It's Week Four of the NFL, and Vegas is open for business. Here's a handy gambling guide, which is miraculously still over .500 for the year.
It was bad planning by way of epic ignorance.
Due to some last minute generosity, I found myself in St. Augustine last Sunday. One of my too-few wealthy relatives offered their beach house for the weekend, so we took advantage of one last summer-like getaway. They have a satellite dish, so I was assured all games on Saturday and Sunday could be consumed, with a beautiful Atlantic Ocean view for added pleasure.
College football was on the flatscreen all day Saturday, and we could have watched the Georgia-Mississippi State game if only it hadn't been cancelled at the last minute, never played, and never to be talked about again. The gulls announced NFL action early Sunday, and while the female half of my roadtrip enjoyed beach time, I settled in to watch - Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay. And that was it.
My assurances of "a dish" were in fact true, but my uncle hadn't realized the difference between having cable and purchasing an NFL subscription. And the ignorance was my own, having not thought to check on this before 12:57 p.m. So I was stuck flipping between a Pittsburgh domination, and the Red Zone Channel, which also seemed to air the entire first half of Steelers-Bucs.
The occasional updates of Falcons-Saints, by Red Zone and phone, weren't cutting it, and rushed packing had us ready to leave by the second half kickoff. We ended up watching the last quarter and overtime in a seedy, I-10 dive called "Applebee's." The locals, focused on their Bucs and Jags, Bud and Jack, dramatically bristled at every scream from our table - and there were plenty of 'em. When Garrett Hartley shanked the overtime field goal, I'm pretty sure our noise level shattered a nearby Tim Tebow stained glass window, and I was briefly afraid of getting a "proper north Florida greetin'." Which, to my understanding, involves meth, tattoos, and being tied to a tree.
Alas, we escaped Florida with our lives, a win, and having seen the game's most important moments. And since I'll actually be in Arizona for December's Falcons-Saints rematch, I'll chalk this up as a lesson to be more prepared next time.
San Francisco @ Atlanta (-6 1/2). I'm excited to walk into the Georgia Dome on Sunday. The opening Cardinals home game was great, but the empty seats kept electricity from reaching a maximum. The Saints win, however, should kick things up, even if the opponent is as "boring" as the 49ers. Yeah, that's the word I heard this week: "boring." I can't really argue, but it sounds bizarre to anyone who's followed the NFL for more than 10 years. I remember being at a Falcons-49ers Monday night game in the early '90s; huge stars on the field, and even some on the sidelines (MC Hammer and Danny Glover, which was a big deal at the time). A rock concert atmosphere, to be sure. Anyway, it seems the words "trap game" have been said by every Atlanta player this week, so I don't think that'll be a problem. Roll Falcons roll. PICK: Atlanta
Denver @ Tennessee (-6 1/2). Tennesnore hosts a Knowshon-less Broncos squad, and his absence effectively sucks any personal interest out of this matchup. This is one of those "I'll watch this if one of my fantasy players is on the field" games, and there's no such luck for me. PICK: Tennessee
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-1 1/2). Walking out of Heinz Field a few weeks ago, I made a crack to my host: "We'll see you in Dallas." Honestly, I was kidding - but only because neither team looked like a Super Bowl contender that day. Now I've read mentions of this exact scenario in no fewer than three different places - and I'm just dumb enough to get legitimately excited about it in early October. PICK: Pittsburgh
Cincinnati (-3) @ Cleveland. Since the game is oh-so-creatively nicknamed The Ohio Bowl, I can only assume the stadium smells like raw diaper and back sweat. Interesting side note for Georgians, though: on Twitter, Chad Ochocinco said he'll spend $100K on parties for Atlanta fans while in town for the Falcons-Bengals game. I'm doubting the venues will be any of my regular haunts (Jason's Deli, El Pollo Loco, my house), but nonetheless, Ochocinco promises to "bring back memories of Big Meech." I have NO IDEA what that means. PICK: Cincinnati
Detroit @ Green Bay (-14). It sucks when one injury takes the bloom off an entire game. Seeing Matthew Stafford react to a Lambeau field crowd would be something, but seeing Shaun Hill do the same doesn't cut it. PICK: Detroit
Carolina @ New Orleans (-13 1/2). The schedule doesn't get much easier for a wretched Panthers team. It's 0-4 after Sunday, and Chicago comes to Charlotte next week. There are two possibly winnable games against San Francisco and at St. Louis, but then the Saints come marching in. By the time Atlanta finally faces Carolina for the first time in Week 14, John Abraham will be able to sack Jimmy Clausen with an eyebrow twitch. PICK: New Orleans
Seattle (-1) @ St. Louis. Just for fun, I swung over to NFL Ticket Exchange to see what scalpers were asking for this one. I hit "Buy Tickets" and got a pop-up window that said, "Seriously?" (For real, you can get lower level, 50-yard-line seats for $100 - $10 less than Sunday's cheapest nose-bleed Heinz Field ticket.) PICK: St. Louis
NY Jets (-5) @ Buffalo. PICK: NY Jets
Indianapolis (-7) @ Jacksonville. PICK: Indianapolis
Houston (-3) @ Oakland. Ok, so poll time: does anybody actually like 3-D? Yeah, this doesn't have anything to do with football, but you're going to get that sometimes when the game is this flaccid. So again, the question: does anybody like 3-D, when prices are inflated, you have to wear dumb glasses, the picture isn't as sharp, you run the chance of headaches, and the entire movie experience suffers because of a stupid gimmick? Now, I'm going to keep my opinion to myself as to not sway your vote. Just let me know what you think. PICK: Houston
Arizona @ San Diego (-8). That said, I think Jackass 3-D is an amazing idea, probably the only movie I'll ever again pay for in that format. PICK: Arizona
Washington @ Philadelphia (-6). Every other NFL feature this week has had something to do with this game, whether its Donovan McNabb's return to Philly, Michael Vick's amazing success, or some combination of the two. I'm not sure the nation is nearly as interested as the media, though. It just seems forced, because for all the press, McNabb was never really embraced as a big-time star, even by his own city at times. And I'm not sure a lot of people have really worked out their feelings toward Vick yet. I know I'm on the fence. My loathing for the Eagles is quite high, as is my disgust with Vick's crimes - but man, when he takes off on a run, my fandom reverts to 2004 quite easily. It feels icky to root for him, especially in that uniform - but it's hard not to do. The NFL shouldn't feel like such a morality struggle, and I can't be the only one shuffling away from Eagles games for that reason. PICK: Washington
Chicago @ NY Giants (-4). Some of the week's best reading has come courtesy of so-called NFL Power Rankings, which every sports website seems to do (and admittedly, I eat up like they were made of mustard and fried dead things). Chicago, despite its 3-0 record, isn't listed at the top of any of 'em, and Bears fans - if you haven't heard, a particularly passionate and oft delusional bunch - have been pooping out kittens for days now. "How dare people not anoint the 3-0 Bears #1, in light of their not-at-all fluky wins and ascension of Jay Cutler to the NFL elite? No, ignore the 29th-ranked rushing offense and 28th-ranked pass defense - those are the flukes! We're number one!" (I'm assuming the same thing always happens on South Carolina Gamecocks message boards, but life is too short to check.) PICK: Chicago
New England (-1) @ Miami. I'm too lazy to look up actual statistics, but this line seems to be bucking history. The Dolphins always seem to upset the Patriots in big games (ie. Monday night), so I'm not getting the New England love at all - especially since they've yet to look like a powerhouse. Chad Henne could venture into "household name" status with a big game here, and I'm thinking he'll deliver. PICK: Miami
Last week: 9-7-0