defense will have the better success. Without Davis, the Broncos will be able to focus more on occupying Kuechly and be able to have their offense dictate more of the game. If Davis is able to play effectively, it could be a long day for Manning. Both teams, at their current strength this moment, have to be rated…EDGE:  PUSH

SPECIAL TEAMS

This is a category that the Panthers have firm control over. Ginn is the teams punt returner and he is a threat to break a game wide open at any moment with the ball in his hands. Their kick returning duties have been in the hands of Fozzy Whittaker, who averages nearly 24 yards per return. The Broncos counter with Sanders, who has more fair catches than returns this season on punts, and Omar Bolden, who has only 15 kickoff returns this season.

The kicking games rate about even, although the distance is going to be tough to judge. Denver’s kickers, P Britton Colquitt and K Brandon McManus, have the advantage of kicking in the rarefied air of the Rocky Mountains, thus their distance statistics might not be applicable kicking at sea level in California. Carolina P Brad Nortman and K Graham Gano did outstanding jobs in 2015, with Gano especially sound at distance through the season.

The pick in this aspect of the contest will have to go to the boys from the NFC. With both Ginn and Whittaker, they possess the threats that can break the game open…the Broncos, not so much. EDGE:  PANTHERS

COACHING

There is no way to choose one coaching squad over the other in this contest. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak has been to the Super Bowl as a player (he backed up John Elway in Super Bowls XXI, XXII and XXIV, all losses) and as an assistant coach (with the winning San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX and with the winning Broncos in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII), but this is his first trip as the man in charge. The same can be said for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who was a part of arguably one of the greatest Super Bowl teams in history (the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears) as a player, but this is his first trip as a head coach. Thus, this is definitely EDGE:  PUSH

SUPER BOWL 50

As was stated at the start, it depends what you’re betting on as to which way to take the winner in this situation.

For some people, they want to just bet the straight game itself. I pick one team, you take the other and may the best team win. If that is the case, then I would have to say that you would have to pick the Panthers in this game. Both defenses are going to cause fits for Newton and Manning but, by the second quarter, I can see both of them beginning to figure out some things that will work. Manning might be able to get some of the passing game operational – if his patchwork line can keep the Panther D off of him long enough – and, for Newton, the Panthers might be able to start running the ball effectively enough to be able to start the freewheeling Panther passing game (it also would open up the pass/run option for Newton…look for the Broncos to play Newton for the run until he beats them with his arm a couple of times). Newton has more weapons at his disposal and a better defense, hence I believe the Panthers will take the game.

For the more traditional bettor out there, here’s how you’ve seen me put it all year:

(home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Carolina Panthers vs. DENVER BRONCOS (+5); OVER 44

Once Manning and Newton get things figured out, then the game will get exciting. The line originally opened up at Panthers -4 and, if it had stayed at that point, I would have taken the Panthers because I see a final of 28-24 with the Panthers winning (that would be a push, if you’re keeping score at home). That extra point going against the Panthers switches my pick to the Broncos, who I believe will cover the spread and, between the two teams, they will go OVER the 44 projected points; hell, it could be something along the lines of 38-34, even, if the offenses erupt early.

This isn’t a contradiction; this is simply a demonstration on how it depends on what your betting as to what your pick might be!

Conference Championships:  2-2
Overall Season:  55-37-5

All in all, it has been a good season. Once we add these three picks in (the straight game pick of the Panthers, the spread pick of the Broncos and the O/U), I will have an even 100 picks for the 2015-16 NFL season. I would have preferred a better record than 55% – and may earn it with the final three picks of the year – but it goes to show how difficult it is to bet any sporting contest. After Super Bowl Sunday, we will have to go into a slumber until next September, when the pigskin will come out for real once again and the prognostications will arise from their slumber…maybe for better but potentially for worse!

Super Bowl 50, Part One: Got Money Burning a Hole in Your Pocket? Here’s Some Crazy Prop Bets!

SuperBowl50

We are just a couple of days away from the spectacle that will be Super Bowl 50. The Carolina Panthers, led by their becoming-iconic QB Cam Newton and looking to finish their stupendous season with only one loss, will be taking on the Denver Broncos and the legendary QB Peyton Manning in what could be his swan song. What better way to celebrate this matchup than – racking up prop bets on things that don’t even have anything at all to do with these men, these teams or sometimes the game itself!

It is estimated that over $100 million is legally bet on the Super Bowl in Las Vegas and upwards of $3 billion worldwide on the game, legally and illegally. More than half of the Las Vegas total is on something that is called “proposition bets.” These bets aren’t your normal “point spread” occurrences or even something that might go on within the actual field of play itself. They are based on some of the activities that may or may not occur during the play of the game – sometimes not even involving the players themselves.

Prop bets come from “proposition betting” where gambling sharps would rope in rubes with a nicely set up short con, basically. In these “propositions,” the sharp would say that they could do something normally unthinkable – such as the legendary road gambler “Titanic” Thompson’s prop bet that he could drive a golf ball 500 yards (legend has it he pulled this trick against notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone). After getting people to place their bets – normally against him – Thompson would then wait until wintertime, activate the bet and go to a nearby lake, where he would indeed proceed to drive a golf ball 500 yards across the frozen surface.

Prop bets today aren’t far removed from something along the lines of what Thompson did. They sound so outlandish that you don’t think that they will happen but, if you do your homework, you can actually make some hay out of the bets. There are also those that you should stay far away from because they are an obvious setup bet. Over the next few choices, we’re going to take a look at some of these prop bets, examine them closely and try to decide whether to take a shot at them or not.

Will there be a missed extra point in the game?

Yes – +300
No – -360

(Remember, this means that, if you want “yes,” you’d have to wager $100 to win $300, for “no” you’d have to wager $360 to win $100)

This was the first year that the National Football League experimented with a longer extra point attempt. Previous to this season, all extra point attempts were from the two-yard line, resulting in a roughly 20-yard attempt for a point. In 2015, however, the NFL backed the kick spot up to the 15-yard line, making the kick a 32-yard attempt. As a result, 71 extra point attempts were missed this year, a 94.2% conversion rate (the lowest rate since 1982). Using that factor, there should be a better payout for those looking to bet the “yes” route. Add in the statistic that Graham Gano of the Panthers and Brandon McManus of the Broncos only missed a grand total of four extra point attempts between each other this year, I’d pass on this one as it isn’t likely to occur. Still, a bet on “Yes” wouldn’t be out of the question…two years ago, the Seattle Seahawks defense scored a safety for the first score of Super Bowl XLVIII, a traditional long-shot prop bet that paid out handsomely for many people for the first time in the history of the Super Bowl.

The first touchdown of the game will be:

Passing touchdown – -165
Any other – +145

The Panthers have scored their first touchdown eight times on the ground, six times through the air and two times via an interception. The Broncos have gotten their first touchdown six times via a passing play. For some reason, the odds makers are saying that the first touchdown is going to come through the air when it is slightly more likely that it will come through other means. I like taking the “any other” route with this one as Newton’s legs or a defensive TD would be a winner.

Stephen Curry (-4.5/-110) scores more points than the Panthers (+4.5/-110)

Here’s where things start to get fun. When you start throwing the results from two sports into the mix, then you really either know your stuff when it comes to sports betting or just like to set your money on fire. In this case, we will put the reigning Most Valuable Player from the defending National Basketball Association’s champion Golden State Warriors, guard Stephen Curry, and put him up against the entire Carolina Panther offense in a simple challenge:  who will score the most points?

Just a couple of nights ago, Curry went unconscious in scoring 51 points in a game, including scoring 25 in the first quarter alone. Currently he is averaging 29.8 per game to lead the NBA in scoring so, allowing for the spread, the Panthers would have to come within 4.5 points of Curry’s output against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night in Oakland. With the Thunder/Warriors game on primetime television – and the fact that Curry will be taking on two other superstars of the NBA in the Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – I’m expecting Curry to go off in this game; take Curry and give up the points. Don’t bother about betting the money line on this one because whenever you see both sides with the same payoff, there’s no side for action.

GRAMMY Awards 2015

Length of time for Lady Gaga to sing the National Anthem:

UNDER 2:20 – -200
OVER 2:20 – +150

It wasn’t announced until this week that Lady Gaga would take on the National Anthem prior to the start of the Super Bowl and, once she was named, the wagering began on how long it would take her to sing the song. There is actually a precedent for Gaga with the National Anthem; in 2013, she performed the National Anthem in public and brought it in five seconds under the 2:20 that the line is currently set. You can also consider that, off the last ten Super Bowls played, only one (Alicia Keys in Super Bowl XLVII) went longer than 2:20 (Keys’ was 2:35).

Personally, I think that the scheduling for the Super Bowl has gotten so precise that there is no way that it will go beyond 2:20. I’d like to see a Lady Gaga prop bet on whether she’ll be dressed normally – like she was when she performed on the Academy Awards last year when she performed her stirring tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music – or whether she’ll come dressed as the Vince Lombardi Trophy. For this bet, though, take the UNDER.

How many times will the Golden Gate Bridge be shown?

OVER .5 – -400
UNDER .5 – +250

This is an intriguing bet. All the Golden Gate Bridge would have to do is show up once to either win someone a nice payday or, if it doesn’t show at all, let someone else pick up some nice green. You might think this one is a no-brainer, but some are overthinking it way too much. The game is being contested in Santa Clara, CA, at Levi’s Stadium, quite some distance from the Golden Gate Bridge, which makes some believe that the iconic span won’t be seen at all during the game broadcast. But the stadium IS the home for the San Francisco 49ers, the Super Bowl festivities for the week have consistently been focused around the Bay Area (that’s where the NFL Network and ESPN has parked their carcasses for the week) and the two teams are both staying in hotels in San Francisco. That means the stock footage shot by the CBS crew has got to have some of the San Fran surroundings in it and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge is a part of that. If you’re going to bet this angle, take the OVER and pick up an easy payday.

Will Mike Carey be wrong on a challenge?

YES – +145
NO – -190

It is tough enough for the seven guys on the field – the officials assigned to the game by the NFL – to determine what happens in a football game, let alone the Super Bowl. In that rare case when there is a replay challenge – either called by one of the coaches or by dictate of the rules – it can be even more difficult for the replay official to make a determination of the call. That is where CBS’ replay guru Mike Carey comes into play.

Carey, a veteran official who worked one Super Bowl, has caught a great deal of grief for some missteps he has made through the season regarding review calls. With hope, there will be no need for Carey’s (or the replay official’s) services in Super Bowl 50 but, just in case there is a couple of instances where Carey is called on, let’s go ahead and pick YES here for a nice $145 score if we bet $100.

What color will be the Gatorade dump?

Orange – +125
Blue – +300
Clear – +400
Yellow – +400
Red – +600
Green – +1000
Purple – +1000

You might think that, with the Panthers favored to win the game, that a bet on BLUE would be a good call here. That isn’t necessarily the case; after winning the NFC Championship Game, the Panthers doused head coach Ron Rivera with ORANGE Gatorade. In fact, three of the last six Super Bowl winners have chosen the ORANGE bath and that seems to be the safe way to go. I’ve looked around and the one bet that I haven’t been able to find…what if, for a change, there wasn’t a Gatorade bath? I’d like to put a wager on that one myself.

And that’s the thing about Super Bowl prop bets…if you look around long enough, if you find the right spot online or you find yourself in the right locale to be able to get someone to set the bet for you personally, you can bet on pretty much anything about the game. It also gives you something to think about, especially if the game turns into a blowout (see Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle vs. Denver, as an example).

In Part Two, we’ll actually look at the reason everyone will be tuning in on Sunday…THE COMMERCIALS!!! No, we will take a look at the game and see who will be lifting the Lombardi Trophy come Sunday night.

2015 NFL Postseason Picks, Conference Championships: My First Super Bowl Bet and What is the “Back Door?”

NFLLogo

We’re only two weeks away from the 50th rendition of what was originally called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, meaning we have a whole afternoon of football this Sunday to decide the two teams that will represent the conferences that have descended from the lineage of that first game. Now the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference make up the National Football League and the Super Bowl has become a cultural phenomenon, nothing like that first game that was played so long ago. It makes you think back about your first experiences with the game…

My first experience with betting the Super Bowl came when I was in the Marines in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Chicago Bears had dominated everyone that year, coming to the Louisiana Superdome to take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX with a swagger that everyone knew was just going to crown them the champion. Thus, many were trying to find angles to bet the game and a gunny I worked with found one with me. He wagered that the Bears’ RB Walter Payton would fumble within his first ten carries for $20, a bet I willingly picked up knowing Payton’s abilities to protect the ball.

Gathered around the Enlisted Club at the Marine Barracks, we started watching the game and, sure enough, Payton would fumble on his ninth carry of the game. As I handed over the $20 to the gunny, I asked him how did he know such a bet was going to come through. He replied that, knowing how many times Payton had carried the ball since his last fumble and knowing his fumble frequency (how often he fumbled the ball), his computations were that Payton was due for a miscue such as that. And that, my friends, was my first experience with statistical measurements being used against me in a betting atmosphere.

Which brings us to something that has saved my…let’s say account…on a couple of occasions over the past couple of weeks, having a “back door” cover bets. The “back door” cover is one that comes through after it is previously thought that the game is a foregone conclusion. All we have to do is look at two games over the past two weeks to see perfect examples of this type of action.

In the National Championship game, Alabama scored with only 1:07 left in the game to take a 45-33 lead over Clemson, which was more than enough to cover the seven-point spread that the sharps had put out against the Tigers. Within 55 seconds, Clemson drove the length of the field to score a touchdown to bring the score to 45-39 and, after kicking the extra point for the 45-40 final score, had achieved the “back door” score that shifted an estimated $10 million in bets from one side (those that had chosen Alabama -7) to the other (Clemson +7).

It happened again last weekend in the Pittsburgh Steelers/Denver Broncos game. The Steelers, a 7.5-point underdog in the game, were down 10 points with 53 seconds to go in the game. Driving mightily, the Steelers drive stalled out and, knowing that one of their two scores needed to be a field goal, sent kicker Chris Boswell onto the field. His third field goal of the day made the score 23-16 – bringing the score under the spread – and, after the onside kick failed and a kneel down by Broncos QB Peyton Manning, another few million dollars shifted hands (by scoring a field goal, it also kept it under the O/U, another good thing for me especially).

These “back door” covers are lovely when they work in your favor (you know, if you’re in an area where you can bet on these types of events), but they are the most gut wrenching thing that can happen when it works in the other direction. To have a sizeable bet turn on a simple play that has no ramification on the overall game is perhaps the most indignant situation a bettor can find themselves in. This is why the late, great Yankee catcher Yogi Berra probably said, “It isn’t over ‘til it’s over” rather than anything associated with baseball.

(Home team in CAPS, picks in bold)

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

New England Patriots (-3) vs. DENVER BRONCOS; UNDER 44.5

There is a myriad of reasons that I would rather see the Denver Broncos defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday, but the problem is that they are all sentimental ones. This will probably be the last time that Peyton Manning will have a shot at the Super Bowl – if he plays next year, it is going to be with a team that has far less talent and far less chance at getting to this pinnacle of success. The general arrogance of the Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady do not lend themselves to being the team that is “liked” (as a fan of the New York Yankees, trust me, I know how this looks). Finally, it would be great to see Brady pout his way off the field – as he is wont to do when he loses – and Manning be able to graciously say “you know, he’s one of the greats, he’ll be back here” despite the fact that Brady’s only a couple of years younger than Manning.

Here’s the problem:  the Patriots are in much better shape, health-wise, than the Broncos. Despite backing into the home-field for this game, the Broncos are just too beat up to do much with it against a Patriots team that used the last few weeks of the regular season to get some guys rested up. Instead of having to fight to the end just to win their division (as the Broncos did), the Patriots were able to rest some players, lose their final two regular season games against divisional foes YET STILL GET THE #2 SEED after winning their division. Now that they’re in the AFC Championship Game, that’s where they will see it will pay off.

The Patriots won’t dominate this game by any stretch of the imagination, but they will do just enough to be able to cover the spread and punch their ticket to try to defend their Super Bowl title. Because of the weather conditions, however, it isn’t going to be an offensive showcase. Take the Patriots, give up the points and go with the UNDER in a game that is looking to be 24-17.

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Arizona Cardinals vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (-3); UNDER 47

Strangely enough, these two teams met last year in the playoffs. This time around, however, it is for the NFC Championship, a much different circumstance than that game last year.

Last year the Cardinals, a team that was down to its fourth quarterback after starting QB Carson Palmer and his backup Drew Stanton were knocked out for the year three-quarters through the season, limped into Charlotte for the Divisional Round of the playoffs and put up next to no effort against QB Cam Newton and the Panthers. The depleted Cardinals were only able to generate 77 yards of offense, lost the game 27-16 and had to be left wondering what might have been without the rash of injuries that beset the team.

Flash forward to…well, tomorrow, and they might get their answer. The Cardinals are healthy this year and it shows. Palmer and the Big Red Machine have the best offense in the NFL and can strike through the air (2nd in the league) or on the ground (8th in the league) The problem is they are running into a Panthers team that is also markedly improved over the team that went 7-8-1 in the league last season, starting this season 13-0 before finishing the year with the best record in the NFL at 15-1. Their offense is nothing to sneeze at (11th overall in the NFL) and their defense can also stop someone (6th in the league).

The Panthers have been able to prepare for playing on the cold grounds of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, where Winter Storm Jonas has just ravaged the area (and weather on Sunday could play a factor). The Cardinals, on the other hand, barely got into town on Friday night and may have had the chance to have a walkthrough on Saturday as North Carolina isn’t used to having to deal with winter weather. Due to the travel issues and the cold weather game (remember, Arizona is a dome team), I am taking the Panthers here, but it is going to be a defensive fight and way UNDER the O/U.

Last Week:  5-3
Overall:  53-37-5

Remember how we were talking about the “back door” above? That Steelers “back door” was the game that gave me a winning weekend. Without that field goal, it’s just another “meh” 4-4 slate that helps nobody but the cage collecting the juice. With only four potential bets this weekend, it would be great to sweep the board.

2015 NFL Postseason Picks, Divisional Round: What Does That Bye Week Do?

NFLLogo

The first round of the National Football League postseason is in the books and the games had a bit of everything for the fans. Fluke missed field goal to snatch victory away from your favorite team? We see you over there shaking your heads, Vikings fans. Inexplicable mental meltdowns letting your arch-rival get into position for a chip shot field goal? Put your hands up, Bengals fans. The other games…not really worth mentioning as they were beat downs. But it is a new week and it is time to ask that question…just what was that bye week that the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals fought the entire season for worth?

Since 1990, when the NFL went to the 12-team format for the playoffs, the teams that took the #1 seed in the NFC or the AFC went on to win the Super Bowl on 11 occasions, with last year’s Patriots team the last to pull off the trick (and the Seattle Seahawks the year before the last NFC team to do it). The news isn’t quite so good when it comes to the #2 seeds, however; on six occasions, the #2 seed from the NFC or the AFC has been able to reach football’s ultimate prize. If you do the math, that means that the odds are pretty good that we should see a #1 or #2 seed win the Super Bowl.

So which ones will get there this year? And which ones won’t? That’s not the object when it comes to betting on the games (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing). The object is to put the best bet down that you can and, with the way some of these games are looking this week, there should be a decent shot at making some money.

(home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Kansas City Chiefs vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-5); UNDER 43

The Patriots needed the week off more than they might have led the nation to believe, with WR Julian Edelman banged up but healthier now and another week of recuperation for WR Danny Amendola and TE Rob Gronkowski, who is still nursing a bum knee. It also gave QB Tom Brady a bit more time to shake off some nagging injuries that had plagued him. But just when things were going well for the Pats, the midweek incident regarding DE Chandler Jones and his hospitalization – for what? That’s the $64,000 question (it is rumored to have been synthetic marijuana that caused a bad reaction, not an overdose) – seems to have caused some consternation for Dark Hoodie (head coach Bill Belichick) and the rest of the Empire.

The Chiefs are just glad to have reached this point, especially with their #1 WR Jeremy Maclin expected to have little to no impact on the game due to leg injuries suffered in the win over the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. QB Alex Smith has carried the team, without star running back Jamaal Charles and now Maclin, about as far as he can; it would take a Herculean effort from both sides of the Chiefs – offense and defense – for a miracle to be pulled out at Gillette Stadium.

Expect this game to be one where the weather has a tremendous effect on how the play is conducted. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 30s with light rain all through the afternoon, making moving the ball through the air difficult. Coming into the Patriots’ lair and beating them is difficult under the best of conditions, thus I am going to take the Pats but also the UNDER in the game.

Green Bay Packers (+7) vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS; OVER 49.5

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has already stated that this will not be a repeat of the two teams’ most recent game. In Week 16, Rodgers had arguably his worst week as a professional football player when he fumbled twice, had an interception and was sacked nine times as the Cardinals undressed the Packers 38-8 in front of a national television audience. The beating was so thorough that, the very next week, the Pack went out and lost at home to the Minnesota Vikings to lose the NFC North division title but still sew up a Wild Card berth.

That seems to have worked out well for Rodgers and the Packers, however. They seem to have righted the ship in thumping the NFC East Champion Washington Redskins 35-18 in the Wild Card round last weekend, while the Vikings are now sitting at home after their debacle against the Seahawks at home. The big question now is can Rodgers back up his words that this will not be a repeat of the game just three weeks ago.

The defense of the Packers will definitely have to find some answers against the #1 offense in the NFL. Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has Big Red running on all cylinders at this point in the season, averaging 30 points a game and racking up 408 yards in total offense. It isn’t just about the offense with the Cards, however, the defense is second against the pass and eighth against the rush (just ask Rodgers about that pass rush, too). I think that Rodgers and the Packers will keep it closer this time, they just won’t be able to pull off the win in a game that will be a shootout.

Seattle Seahawks vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (-1.5); UNDER 44

Something’s got to give here. These two teams look very similar on paper…they like to run the ball, have excellent quarterbacks who like to pass the ball but aren’t afraid to take off on the run and strong defenses who will punish the opposition. So who is going to be able to impose their will in this game?

The two teams met earlier this year and it was a barnburner. Seattle led for most of the contest but Panthers QB Cam Newton led his team to touchdowns on their final two possessions to take a 27-23 victory in the Pacific Northwest back in October to preserve what was then a still-unbeaten season. This time around, due to the Panthers’ #1 seed and the Seahawks’ unlikely victory over the Vikings last week, the game will be at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, where rain is expected with temperatures in the 30s.

After sitting out the game against the Vikings, Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch is expected to be back on the field for the Seahawks and they could use him, especially with TE Jimmy Graham out. The Panthers are at full strength for the fight and they will need everyone for the battle. This is one game that I wouldn’t be surprised to see go either way (in fact, if it isn’t down to a “pick ‘em” by game time on Sunday, I will be surprised) but, due to the defensive strength of each team, it will be UNDER 44 points for both teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+7.5) vs. DENVER BRONCOS; UNDER 40

Call this one “The Game That Might Have Been If It Weren’t for Injuries.” Broncos QB Peyton Manning, who has been sitting since it seems the middle of the season with his plantar fasciitis injury – and with QB Brock Osweiler doing a fine job in his absence – will be under center when the team takes the field at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, but the big question will be just how healed is the future Hall of Famer. The Steelers defense may not be the “Steel Curtain” of old, but they will pursue the veteran Manning and it might be something that has an effect on the game.

Oh, wait…this would be true if the Steelers offense didn’t resemble a M*A*S*H unit. After the brutal hit from Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict that knocked his head into the Ohio River, Steelers WR Antonio Brown will be out for Sunday’s tilt with a concussion, joining RBs Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams on the sidelines and marking the first time in playoff history a team will be without its leading rushers and receiver for a playoff game. QB Ben Roethlisberger might have been able to overcome this problem but, due to another hit from Burfict, his throwing arm is being held on by baling wire and bubble gum; a simple breath from Broncos LB DeMarcus Ware might send Big Ben to the sidelines.

There is a huge chance this game will be played between Osweiler and Steelers backup QB Landry Jones, especially if the defenses get to the fragile Manning and Roethlisberger early. With this in mind, it is going to be a close game, the Steelers will cover the spread and might steal it, and the score will be UNDER the 40-point line (think 17-14 or something like that).

Last Week:  4-2
Overall:  48-35-5

Nailed the Seahawks/Vikings game to start off 2-0 and picked right with Green Bay in a pick ‘em game (don’t even ask about the O/U). When it came to the National Championship, I was one of those that was the beneficiary of that “back door” touchdown at the end by Clemson; instead of going 0-2 on that one, that late touchdown allowed me to cover the spread and split (missed the OVER/UNDER badly!). With four games this weekend, it will be a chance to really make some moves!

NFL Week 16 Predictions: Let’s See…What’s This Button Do?

NFLLogo

Yes, it has been a bit since I’ve stepped into the aura of being the next Jimmy the Greek. Due to some familial situations and travel, have been away from the shop for a bit. That will be a rare circumstance, I can assure you, as I do find the release here to be quite good for my overall well-being.

When it comes to the National Football League season, however, there are some very serious moments on the horizon. With only two weeks left in the season, there are a host of teams that still haven’t set their plans come January 4. The problem is that, when it comes to wagering on the games (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing), there are three different types of teams that are taking the field.

First, there’s the team with their future preordained. Think of the Carolina Panthers or the New England Patriots here. They’ve already sewn up a spot in the playoffs or, as these two teams have, clinched their division titles. Now the questions that they have to answer is how hard do they want to go over the next two weeks? Carolina, looking to keep their record unblemished, would probably like to rest QB Cam Newton, but they have to at least try for the perfect regular season; New England is still in the fight of trying to seize home field advantage.

Second, there are those teams who are scrapping for the final playoff slots. These are teams like the New York Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs (in the NFC, Minnesota and Seattle have basically assured themselves of a Wild Card). Those three AFC teams are currently involved in a fight for the two Wild Card seats and one is going to be left out and steaming over a (probably) .500 Houston Texans team hosting a playoff game as a division champion.

Finally, there are the “X-factors.” These teams – basically anyone who isn’t in line for a playoff spot, meaning about half the league (15 teams with some hanging by a thread) – could go in one of two different directions. They can come out and try to be that proverbial “spoiler,” that team that is working for 2016, or they can be that team that comes out and just wants to get to the finish line with all the ligaments and bones intact.

Why are these designations important? Because you have to look at the matchup and whether you have a team that is simply looking to get to the end of the season or a team that can potentially pull off a “spoiler” upset over an overconfident playoff team. It is important to be wary of these things when you’re laying it on the line.

(Home teams in CAPS, pick in bold)

New England Patriots vs. NEW YORK JETS (+3); UNDER 45.5

This is one of the few battles on the schedule between two teams that actually have something to play for. The Jets are in that Wild Card dogfight and the Patriots are looking to hold off the Cincinnati Bengals (without QB Andy Dalton) and the Denver Broncos (without QB Peyton Manning, and perhaps for the best) to take the overall #1 seed. In the past, this has normally proven to be a competitive game and I see it going that way this time.

Pats’ QB Tom Brady is probably asking players to put their names on the front of their helmets with masking tape, seeing how he has lost pretty much all of his rushing attack to injury (the team signed RB Steven Jackson, who hasn’t played all year, to a one-year contract earlier this week). He does have TE Rob Gronkowski, but he doesn’t have either of his scat back WRs Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman. The Jets have been sneaky good this year and are in the midst of a four game winning streak. They might not win it outright, but I’ll take the points here and go for the UNDER due to injuries on the Pats side and the general plodding attack of the Jets.

Green Bay Packers vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-4.5); UNDER 51

These are two teams that are already set for the playoffs but have some other gold rings to reach for. The Packers still have a shot at the NFC North division title and the Cardinals still have a chance at getting one of the first round byes. Thus, they are going to go at it hard in the desert on Sunday.

This is one of those games that you might want to send a statement, in the Cardinals’ case, so if the Packers come back in a couple of weeks, the memory will be fresh. You might also not want to show too much to the opposition, just in case that rematch occurs and they have full tape of your schemes. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been having some difficulties with his running game of late, while Cardinals QB Carson Palmer seems to have the Big Red Machine running well. With this in mind – and the powerful Cardinal defense looking to chew up Rodgers into little Packer sausages – I’ll take the ‘Birds but with a low-scoring affair (so there isn’t any film).

Cincinnati Bengals vs. DENVER BRONCOS (-3); OVER 39.5

Probably one of the toughest games to pick this week. The winner of this game will, in all likelihood, take the #2 seed in the AFC (there’s a whole contingency on this, but let’s save it for next week). Both teams are missing their star quarterbacks and both have had backups step up and win big games for them. The key question is who will break first and, as a result, lose this particular game.

Coming off a tough loss to the Steelers, the Broncos are now only a game in front of the Chiefs for the AFC West division crown. This, along with the strong Bronco defense that will give QB AJ McCarron fits in the Rockies and QB Brock Osweiler doing some decent things for the Broncos, gives me reason to believe that the Broncos will emerge victorious in this game. While the teams are under backup QBs, they should manage to score more than 40 points between the two teams.

Week 14:  3-2-1
Overall:  39-27-4

Not a great week of play two weekends ago, but it wasn’t a loser. Overall we’re doing OK (a 55% clip) and, although this late in the season it is virtually impossible to get over the 60% mark, I’m still looking to rack up some more positive weekends as the regular season comes to a close next weekend.