Friday, October 31, 2008

NFL picks, week 9

N.Y. Jets at Buffalo (-5.5) - Buffalo is 5-2 and tied for the division lead. The Jets are not. The Jets are coming off a narrow escape at home against the woeful Chiefs, while the Bills are recovering from a road loss at the hands of the improving Dolphins. If the Jets are going to be serious competitors this year, they'll find a way to win this game. I rather think that they won't.

Detroit (+13) at Chicago - Have I really got my (entirely theoretical) money riding on the Lions? Again? Apparently. Yes, the Bears scored something like 897 points last week, but sometimes I'm slow - I don't buy them as a 13 point favorite against anyone. Not even the Lions. They'll win, of course, but not by 13 or more.

Jacksonville (-8) at Cincinnati - I asked this last week, I ask it again - "where's the evidence that Jacksonville can beat anyone by a touchdown?" Of course, Cincinnati's not just anyone. I have little confidence in the Jaguars, but I think the Bengals are capable of losing by double digits to anyone.

Baltimore at Cleveland (-1.5) - OK, the Ravens have a better record than the Browns. Ok, they've scored more points and allowed fewer. I think that Cleveland's a team that's starting to figure it out, and they'll win at home.

Tampa Bay at Kansas City (+9) - The Chiefs beat the Broncos at home. They won't beat the Buccaneers, but I think it's a touchdown loss, or less.

Houston at Minnesota (-4.5) - A cursory look at the standings suggests that 47 of the NFL's 32 teams are currently 3-4. These are two of them. Any given Sunday, these teams could win, lose, or beat up on the Colts and lose late. Minnesota's at home, and was more highly thought of in the pre-season. I didn't agree with that, of course, but if there's a compelling reason to pick Houston, I'm not aware of it.

Arizona at St. Louis (+3) - I mocked the Rams coaching change. To quote Arthur Fonzarelli, "I was wr...wr...wr...wr...wr...I was wr...wr...wr..." Despite losing last week, I see St. Louis as a team still on a roll, and the Cardinals as a team that is too up-and-down to count on.

Green Bay (+5.5) at Tennessee - Let down game for the Titans, who are a good team, but not a team that's a threat to go undefeated. They're coming off a big division win on Monday night, and due for a bad week. Green Bay wins outright.

Miami at Denver (-3) - If the only information one had about these two teams were their games in New England, the Dolphins would be favored by 30. That's not the only information we have. The Dolphins will score, but the Broncos will score more. This is another game that's very likely to end in a push, with the Broncos winning by exactly 3, but I don't feel quite certain enough about it to pick it, so I'll pick them to cover.

Dallas at N.Y. Giants (-9) - This is always a marquee matchup, I suppose, but what looked like a great game a month ago looks like a mismatch today.

Atlanta (-3) at Oakland - The Falcons are a better team. The better team doesn't always win, of course, but it's the way to bet.

Philadelphia (-7) at Seattle - Congratulations to the Seahawks, who looked like an actual NFL team last week in San Francisco. Anyone see two in a row? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? No, I didn't think so.

New England (+5.5) at Indianapolis - I could try to come up with rationalization and justification for this. I could point to New England's superior record (5-2 vs. 3-4), or talk about how easily the Colts could be 1-6, as meltdown's by the Vikings and Texans handed them 2 of their 3 wins. But I won't bother. No one expects the Patriots to win in Indy without Brady, and I'm picking them regardless.

Pittsburgh at Washington (-1.5) - On a scale of 0-Giants, where are the Redskins? If the Steelers lose to New York at home, does that imply that they're likely to lose to Washington on the road? I don't know the answer to those questions, but I'm taking Washington anyway.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NFL week 8 wrapup

Week 8 in the NFL...

  • Another good afternoon for Matt Cassell, as he continues to develop. The numbers weren't gaudy, but the performance was solid, and the two interceptions came on a) a tipped ball and b) a route on which his receiver fell down.


  • The defense got stout when necessary, too. But there are still too many balls going over the defensive backfield's heads.


  • Mike Singletary is going to wake things up in San Francisco. Whether that intensity level is going to work as a head coach is another question entirely.


  • Does anyone keep both teams in the game more than Brett Favre?


  • Tennessee has not clinched the AFC South yet. But they're getting awfully close - they are now four full games (plus a head-to-head victory) ahead of the reigning champion Colts, and the Texans and Jaguars have shown nothing to indicate that either is a real threat.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    Kansas City at NY Jets - "Kansas City is bad. It is very easy to picture this game getting out of hand, and the Jets beating them by four touchdowns. That may happen, and it wouldn't surprise me. And the Jets will certainly win. But 13 is just too many points."

    NY Giants at Pittsburgh - "There are a couple of very good games this weekend. This is the one on Sunday. And, to be up-front about it, this guarantees that SOMETHING I like happens this weekend. I consider it a good thing when the Giants lose and a good thing when the Steelers lose. Both losing is better, but playing head-to-head guarantees that one of them loses. I think the Steelers lose in a close game."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Indianapolis at Tennessee - "A classic offense vs. defense matchup, with each team considerably weaker on the other side of the ball. If the Titans win, they take a four-game lead in the AFC South, almost insurmountable at this point. I don't see that happening. The Colts started slow, and their defense is sub-par again, but I think that they can put up points on anyone, and the Titans haven't had to play from behind yet. Going with Colts in what, if I'm wrong, ends up being a "passing of the torch" game."

    Seattle at San Francisco - "Have I mentioned yet that going into a season with a lame-duck head coach is a bad idea?"

    Tampa Bay at Dallas - "Even with Tony Romo, the Cowboys looked like they might be falling apart, a Jerry Jones has continued to play George Steinbrenner, ca. 1984."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 8-6
    ATS: 4-8-2


  • For the season:
    Winners: 70-46
    ATS: 61-51-4


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Friday, October 24, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 8

Oakland (+7) at Baltimore - I still don't think Oakland's a good team. And Baltimore went into Miami last week and handled them convincingly. But I can't see a convincing reason to pick either of these teams. Given that, 7 points is too much. Who's going to win? Ravens. Close.

Arizona at Carolina (-4) - In case you hadn't noticed yet, I never know what to do with the Panthers. But they're 5-2 and playing at home, and I'm tired of watching them win big when I pick them to lose. So this week, I'll pick them to win. (And very likely watch them lose as a result.)

Tampa Bay (+2) at Dallas - Even with Tony Romo, the Cowboys looked like they might be falling apart, a Jerry Jones has continued to play George Steinbrenner, ca. 1984.

Washington (-7) at Detroit - Is this the week that the Lions win? No.

Buffalo (-1.5) at Miami - The Bills are a better team than the Dolphins. (Now really, aren't you embarassed not to be paying for analysis this good?)

St. Louis at New England (-7) - This looked easy a couple of weeks ago. That's no longer the case, as St. Louis has beaten Washington and Dallas back-to-back. That said, the Patriots are still the better team, and they win this by 10+.

San Diego (-3) vs. New Orleans (London) - I believe that no NFL team has ever played a game as far away from its home stadium as the Chargers are going to this week. Fortunately for them, they've got a bye next week - the trip from London back to San Diego is a long one. As to the game itself, both of these teams expected to be better than 3-4 at this point. Instead of being upper-tier teams, they look to be part of the vast middle, and really, is there any outcome of this game that would qualify as a surprise? San Diego has both scored more and allowed fewer points than the Saints, and I'm going with the Chargers.

Kansas City (+13) at N.Y. Jets - Kansas City is bad. It is very easy to picture this game getting out of hand, and the Jets beating them by four touchdowns. That may happen, and it wouldn't surprise me. And the Jets will certainly win. But 13 is just too many points.

Atlanta (+9) at Philadelphia - I actually could see the Falcons winning this game outright. I don't think that they will, but I could see it. I think that the Eagles win a close and competitive game.

Cleveland (+7) at Jacksonville - There are a bunch of TMP games this week. TMP - Too Many Points. Where's the evidence that Jacksonville can beat anyone by a touchdown? With me rooting for Cleveland because of Romeo, Jacksonville wins a close one.

Cincinnati (+9.5) at Houston - TMP. Houston by three.

N.Y. Giants (+2.5) at Pittsburgh - There are a couple of very good games this weekend. This is the one on Sunday. And, to be up-front about it, this guarantees that SOMETHING I like happens this weekend. I consider it a good thing when the Giants lose and a good thing when the Steelers lose. Both losing is better, but playing head-to-head guarantees that one of them loses. I think the Steelers lose in a close game.

Seattle at San Francisco (-5) - Have I mentioned yet that going into a season with a lame-duck head coach is a bad idea?

Indianapolis (+4) at Tennessee - The ESPN Monday Night guys get what should be a good one. A classic offense vs. defense matchup, with each team considerably weaker on the other side of the ball. If the Titans win, they take a four-game lead in the AFC South, almost insurmountable at this point. I don't see that happening. The Colts started slow, and their defense is sub-par again, but I think that they can put up points on anyone, and the Titans haven't had to play from behind yet. Going with Colts in what, if I'm wrong, ends up being a "passing of the torch" game.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

NFL week 7 wrapup

Week 7 in the NFL...

  • Re: New England Patriots

    That was a little more like it.


  • Matt Cassel's taken a lot of heat for not being Tom Brady. There's been some legitimate criticism, but, I think, a lot of overdone and unfair criticism. He's taking too many sacks, but they aren't all his fault - several of them have been the result of complete failure of the offensive line to do its job. And I maintain that the two losses were primarily due to defensive breakdowns.

    I do not think that Matt Cassel's going to have a career anywhere near as good as Tom Brady's. I do not think that the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl this season. (Of course, I didn't think they would in 2001, either.)

    That said:


    Injury replacement QBs - First six games (relief plus five starts)
    AttemptsCompletionsYDSTDINTPasser RatingPctWL

    Matt Cassel - 200816611010956486.866.342

    Tom Brady - 200116910410697483.761.533


    Just sayin'...


  • Two in a row for the Rams? Against the Redskins and Cowboys? Wow. They're coming to Foxboro next Sunday for a game that looks far more like a challenge than it did two weeks ago.


  • Mike Nolan gets the axe in San Francisco. That makes three NFL coaches replaced during the first seven weeks of the season. That strikes me as very unusual. I know that coaches are sometimes fired during the year, but I don't remember ever seeing three during the same year before.


  • That Titans defense has been awesome so far. The Steelers have allowed the second fewest points in the NFL, 89 through 6 games. The Titans have allowed 66.


  • The Raiders tried desperately to give that game to the Jets. The Jets refused to take it. And, for the second time this season, we saw a coach use that "genius" timeout move as the field goal attempt is about to start, and cost his team in the process. About three minutes into that overtime period, I started to think that a tie was very likely.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (slim pickings this week - there were a bunch of right on the spread, wrong on the winner games, and vice versa, and games that were right but the reasoning and comments were wrong. Altogether, a pretty weak performance. As should be expected...):

    San Francisco at NY Giants - "The Giants spit the bit last week. I hate to say this, but they're too good a team not to come back strong this week, against a mediocre West coast team 3000 miles from home."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    New Orleans at Carolina - "Carolina's at home with a better record. Maybe this is just contrariness, but I continue to be a Panther skeptic."

    Indianapolis at Green Bay - "Peyton's back. (Yes, I know he hasn't missed any games. I stand by my story anyway.) The Colts offense is starting to wake up. This may be the game of the weekend, but the Colts win at Lambeau."

    Dallas at St. Louis- "There's now talk that Tony Romo, instead of missing four weeks, may miss zero. He ought to take this week off anyway. Or play left-handed."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 9-5
    ATS: 8-6-0


  • For the season:
    Winners: 62-40
    ATS: 57-43-2



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Monday, October 20, 2008

I'd rather the Red Sox had won, but this is a silver lining to the loss...

As a sports fan, the Rays are a great story. As a Red Sox fan, I'm disappointed in last night's result. But I just saw a comment over at the Baseball Crank's site that almost makes up for last night. (OK, it doesn't almost make up for last night, but it's fun and amusing anyway.

Commenter MVH says, "It's a great day to be a Yankee fan. Thanks, Rays."

It's now a "great day to be a Yankee fan" when the Red Sox fall short of the World Series. For years and years, I've heard Yankee fans mock Red Sox fans as pathetic losers every time Sox fans were happy to see the Yankees eliminated. By that standard, Yankee fans are now conceding pathetic loser-hood. Well done! We knew it all along, of course, but the additional validation is fun to see. Thank you, MVH - you've brought a smile to my face today...

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Wait 'til next year!

And the curtain rings down on the 2008 baseball season for the Boston Red Sox...

  • Another excellent year, and the organization looks strong for years to come. While the outcome is disappointing, Red Sox fans should look at this season as another success. What you want is an organization that's going to get your team into the playoffs consistently, with a chance to win it all. That's what we've got right now, and we should be rejoicing over it.


  • Obviously, Red Sox fans wanted it to go the other way. For non-Red Sox fans of baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays are the best story since the 2004 Red Sox. I said back in May that the team they most reminded me of was the 1967 Red Sox. A group of young, good players - that's the kind of team that makes big leaps record-wise. I didn't expect their pitching to be as good as it was, but that's a strong team, and should be for the next few years.


  • Memo to anyone that wants to make the "Hey, the Rays payroll was only x and the Red Sox payroll was 3x, so the Rays were lots, lots better and smarter" argument, don't bother. The Rays payroll is lower, not because Boston's overpaying lots of players, but because Tampa's underpaying lots of players. And they're underpaying lots of players because the players haven't done anything in the past, or they're just starting their Major League careers. If you finish last every year and get to pick first, you get to accumulate young talent (Longoria, Upton) that the Red Sox won't get a chance to acquire until they're older and much, much more expensive. That's life. Most "the team was really bad for a long time than took a big leap forward" teams are going to be far less expensive than "consistenly excellent for a long time" teams. That's the way the system works. Tampa's had a very well run organization for the past few years - to use the payroll as an argument that they're better run than the Red Sox would be a mistake.


  • I think that Boston was a better team than Tampa this year. Not a lot better, but better. I'm not sure that they were better when the playoffs started. Not having Lowell, and having only a shadow of Beckett - that makes a huge difference.


  • It's not Terry Francona's fault that they lost, but I don't think he had a great series. In particular, there's just no excuse for Varitek making the third out of the seventh inning last night with the tying run at third base. I know that everyone loves him. I know that he had a big hit on Saturday night. But he's had an absolutely awful year, and it was imperative to put someone up at the plate with a better chance of getting a hit, or at least not making an out, than him. They took a third catcher, instead of a useful bat, then had no bat to use for the catcher. But Casey, Lowrie - anyone - would have been a better option there.


  • "Wait 'til next year" has a completely different feel since 2004...

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vital fact-checking

Never let it be said that CBS doesn't take its fact-checking responsibilities seriously:
The Republican National Committee is sending around this Associated Press photo of overall-clad McCain supporters standing outside an Obama rally, clutching plungers and a sign proclaiming "I Am Joe The Plumber":

The only problem? At least two of the members aren't quite as similar to the newly famous Joe Wurzelbacher as they might like you to think. As CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic, who is traveling with the Obama campaign, reports, the man on the right does say he's an actual plumber – though he is from Melbourne, Australia, and will thus not be casting a vote this November.

And the man on the left, plunger thrust high in the air, is Charlie Smith – the National Chairman of the College Republicans.

Thank goodness someone's vetting these vital campaign figures. Another 15-20 years, someone at CBS will probably get to vetting Barack Obama...

UPDATE: The inimitable Steyn offers up a tip for that CBS fact-checking unit...

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This speaks for itself

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Friday, October 17, 2008

NFL picks, week 7

Sorry, guys. It's been a busy week, and I've got nothing.

Zip. Zero. Nada.

And here it is...

San Diego (+1) at Buffalo - Buffalo's played better than San Diego thus far. But I still think the Chargers are a better team.

New Orleans (+3) at Carolina - Carolina's at home with a better record. Maybe this is just contrariness, but I continue to be a Panther skeptic.

Minnesota at Chicago (-3) - Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (+9.5) - Yes, the Bengals are a bad team. Yes, the Steelers are a pretty good team. Yes, Pittsburgh's going to win. But the Bengals are going to put together another of their patented Maxwell Smart "this close" losses.

Tennessee (-8) at Kansas City - How bad are the Chiefs? How good is the Titans defense? If Tennessee scores 12, they'll cover 8.

Baltimore (+3) at Miami - This will be a three point game, one way or the other. People have now seem Miami's gimmick plays, and they aren't going to work the way they did against New England. The Ravens won't score many points, but neither will they need to.

San Francisco at N.Y. Giants (-11) - The Giants spit the bit last week. I hate to say this, but they're too good a team not to come back strong this week, against a mediocre West coast team 3000 miles from home.

Dallas at St. Louis (+7) - There's now talk that Tony Romo, instead of missing four weeks, may miss zero. He ought to take this week off anyway. Or play left-handed.

Detroit (+9) at Houston - The Lions will beat someone, some week. Not this week, probably, but I expect another close loss.

Indianapolis (-1) at Green Bay - Peyton's back. (Yes, I know he hasn't missed any games. I stand by my story anyway.) The Colts offense is starting to wake up. This may be the game of the weekend, but the Colts win at Lambeau.

N.Y. Jets at Oakland (+3) - This, on the other hand, is probably not the game of the weekend. Jets by 2. (Why? Excellent question. Really, a very fair, super-important question.)

Cleveland at Washington (-7.5) - The Redskins had the let-down that I was looking for two weeks ago. Having learned the danger of letting a weaker opponent hang around, they'll pick it back up this week.

Seattle at Tampa Bay (-11) - Ah. Here's one I feel good about. Tampa Bay, pretty good. Seattle, pretty bad. (Lame duck coach rarely good idea.)

Denver at New England (-3) - I hope that everyone understands by now that I will pick New England every single week, and justify it. Some of the justifications will be more strained than others. And, of course, some weeks, there will just be comments about how I'm picking the Patriots every week, and the justifications may be strained. Like this week.

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Another poll

I want to review Oliver Stone's "W." Should I:
Bite the bullet, go and pay for it
Wait until it shows up on cable
Forget it! Not a cent to Oliver Stone
Go see it in the theatre, but buy a ticket for "An American Carol" to get in
  
pollcode.com free polls

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Poll question

Who better represents "The American Dream?"
Joe the plumber
Barack the community organizer
Both equally
  
pollcode.com free polls

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Another shocking result - who could POSSIBLY have foreseen this?

"Economists are people who insist on taking trade-offs seriously..."
- Professor Timothy Taylor, Economics (3rd ed.), The Teaching Company


Politicians, of course, are not.

So, the state of Hawaii has decided to scrap it's universal child health care plan. Why?
A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan. "People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free," said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. "I don't believe that was the intent of the program."

Everyone is shocked, right? Shocked - shocked! - to find that subsidizing behavior (in this case, subsidizing people not to pay for their kids health care) resuots in more of it. How could you possibly have seen that coming?

But I'm sure that Senator Government Obama's proposals won't introduce and distortions or unintended consequences into the health care market...

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Proper gun control

I'm Denny Crane. I'm a bigshot."

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New Obama logo

Here's an Obama t-shirt logo I like...






It's appropriate.

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Boston 8, Tampa Bay 7

"Wow - I didn't get any sleep last night. The game was fantastic, but didn't end until after midnight, and of course, a game that ends like that, you can't go to bed. The adrenaline's pumping, and you have to keep flipping channels, getting all of the highlights and interviews again..."


That's how this post might have started. If I hadn't gone to bed at 10:30. But I did. So when I went find out how bad the final score was this morning, I discovered that I'd missed the greatest comeback in ALCS history, the second greatest comeback in the history of post-season baseball, and the Red Sox get to play at least one more game this season.

  • Tampa Bay, through the seventh inning yesterday, was on an incredible hot streak. After being shut out in game one, they proceeded to score 38 runs on 13 HR over the next 36 innings. Those things happen, though it's unusual to see it happen in the playoffs. It all started against Beckett - if it continues against Beckett on Saturday night, the Red Sox comeback last night would have gotten them one extra game and two extra plane flights. If they cool off, however...


  • 5 hits, 3 HR in 4 innings is a very un-Matsuzaka-like performance.


  • I made a comment after the division series noting how well the Red Sox young right-handed relievers had performed. Masterson and Papelbon have continued to perform that way. Manny Delcarmen's allowed 7 runs in 2 innings of work. Odds are, they'll need a good inning or two from him in Tampa if they want to keep playing.


  • There were obviously several huge hits last night - Drew's HR to cut the lead to one, Crisp's single to tie it, Drew's game-winning "single" - but the biggest was Ortiz' HR in the seventh. They were 7 outs away, down 6, and Ortiz has been awful in this post-season. If he goes down quietly there, the inning ends and the game's almost certainly over. But instead, the lead was only three instead of six, and that changed the entire feel of the game.


  • Long-time readers know that I put very little stock in cliches about "clutch" players and "choking." Certainly, some people handle stressful situations better than others, but people who cannot perform in stressful situations do not make it to the Major Leagues. The weeding-out process is not only physical, it's mental. Before a player gets close to a Major League field, he's had to perform in front of scouts, make the transition to pro ball, deal with any number of high-stress situations. All that said, it is possible - not certain, maybe not even likely, but possible - that some of the Tampa players may be a little less loose and comfortable taking the field on Saturday night than they have been the past couple of nights. Will that happen? Will it make a difference? I don't know, and certainly, the Red Sox can win without that happening, or lose despite it happening. It's just something that might have some impact.


  • The Red Sox have now faced playoff elimination 9 times with Terry Francona at the helm. They're 8-1 in those games. They'll need to get to 10-1 to keep alive any chance of repeating as World Series Champs...

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the Plumber

Prepare for more media hand-wringing over the negativity of the McCain campaign...

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Better or worse?

Which is a worse gaffe - "correcting" someone that wrote "potato" after having been handed a card that said "potatoe," or saying that "jobs - J-O-B-S" is a three letter word?



If you're a politician, that "D-" before your state just washes all the sins and cares away, doesn't it?

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Debate season (mercifully) ends

I missed most of last night's third debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. I have it recorded on my DVR but the probability of me ever going back and watching it are somewhere south of 2%. I did see about the last half hour, and some of the post-games shows on Fox and CNN, and I've got a couple of thoughts.

  1. Barack Obama is the next President of the United States*. I am, obviously, not happy about that. I think it has the potential to damage the country significantly, particularly as he will be unchecked by any legitimate opposition at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.


  2. The reason that Obama will be the next President is because he gets up on the national stage and speaks and acts as if he's a moderate. This country is about to elect the most liberal administration ever, but it's still a center-right country. Obama's winning by running as a center-right guy.


  3. He gets away with it because he is able to sit there, in front of God and the American people, and lie with impunity. He can lie with impunity about McCain's health care proposals, his campaign ads, abortion, taxes, Ayers, ACORN**; he can lie about whatever he wants or needs to, secure in the knowledge that the press won't call him on it, and if McCain does, the press will "tsk, tsk" McCain's "negativity."


The tragic aspect to all of this is that Obama's strongest asset for the last month ought to have been (one of) his fatal weakness(es). And McCain's biggest weakness should have been one of his greatest strengths. The crisis in the financial sector and the markets was brought on by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, which was, in turn, caused by government pressure on mortgage-lenders to lend to people who couldn't qualify for mortgages using reasonable risk standards. Government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac poured money into those loans, buying them up, and the combination of easy money and government mandates inflated housing values, creating a huge speculative bubble. Bubbles pop.
  • The Bush administration tried to increase regulation and oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Democrats in congress resisted. McCain tried to sponsor and pass a law to deal with them three years ago, when some people could see the threat. Democrats in congress resisted.

  • Barack Obama represented ACORN in Illinois in 1994 in a case to force Citibank to make bad loans stop "redlining." From 1989-2008, only Christopher Dodd took more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than Barack Obama. Former chairmen Jimmy Johnson and Franklin Raines, under whose watch the bubble built, have both been reported as advisors to Senator Obama. And while he tells a tale of an apocryphal letter of "concern" which he allegedly sent to someone, maybe the Fed chief, he hasn't produced the letter or any evidence that he wrote or sent it.

If we had an independent media in this country, rather than merely a media-wing of the Democratic party, the economic crisis which has virtually assured the success of Senator Obama's run for the Presidency should have ended it.

But we don't...




* - Conservatives need to pray fervently for the health and well-being of Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and even Kennedy, for the next four years. I suspect that Justices Stevens and Ginsburg will go during the Obama administration, and be replaced by Justices as bad, or worse. Justices appointed by conservatives sometimes disappoint - justices appointed by liberals never do. (Well, they don't disappoint the liberals by growing more conservative.)

** - OK, to their credit, CNN did do an Obama-Acorn story.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The generosity of the oil companies

Since "crude oil costs have fallen to $79 a barrel from a peak of more than $147 in July," it is clearly time for Congressional action. The oil companies have repented over their past price-gouging. Like the Grinch, their hearts have "grown three sizes," or possibly more. I have called my Representative and Senators this morning to encourage Congressional medals and resolutions in praise of the generous oil companies. Having seen the light, they have generously decided to lower prices, and we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude for doing so.

(Heh. Someone tried to tell me this morning that the oil companies didn't dictate prices, so they couldn't "decide" to lower prices. According to this joker, something he called the "market" forced the prices to drop through the interaction of "supply" and "demand." I couldn't tell exactly what these were - fairies or some-such, I guess. Heh. Good one. Really, an imaginative concept.

Of course, everyone understands that oil prices are set by oil companies to gouge consumers, and if prices go down, it must be due to their goodness of spirit in repenting of their past behavior.

"Supply" and "demand" - ha ha. Can't you just picture the "supply" and "demand" fairies sitting down to "set prices?" What does a "demand" fairy look like, anyway? John Candy in a tu-tu? "I demand that you lower these gas prices!" Heh...)



H/T - Instapundit

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Tampa goes up 3-1

So Boston's down 3-1 in the ALCS. I do not feel this the way I once would have. I'm older, and my perspective has changed. The Red Sox have won the World Series twice recently. And they've got a management team that understands how to use its (formidable) resources in a game where 4 out of 14 teams makes the playoffs every year. So if they lose tomorrow, there's every reason to think that they'll be back in the post-season next year, and the year after that. So my angst is minimal.

Not to say that the last couple of games have been enjoyable. They have not. It's no fun to be out of it before it starts, and that's the way the last couple have felt. But if the ride is over for this year, it's been a good ride, and, while there will be, as there always is, some player turnover, the ride isn't over for this basic team. Next year's Red Sox, with Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Ortiz, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Bay, Drew and others, will almost certainly be playing October baseball again.

And there's no reason to think that they CAN'T win this series. After all, their last seven ALCS games have come in "lose and go home" situations, and they're 7-0. (Time for the old "now they've got the Rays just where they want them!") They're extremely unlikely to win out again, but that's life.

I think that this is an appropriate time to quote something that a wise (ha!) man wrote just about a year (actually, exactly 52 weeks) ago:
Francona managed game 2 just fine, he managed game 3 just fine, he managed game 4 just fine. The players haven't gotten the job done - that's life - it happens. It's baseball. The idea that this 7 game series tells us anything about these teams that the 162 games of the regular season didn't is laughable. It determines a "champion" but it doesn't pick the best team - just the one who plays the best in 4 of 7. It is frustrating, and we would much rather see them win than lose, but the other team gets paid, too, and sometimes that's just what happens. The Red Sox certainly aren't out of this series, but the odds of them winning are not good. Whether they come back and win, or go down in game 5, this is an excellent team, with a good manager, that had a very good year. Winning the World Series is special and important, but the post-season is a crapshoot - the organization has to think in terms of putting together a team that can get there consistently, because that's how you win World Series - you get to the post-season and have a good run at the right time.

Really, I've got nothing to add to that...

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Why won't John McCain say this?

An accurate summary of the US Presidential campaign from Melanie Phillips in the Spectator:
You have to pinch yourself – a Marxisant radical who all his life has been mentored by, sat at the feet of, worshipped with, befriended, endorsed the philosophy of, funded and been in turn funded, politically promoted and supported by a nexus comprising black power anti-white racists, Jew-haters, revolutionary Marxists, unrepentant former terrorists and Chicago mobsters, is on the verge of becoming President of the United States. And apparently it’s considered impolite to say so.

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Tainted by association

Tony Rezko. Jeremiah Wright. Bill Ayers. Those are just some of the people with whom Barack Obama has associated over the years, leading many to question his judgment. But this video provides some pretty compelling evidence that John McCain is no stranger to unsavory associates:

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NFL week 6 wrapup

Week 6 in the NFL...

  • The Patriots were bad again. If you can't score, you can't win. But the big problem is the defense. I was concerned about it coming out of the preseason games, and it looks as if I were right to be concerned. There are ways to hide a weak unit on pass defense, but you do it with a strong one. If you can't cover, you pressure the quarterback. If you can't pressure the quarterback, you play coverage. If you can't do either, you give up lots of long pass plays. That's what the Patriots are doing now. A weak secondary without a pass rush is just begging for trouble. Cassel and the offense were awful at doing what the offense is supposed to do - score points. They were so-so on the field, generally moving the ball, but they never got into the end zone.


  • One of the excuses I've heard for the defense is that the offense keeps putting them in bad situations. That's not true. It's true that there's more pressure on the defense to be good because they can't outscore defensive mistakes, but the defense has actually had better field position this year than last. The average opponent started each drive on its own 28 last year, this year, it starts on its own 25. But the defense is allowing a few more field goals and a lot more touchdowns.



    Patriots defense - opponent drive results
    Opponent drivesTDFGNo scoreTD %FG %Scoreless %Pts/Possession

    2007207391914918.84%9.18%71.98%1.59

    2008531363424.53%11.32%64.15%2.06


    When Brady went down, they needed the defense to step up. It has failed to do so.


  • I wonder what kind of odds you could have gotten for St. Louis (over Washington), Arizona (over Dallas) and the Browns (over the NY Giants) this weekend. If someone had seen that trifecta coming, he could retire today. I bet there are a lot fewer people remaining in knockout pools than there were Sunday morning.


  • Why does the NFL draw such ratings and revenues? Because even a game that looks like it might be a dog (Chicago at Atlanta, Miami at Houston) can have a spectacular, competitive, compelling finish.


  • I'm sure that there have been uglier NFL uniforms than the throwbacks the Titans Jets are wearing, but I can't think of one off the top of my head.


  • Two ex-Patriots finished off the Cowboys, as Sean Morey blocked a punt in OT and Monty Beisel recovered the ball and walked into the end zone.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and since you shouldn't, there isn't much of it):

    Detroit at Minnesota - "OK, I'm picking the Lions until they win. Is this the week they keep it close, get out of town without embarassment? Eh... Sure, let's say they do. Am I going all the way to predict a Lions win? On the road? Hold on, let me think about that...um...well...uh...no. No, they'll still lose by 10, but not by 14+. Moral victory, Detroit. Scoreboard victory, Minnesota."

    Philadelphia at San Francisco - "Has San Francisco improved enough to make this not a gimme? Absolutely. And these two teams are both 2-3, and Philadelphia's flying 3000 miles to play it. Here's the difference - Philadelphia's 2-3 in the NFC East, San Francisco's 2-3 in the NFC West. That's kind of like a 2-3 ACC team playing a 2-3 division 3 school."

    Green Bay at Seattle - "I confess to being shocked by this line. Do people still think that Seattle's a good team? Based on what evidence?"


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Dallas at Arizona - "I'd love to pick the Cowboys to go out and lose this game. I really would. I just don't think that I can. Inconsistent, undisciplined, questionably coached? Yup. Too much talent for the Cardinals? Yeah."

    NY Giants at Cleveland - "Cleveland's scoring just under 12 points per game. The Giants are allowing just over 12 points per game. So, looking at a 9 point spread in a game where Cleveland's clearly going to score 12, the question becomes, will the Giants score more than 21? Yes. They will."

    St. Louis at Washington - "Some Sunday this fall, the Rams are going to put together a good effort, catch someone napping, and actually win a game. It won't be this week."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 7-7
    ATS: 8-6-0


  • For the season:
    Winners: 53-35
    ATS: 49-37-2


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Monday, October 13, 2008

Sadder or funnier?

You've heard of "sad but true." You've heard of "funny because it's true." But have you ever seen both in the same item at the same time?
President George Bush, during his latest daily confidence-building statement, this morning said Americans “rejoice that we have, this week, continued a 232-year tradition of peaceful, bloodless transitions of government.”

The president noted that the U.S. economy has been “transformed from an unreliable free-market model, to one in which global investors can trust, because government has taken ownership of the foundations of the economy — banks, debt merchants, insurance underwriters — thereby tapping the full faith and credit of U.S. taxpayers who can be compelled by law or force, if necessary, to cover any potential losses.”

By buying into, and bailing out, these businesses, Mr. Bush said, “The U.S. government has fundamentally changed from a Constitutional Republic with a shaky capitalist economy, to a more stable, centrally-planned construct I like to call a ’smart-ocracy’, where the people who know best will direct our nation’s course to the benefit of all.”

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Stuff...

Odds and ends...


  • If you're like me, you saw a bunch of headlines this weekend to the effect that Troopergate report: Palin abused authority. The headline could more appropriately have read, "Report: Palin's firing of Monegan 'proper and lawful'." Get the whole story from Beldar here.


  • A year and a half ago, I said that "a year from now, the media will no longer be able to hide the fact that things are going well in Iraq." Well, it isn't for lack of trying:
    The number of foreign journalists in Baghdad is declining sharply, a media withdrawal that reflects Iraq's growing stability and the financial strains faced by some news organizations.

    In a stark indication of the changing media focus here, the number of journalists traveling with American forces in Iraq has plummeted in the past year. U.S. military officials say they "embedded" journalists 219 times in September 2007. Last month, the number shrank to 39. Of the dozen U.S. newspapers and newspaper chains that maintained full-time bureaus in Baghdad in the early years of the war, only four are still permanently staffed by foreign correspondents. CBS and NBC no longer keep a correspondent in Baghdad year-round.

    "It remains important and it remains interesting," said Alissa J. Rubin, the New York Times' acting bureau chief in Baghdad. "But what's in front of us now is almost a static situation. There's not a clear narrative line. The stories are more complex."

    The story is simple, and the narrative line is clear:
    Bad News for America = Good News for Democrats = Big News
    Good News for America = Bad News for Democrats = No News


  • John Hinderaker, at PowerLineBlog, commenting on a Stanley Kurtz piece in the NY Post, notes that "one of the common themes of modern American history is that liberals will create a problem by ill-advised government action, then benefit from it politically by proposing ever more intrusive government action to solve it. That appears to be happening again in connection with today's credit crisis."

    I don't disagree. How could it be otherwise? When your proposed solution to every intractable human problem is using the power of the Government to distort market signals, to incentivize bad or risky behavior and punish good behavior, the creation of new intractable problems is inevitable. And when the only tool you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.


  • Steyn. Brilliant as always.
    The day after the debate I bumped into two Obama supporters in St Johnsbury, Vermont who said isn’t it great that he's on course to win. Well, they were cute chicks, and I know an obvious pick-up line when I hear one, so I stopped to chat. God Almighty, it was like reverse Viagra: After ten minutes of Babes For Barack, I never want to meet a female woman of the opposite sex for the rest of my life. Their basic pitch was:

    How do you solve a problem? Like, Obama!

    How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

    That’s John McCain's problem. Traditionally, when an unknown politician emerges on the national scene, it’s a race to define him. Governor Palin is a good example: within days, the coastal sophisticates were mocking her as a chillbilly ditz with a womb that spits out inbred kids faster than the First National Bank of Welfare Swamp issues subprime mortgages. That’s politics as usual: Define your opponent. But Obama is defined by his indefinability. When I pointed out to my Vermont gals that he lives in a swank pad that was part of some shady real estate deal with a convicted fraudster (Tony Rezko), that he entrusted his daughters’ entire religious education to a neo-segregationist anti-American nut who preaches that the government created the AIDS virus to kill black people (Jeremiah Wright), that he attended fundraisers with a political patron who’s an unrepentant terrorist proud of plotting to blow up young ladies just like them at a dance at the Fort Dix military base (William Ayers), when I pointed all this out, they looked at me as if I’d brought a baseball bat to a croquet match. Mere earthbound politicians are defined by their real estate deals and sleazy buddies, but Obama is defined only by his vibe. As his many admirers in France would say, he has a certain
    je ne sais quoi. And, if you try to pin down quoi precisely, then they don’t want to sais.


  • This is sad, and a little disturbing, but probably unavoidable.
    if Obama wins, I plan on giving him as much of a chance as the Democrats gave George Bush. I will gleefully forward every paranoid anti-Obama rumor that I see, along with YouTube footage of his verbal missteps. I will laugh and email heinous anti-Obama photoshop jobs, and maybe even learn photoshop myself to create some. I'll buy anti-Obama books, and maybe even a "Not My President" t-shirt. I'm sure that the mainstream bookstores won't carry them, but I'll be on the lookout for anti-Obama calendars and stuff like that. I will not wish America harm, and if the country is hurt (economically, militarily, or diplomatically) I will truly mourn. But i will also take some solace that it occurred under Obama's watch, and will find every reason to blame him personally and fan the flames.

    I know that I have little goodwill to spare for an administration that holds everything that I hold dear in contempt.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tampa 9, Boston 8

A couple of quick notes:

  • I just finished watching the game. Sort of. It ran so long that, despite the fact I told my DVR to record two hours past the 11:30 program end, I missed the last play. Not that I wanted to see it.


  • I groaned when they said that Timlin was warming up. I think he's done, and shouldn't be on the roster.


  • I'm a big Francona fan, but he had a bad night last night*. I thought it was a mistake to send Beckett back out for the 5th, and I cannot understand why Masterson only pitched 2/3 of an inning. This is a kid who started the year as a starter, he and Papelbon are the last good relievers available, the game is tied in the 8th - there's no telling how long it's going to go, and you're going to burn Papelbon with Masterson having only retired two batters? Mistake.


  • It would have been less frustrating if they hadn't tied the game in the 8th...





* - I don't criticize the manager - ever - after the fact. These were criticisms of the moves that I made AT THE TIME. Criticizing moves just because they didn't work is unfair. I criticize moves that I thought bad before knowing the outcomes.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

NFL picks, week 6

Chicago at Atlanta (+3) - One of these teams will be 4-2 when this game is over. The other will be 3-3. Both of those are better records than I'd have predicted for either of them before the season began.

Oakland at New Orleans (-7.5) - Poor Al Davis. Just a hard-working, sane NFL owner, taken in by yet another in a long line of coaches who have fraudulently convinced him to hire them. He's just too soft-hearted, too willing to give a coach a chance. Poor Al Davis. I'm sure that getting rid of Kiffen will have the Raiders playing like world-beaters any minute now.

Carolina at Tampa Bay (-1) - The next time I get a game right featuring either of these two teams, it will be the first time. OK, probably not, but they're not glamour teams, they're not from the conference I follow more closely, they aren't from the glamour divisions in the other conference. Really, what are they? They're two middle-of-the-pack generic NFL teams. Either could win, either could lose - there's no result short of a 40-point blowout that would surprise me, though I think the likely result is something like 20-16. Just going with the home team here.

St. Louis at Washington (-13.5) - Some Sunday this fall, the Rams are going to put together a good effort, catch someone napping, and actually win a game. It won't be this week.

Cincinnati (+6) at N.Y. Jets - I think that the Bengals win this one. Or two weeks from now in Houston. If not, they're looking a long haul before their December 21 rematch with the Browns. I've been saying 8-8 - it would take a miracle to get this team to 8-8 this year. I think they win this one anyway.

Detroit (+13) at Minnesota - OK, I'm picking the Lions until they win. Is this the week they keep it close, get out of town without embarassment? Eh... Sure, let's say they do. Am I going all the way to predict a Lions win? On the road? Hold on, let me think about that...um...well...uh...no. No, they'll still lose by 10, but not by 14+. Moral victory, Detroit. Scoreboard victory, Minnesota.

Miami (+3) at Houston - If this is the Miami team that played New England three weeks ago vs. the Houston team that played Indianapolis for 55 minutes last week, this is a hell of a game. More likely, this is just another game between two teams who are apparently in the vast middle. Miami could face a letdown after two big wins against pre-season favorites. The Texans could face a hangover from their devastating meltdown in the loss to the Colts. Before the season started, I thought that Houston would be a better team than Miami - right now, I'm not sure. Going with the Dolphins.

Baltimore at Indianapolis (-4.5) - The Colts defense has struggled, so Baltimore might be able to score. The Colts offense has struggled and the Ravens have a good defense, so they might be able to keep it close. Baltimore might be able to win this game. It would not surprise me, much. But, even though the signs of decay are visible in Indianapolis, I think that there's enough left to keep winning for a while.

Jacksonville at Denver (-3.5) - Denver's three wins thus far have been by 1, 2 and 3 points. In that order. Obviously, they're either going to lose, or win by 4. I'm opting for the latter.

Dallas (-5) at Arizona - I'd love to pick the Cowboys to go out and lose this game. I really would. I just don't think that I can. Inconsistent, undisciplined, questionably coached? Yup. Too much talent for the Cardinals? Yeah.

Philadelphia (-5) at San Francisco - Has San Francisco improved enough to make this not a gimme? Absolutely. And these two teams are both 2-3, and Philadelphia's flying 3000 miles to play it. Here's the difference - Philadelphia's 2-3 in the NFC East, San Francisco's 2-3 in the NFC West. That's kind of like a 2-3 ACC team playing a 2-3 division 3 school.

Green Bay (+2) at Seattle - I confess to being shocked by this line. Do people still think that Seattle's a good team? Based on what evidence?

New England (-5.5) at San Diego - Looking at the schedule before the season, this was a win for the Patriots. Looking at the schedule after the Dolphins game, this was a loss for the Patriots. Today, I'm saying win. "OK," I hear you ask. "Don't you always pick the Patriots to win?" Well, yes. That's true. And I'm picking them this week. But I believe it, too. Unless the defense has another meltdown game. Tomlinson's struggling, Merriman's out, and their two wins are against the Raiders and Jets. This is a very vulnerable team. The Patriots don't have the margin for error which they had with Brady under center, and they need to play well, but I think they will. New England wins 20-17.

N.Y. Giants (+9) at Cleveland - Cleveland's scoring just under 12 points per game. The Giants are allowing just over 12 points per game. So, looking at a 9 point spread in a game where Cleveland's clearly going to score 12, the question becomes, will the Giants score more than 21? Yes. They will.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Baseball's League Championship Series

ALCS - Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays


I expect to have more on this series tomorrow. For today, let me take, without defending, a couple of positions, and add a couple of notes.

    Positions
  • The Red Sox are a better offensive team.

  • The Red Sox have a better pitching staff

  • The Rays have a better defense

  • The Red Sox are a better team.

  • Boston will win the series.


    Notes
  • These are not your Grandfathers Fightin' Seaweed.

  • The Rays won the season series 10-8.

  • Tampa was 8-1 against Boston in Tampa.

  • Boston was 7-2 against Tampa in Boston.

  • Boston outscored Tampa by 20 runs in 18 games.

  • Boston and Tampa played 6 one-run games and 2 two-run games.

  • Tampa was 8-0 in those games.

  • Boston and Tampa played 3 three-run games.

  • Boston was 2-1 in those games.

  • Boston and Tampa played 7 games decided by four runs or more.

  • Boston was 6-1 in those games.


If you've read me at all, you know where those facts lead me...


Bill James Playoff Prediction System

1. 1 pt to the lead team for each half-game in the standings (TB - 4)
2. 3 pts to the team that scored more runs (BOS - 3)
3. 14 pts to the team with fewer doubles (TB - 14)
4. 12 pts to the team with more triples (TB - 12)
5. 10 pts to the team with more home runs (TB - 10)
6. 8 pts to the team with the lower team batting average (TB - 8)
7. 8 pts to the team that committed fewer errors (BOS - 8)
8. 7 pts to the team that turned more double plays (TB - 7)
9. 7 pts to the team that walked more batters (BOS - 7)
10. 19 pts to the team that had more shutouts (BOS - 19)
11. 15 pts to the team whose ERA was lower (TB - 15)
12. 12 pts to the team that has been in postseason most recently or
went further (BOS - 12)
13. 12 pts to the team that won season series (TB - 12)

BOS - 61, TB - 82


Baseball Prospectus' Secret Sauce rankings

Boston (15) over Tampa (32)


The James system likes Tampa. The Secret Sauce favors Boston. So do I. Boston in 6.



NLCS - Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers



This is an interesting series. Philadelphia finished with a much better record, winning a much better division. And they were clearly a better team over the course of the season. Everyone knows that that means something to me. But the Dodgers are a better team now than they were during most of the season. Not because "they're hot" or "they've got the momentum" or "Torre knows how to win" or anything ephemeral like that.

No, they're a better team because they added Manny Ramirez, and Rafael Furcal is back. The Dodgers played 65 games with Juan Pierre (.283/.327/.328/.655) as their leadoff hitter and left fielder. He's doing neither of those things now. A team would have to have a pretty poor talent base not to be improved by the removal of Juan Pierre from left field and the leadoff spot. The Dodgers played 116 games with Angel Berroa (.230/.304/.310/.614), Nomar Garciaparra (.264/.326/.466/.792) and Chin-Lung Hu (.181/.252/.233/.485) at shortstop instead of Furcal (.357/.439/.573/1.012). Basically, June and July are almost irrelevant to what the Dodgers are now.

The Phillies led the NL in homers, and that's an important thing to be good at in the post-season, but the Dodgers don't allow them. The Dodgers run prevention was the best in the NL, but Philadelphia's was very good, too, in a much more hitter-friendly environment. These are probably two of the best three teams in the NL, and it's an open question (well, in addition to being moot) as to whether or not the Cubs are better. This looks to be a very interesting series.


Again with the objective projectors.

Bill James Playoff Prediction System

1. 1 pt to the lead team for each half-game in the standings (PHI - 16)
2. 3 pts to the team that scored more runs (PHI - 3)
3. 14 pts to the team with fewer doubles (LAD - 14)
4. 12 pts to the team with more triples (PHI - 12)
5. 10 pts to the team with more home runs (PHI - 10)
6. 8 pts to the team with the lower team batting average (PHI - 8)
7. 8 pts to the team that committed fewer errors (PHI - 8)
8. 7 pts to the team that turned more double plays (PHI - 7)
9. 7 pts to the team that walked more batters (PHI - 7)
10. 19 pts to the team that had more shutouts (LAD - 0)
11. 15 pts to the team whose ERA was lower (LAD - 15)
12. 12 pts to the team that has been in postseason most recently or
went further (PHI - 0)
13. 12 pts to the team that won season series (LAD - 0)

PHI - 83, LAD - 29


Secret Sauce:

Philadelphia (40) over Los Angeles (52)

Both of the objective systems like the Phillies. As I say, they're comparing the current Phillies to the inferior Dodgers. The current Dodgers have been together for about two weeks. I think it's a coin flip, and I'm taking Los Angeles. Which sets up a World Series where the Red Sox face Joe Torre, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe. (Hmm...it seems like there's one more former Red Sox player out in LA, but I can't think who it might be...)

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Ayers

If we had a national media in this country that was committed to presenting the news, rather than electing Barack Obama President, he would not have won the nomination. But we don't. The press hasn't covered this story - they've covered it up. The McCain campaign, in the last week or so, has finally started to try to make it an issue. Will they succeed? I suspect that what they'll succeed at is spurring the media to produce 16 tons of thumb-sucking, "why is John McCain dishonorably running a negative campaign" stories, but it's worth a try.



He's tried to hide what he is and has been from the word "go," and the media has actively aided and abetted him. If people understood what Barack Obama is, he'd have no chance of polling over 35% in this country. But they don't. He has presented himself as a reasonable centrist, a middle-of-the-road blank slate, a screen upon which every voter can project his or her ideas of the ideal candidate, and the press has not only let him get away with it, they've actively helped. I'm skeptical that the mask can be sufficiently dislodged in this environment for McCain to win, but as to this video, I'd just like to say, I'm Lyford Beverage, and I approve of this message too...

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

An American Carol

An American Carol is not a perfect movie. It rockets between slapstick, farce and pathos, at times so quickly that the pieces step on one another. There's a framing device that serves to provide a paycheck for Leslie Nielsen and not much else. Some of the satire is ham-handed, some of the jokes fall flat, and the story is not, perhaps, as coherent as it might be.

That said, it is also a very funny movie, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As one might guess from the title, this is yet another riff off of Charles Dickens' classic 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. This one is not set at Christmas, however, but the fourth of July.

Kevin Farley (younger brother of former SNL comedian Chris) stars as Michael Malone, an overweight, unshaven maker of successful documentary films highlighting flaws in America. (Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental, or only for the purpose of parody and satire.) As the movie begins, Malone is filming a paean to the Cuban healthcare system, winning the Leni Riefenstahl Award for Documentary Filmmaking at the Mooveon.org Award ceremony for his film "Die You American Pigs!" and working to ban military recruiters from college campuses. And he's getting ready to lead a demonstration to abolish the fourth of July as a national holiday. But he's certainly not anti-American. "I love America," he says. "That's why I have to destroy it."

If you're familiar with the template (and really, who isn't?) then you know what comes next. Malone's hero, President John F. Kennedy, steps out of his television to warn him that he's missed some important things, and there are going to be three spirits visiting him to help him learn them.

And help him they do. The primary guide for Malone's journey is General George S. Patton, played by Kelsey Grammer, who walks Malone through history, alternate history and alternate reality. Along the way, we're treated to a not-strictly-accurate depiction of Chamberlain's meeting with Hitler, Gary Coleman polishing Malone's car in a modern-day America in which Lincoln had refused to go to war, and an appearance on Bill O'Reilly with Rosie O'Connell, who has produced another documentary. (I don't want to give much away, but I think it's safe to say that An American Carol's is the first screenplay to ever feature the term "Episcopal suppository bomber.")

It's clear that director David Zucker, of Airplane! and Top Secret fame, has a point to make, and it isn't subtle. It's the same point that I've made before - if you're riding around with a "War is Not The Answer" bumper sticker, it's very possible that you didn't understand the question. There are people who will be offended by this movie. (Although I suspect that most of the people that would really be offended aren't actually going to see it - they were outraged enough by the concept and trailers, and can drop 1-star reviews at imdb.com without actually paying to sit through it.)

It is not as funny as Airplane! was, although there are inspired moments that clearly came from the same imagination. (Malone's farewell to his navy nephew was classic Airplane! type farce.) The terrorist side-story with Aziz, Ahmed and Mohammed provides some laughs but probably could have been improved upon. The language is a little rough in a couple of spots, but not awful on the whole.

I don't get to the movie theater often, and generally only when I'm taking my kids to something for the whole family. But I wanted to support Zucker in his attempt to make something telling our side of the story, the "America is a force for good in the world, we were attacked, it wasn't our fault, they're the bad guys" side that Hollywood never does. They're too busy "speaking truth to power" by producing brave works attacking an ex-Senator from Wisconsin who's been dead for 51 years. (Another point which Zucker amusingly made in this film.) So I was favorably disposed when I walked into the theater. I wanted to like it.

And I did. Far more than I'd expected to. It isn't the sort of thing that my wife would generally want to see, and she laughed most of the way through, too. It was very funny, in a Homer Simpson "it's funny 'cause it's true" kind of way. And it was even touching in spots. On the whole, I enjoyed it enormously, and greatly appreciate Zucker for making it (and Grammer, Jon Voigt, James Woods, Dennis Hopper and Robert Davi, among others, for being willing to come "out of the closet," as it were, and join him.) It won't win any Oscars (and shouldn't), and it won't get any great reviews, but it was a lot of fun, and I'm glad to have seen it.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"How hypocritical..."

Are ads like this effective? I don't know. (But I think "yes.")

Are they necessary? Absolutely...

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NFL week 5 wrapup

Week 5 in the NFL...

  • Matt Cassell moves to 2-1 as a starting NFL quarterback, the Patriots move to 3-1, and the Dolphins beat the Chargers, which a) lessens the sting of the stinker two weeks ago, because maybe Miami's not that bad and b) suggests that the result of New England's trip to San Diego next Sunday night may not be a foregone conclusion.


  • The defense has continued to play Jekyll and Hyde football. The 49ers first two drives resulted in 4 plays, 1 yard, 1 punt and 1 interception. The next two resulted in 8 plays, 94 yards and 2 touchdowns. The next six saw the 49ers gain 19 yards on 14 plays, with four punts, another interception and the end of the first half. The next one went 80 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown. It's been feast or famine. They haven't been a "bend but don't break" defense at all this year. They've either broken or been solid. Almost every drive on which they've started to "bend" has resulted in them "breaking" for opposition touchdowns.


  • I was a fan of Jim Zorn the player - it's looking like I may end up being a fan of Jim Zorn fan the coach, too. While Washington at Philadelphia certainly wasn't the biggest mismatch on the board this week - far from it - I expected the Redskins to play at somewhat less than their best coming of the big win in Dallas. They started slowly, but never lost their composure, and came back to win a big game on the road, the second week in a row they they beat a division rival on the road.


  • Buffalo was going to lose eventually. And it isn't even that big a surprise that they'd lose to the trick or treat Cardinals. But to get blown out by 24? That was little bit surprising. As I haven't seen a single play from a single Bills game yet this year, I've no further commentary.


  • With about five minutes left in the Colts-Texans game, and Houston up by 17, I turned over to the 'Skins-Eagles. When I turned back, a little over three minutes had gone off the game clock and the Colts led by four. That's as classic a game-ending meltdown loss as you'll ever see.


  • And that catch that Reggie Wayne made to put the Colts up was amazing.


  • Indianapolis is two last-minute, seriously opponent-aided comebacks away from 0-4.


  • As of this morning, Matt Cassell's record is 3-1 and his passer rating is 84.1. Peyton Manning's record is 2-2 and his passer rating is 79.2. Just sayin'...

  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    Tennessee at Baltimore - "Can the Ravens put up 10 points on the Tennessee defense? Maybe. Much more than that? No."

    New England at San Francisco - "The Patriots have a lot riding on this game. They are going to be, I think, significant underdogs next week in San Diego, and I think that they're going to be on the West Coast for the whole week. Another loss, particularly a loss in which the defense gets chewed up, is going to make for an unpleasant week, and the very strong potential of looking at three straight losses before October is over. But I don't see that happening. The defense tightens up, they loosen the reins on the offense a little bit, and New England wins fairly comfortably, 24-14 or so."

    Cincinnati at Dallas - "Would it surprise me to see Dallas cover this, winning in a three or four touchdown blowout? Not even a little bit. But I don't trust them to play consistent sound football, and we've seen the Bengals play tough enough to lose close to good teams before. That's what I expect to see again this week. Dallas by 7-10."

    And I want it noted that there were two "pushes" this week. I picked one of them. I didn't pick Tampa to beat the spread or Denver to cover it - I predicted the push, and was absolutely right. "The big question here, the real serious question, is this: Does Lyford have the guts to predict that this game goes into the books as a push? Yes. Yes he does. 'Three shall be the count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shall thou not count, nor shall thou count two excepting that thou shouldst then proceedeth to three. Five is right out.'" You should concentrate on that awesome pick (and ignore the rest of them...)


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Chicago at Detroit - "'Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Which old witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding, dong, the Wicked Witch is dead!' And there was much rejoicing. ("But wait!" I hear you cry. "He may be gone, but he left behind a parody of an NFL team. You cannot really believe that they'll beat the might Bears this week, can you?" Yes, I can. Yes, I do.)"

    Atlanta at Green Bay - "As I'm making my picks, this game is not on the board, due to uncertainty about Mr. Rodgers. So I set the spread myself, assumed that he'd play, maybe not at full strength, and the Packers would win by two touchdowns."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 7-7
    ATS: 7-6-1


  • For the season:
    Winners: 46-28
    ATS: 41-31-2

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Happy Anniversary...

...to my beautiful bride, who said "I do" (well, actually what she said was "somebody's got to") 18 years ago today...

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Just innocent victims...

I don't agree with all of it, but (shockingly) SNL got a lot about the bailout absolutely right. This video works right now - I don't expect that to last long, but if it's there, it's worth seeing...



Update: As I expected, it's been pulled. Bummer...

Updated (and bumped): Michelle Malkin's got the full transcript and some pictures, so you can at least get the content...

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Hiding in plain sight

Two UCLA economists claim to have figured out what my Grandmother, who lived through the depression, taught my father 50 years ago, and he taught me, and I've taught my kids; the New Deal didn't end the depression, World War II did. The New Deal exacerbated the Great Depression, and the "FDR saved the country from the depression" propaganda is just that - propaganda.
Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

This is, of course, a "great mystery" of the same sort as the Kennedy assassination - it's a mystery only to those with an emotional interest in a storyline that isn't the real story...

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CNN (accidentally?) calls out Obama on Ayers

OK, this is absolutely shocking. The story? No, the fact that this ran on CNN! This is NOT going to be good for Drew Griffin's career in the press...

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Boston 3, LAnaheim 2

Odds and ends...

  • Boston is back in the American League Championship series, for the fourth time in 6 years.


  • Do they give out an MVP award for the division series? If so, it has to be Jon Lester, right? Yes, he didn't get the win in last night's game, but it was all about him. For the series, he allowed 10 hits, 3 walks and only one run (none earned) in 14 innings of work. Can you say "dominant?" But it isn't a total shock - he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball since the end of April. From April 25 through the end of the regular season he was 15-4 with a 2.82 ERA (5th in all of baseball among pitchers with 20+ starts over that period.) He was a top prospect when he debuted, but he's got to have exceeded all but the most optimistic projections of what he would turn into.


  • The pace was much better last night. On Sunday, they averaged over 26 minutes per inning played, last night it was around 19 minutes.


  • When the Red Sox replaced Mike Lowell on the active roster with Gil Velazquez, they rendered Lowell ineligible for the ALCS. I am unclear on whether he is also ineligible for the World Series, but if they're going to get there, it's going to be without him. Which is a shame. But it had to be done - he was not an asset either offensively or defensively against the Angels, and the potential for him being an asset again with his hip the way it is is obviously small to non-existent.


  • Are they paying Buck Martinez by the word?


  • The Angels are (very understandably) not happy about the result. Chone Figgins: "I couldn't believe it. Once again, we're on their field, and they're celebrating. I'm just wondering: How does this keep happening?" Yeah, that's got to be not fun. As Red Sox fans whose memories encompass more than the past five years are well aware. I'm a Red Sox fan, so I'm very pleased with last night's outcome, but still, I can empathize with the Angels. It hurts to lose, and it's an insult to injury situation to keep losing to the same guys.


  • I'm going to disagree with John Lackey, though, who said that "we lost to a team that was not as good as we are." OK, I'll agree with the words, but not the sentiment. The Red Sox are not "as good as" the Angels. They are significantly better. As I said the other day,
    "1) They scored more runs and
    2) they allowed fewer runs while
    3) playing a tougher schedule"
    Now, nothing that's happened in the past week "proves" that I was right. The fact that Boston won 3 of 4 proves nothing except that, on three particular nights, the Red Sox were able to outscore the Angels. But as I also said, "they could get swept out of the playoffs over the weekend, and I'll still be saying it on Monday." I'm saying Boston's the better team, and I said it before the series, and I'd still be saying it even if they'd lost.


  • The Red Sox won. That means Red Sox fans get at least four more games of FrankTV promos! Woo-hoo!


  • I knew, when Pedroia stepped to the plate in the fifth, that his hitless streak was going to end. (Of course, I also knew, in the third, that they were headed back to LA for a fifth game, and I knew in the seventh that Boston was going to win a shutout.)


  • Defensively, Boston allowed 2 unearned runs, LAnaheim allowed none. If you watched the series, however, you understand what a ridiculously inadequate measure of defense that is.


  • Time for some numbers.
    • For the series, Boston outscored LAnaheim 18-13

    • Boston hit .250/.325/.375/.700 while the Angels hit .273/.339/.344/.683. It's not surprising to see the Angels with a higher batting average; it's a little bit surprising to see them with a higher OBP.

    • Each team drew 15 walks. During the regular season, the Red Sox drew over 34% more walks than the Angels.

    • Boston hit for more power. Both of the Angels HR and two of their three doubles, so four of their six extra-base hits, came in the one game that they won.

    • By Runs Created:


      Red Sox - ALDS
      PlayerGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSBCSAVGOBASPctOPSRCOutsRC/25

      Jason Bay417372025200.412.474.8821.3566.001015.01

      Jacoby Ellsbury418263006231.333.400.500.9003.38146.04

      J.D. Drew414241013000.286.286.571.8572.28105.71

      Jed Lowrie311240001100.364.462.364.8252.1077.48

      David Ortiz417141001300.235.350.294.6442.04133.93

      Kevin Youkilis418241001200.222.300.278.5781.62142.89

      Alex Cora24111000100.250.400.500.900.8537.12

      Coco Crisp24210000110.250.400.250.650.7536.21

      Mark Kotsay310130000000.300.300.300.600.5281.64

      Dustin Pedroia417011001200.059.200.118.318.1016.16

      Jason Varitek414230000000.214.214.214.429-.2214-.39

      Mike Lowell28000000100.000.111.000.111-.528-1.64



    • Angels - ALDS
      PlayerGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSBCSAVGOBASPctOPSRCOutsRC/25

      Vladimir Guerrero415271000410.467.579.5331.1124.93815.40

      Mark Teixeira415470001400.467.550.4671.0174.41912.25

      Mike Napoli412330024200.250.400.7501.1503.5099.71

      Chone Figgins421271101010.333.333.476.8103.40146.08

      Torii Hunter418070005100.389.421.389.8103.01116.84

      Kendry Morales44021000000.500.500.7501.2501.23215.42

      Juan L. Rivera38110001300.125.364.125.489.7472.65

      Jeff Mathis12010000000.500.500.5001.000.45111.15

      Garret Anderson419130000100.158.200.158.358.2316.37

      Howie Kendrick417020000000.118.118.118.235-.4617-.67

      Gary Matthews35000000000.000.000.000.000-.525-2.58

      Erick Aybar418020001000.111.111.111.222-.5916-.93

    • Boston starters - 24 innings, 2.635 ERA.

    • LAnaheim starters - 23 2/3 innings, 4.94 ERA

    • Boston's starter was more effective (more innings or fewer runs allowed) in each of the four games.

    • Boston relievers - 15 innings, 2.4 ERA

    • LAnaheim relievers - 15 innings, 3.00 ERA

    • Boston's rightie in the 'pen were tremendous - Papelbon, Masterson and Delcarmen combined to pitch 11 1/3 innings in 9 appearances, striking out 11 while allowing 9 hits, 4 walks and 1 earned run.



  • Buck Martinez obviously thinks he's getting paid by the word.


  • Just stumbled upon another Lackey quote: "We are way better than they are." Yeah, I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you there, John...


  • The Angels big hitters in the middle were tremendous, but they did not hit for power. If you have big gaps in the lineup, where you're getting no offense (Rivera, Kendrick, Matthews, Aybar), you need to put together short sequense offense, extra-base hits, home runs, where you don't need a lot of positive outcomes to push runs across the plate. Instead, the guys who should be providing those hits, Texeira and Guerrero, combined to hit .467, but only had one double and no HR in their 14 hits. So they were on base all the time, but the guys behind them weren't getting the job done. The Angels scored three runs on HR in the series, and that led directly to their one win.


  • I think I'm going to do a full post on "luck" in baseball, and the reasons that one-run games are disproportionately affected by it, later in the week. I hope that people took notes on the last three innings of last night's game - it will make the lecture easier to follow.


  • This was sure a good night for Dustin Pedroia to come out of his 0-13 slump.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

LAnaheim 5, Boston 4 (12 innings)

Odds and ends...

  • Thus endeth Boston's 9 game post-season winning streak and their 11 game post-season winning streak over the Angels.


  • I love the baseball season, having a Red Sox game every night. But I would happily have foregone tonight's game.


  • Boy, that was brisk. They managed to jam 12 innings of baseball into only 5:17. Mercy!


  • Are they paying Buck Martinez by the word?


  • I hope that this is the last we see of Daisuke Beckett - I much prefer Josh.


  • The big hit of the game? Mike Napoli's 2-run HR against Beckett in the 3rd. The Angels had stranded runners over the first two innings, and then handed the Red Sox a 3-1 lead when Hunter and Kendrick forgot they were playing baseball and played "hot potato" instead. Everything was set up to snowball out of control for them, and had Beckett done what Lester did last Wednesday, shut them down following the Red Sox score, I think Boston ends up winning handily. Instead of throwing the 3rd strike for the 3rd out, however, Beckett threw a pitch that Napoli crushed, the game was tied, and the Angels were back in it.


  • Off-topic: Rumor has it that Frank Caliendo is getting his own sketch TV show, and that he'll be doing his excellent impressions regularly on something called "FrankTV." But I haven't seen anything about it. Has anybody got any information on what network might be carrying this, or if it's even real?


  • Speaking of "hot potato," that play enabled Jacoby Ellsbury to do something that had never been done in the history of post-season baseball - drive in 3 runs on a single.


  • How is it that I've been watching this team for so long, and I have to find out from Buck Freakin' Martinez about Javier Lopez' "overwhelming fastball?" If a fastball is "overwhelming," for a Major League relief pitcher, shouldn't it do better than touch 93? Shouldn't a Major League relief pitcher with an "overwhelming fastball" strike out more than 5.8 batters per 9 innings?


  • Buck Martinez obviously thinks he's getting paid by the word.


  • I thought Terry Francona had an excellent game last night, making a series of good moves, none of which worked at all. That's the way it goes - the players have to perform. But the manager has to put them in position to perform, and I think he did. I thought hitting for Varitek in the 9th with Drew was the right move. It didn't work. I thought Cora running for Lowell in the 10th was a good move. It didn't matter. Kotsay hitting for Cash was the right move - that's exactly why there are three catchers on the roster, so they can hit for two of them in key spots. It didn't work. The pitching changes were all good - they certainly didn't lose an extra inning game without having used all of their best pitchers. It just didn't work out. Sometimes that happens.


  • <obligatory statement of the obvious>Boy, this game tonight is important. They sure don't want to be flying back to Los Angeles to try to win a game 5.</obligatory statement of the obvious>


  • Oh yes - you'd never have seen Francona make those moves in a game in April. He understands the difference between strategy and tactics. April is strategy time. October is the result of the season-long strategy paying off. It's also time to start managing for each game, rather than the long haul. So the tactics change. In April, you're trying to maximize the results of the 162-game schedule. In October, you're trying to stay alive or close out a series. Different beasts. One of Francona's real strengths is that he recognizes that, and manages accordingly.


  • <obligatory statement of the obvious>This sure would be a good night for Dustin Pedroia to come out of his 0-13 slump.</obligatory statement of the obvious>

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Friday, October 03, 2008

What Just Happened?

What Just Happened?



Too long, I fear.

The big problem is that this is exactly the kind of story that requires congressional hearings and major media coverage. Which, since the Democrats are at fault, (let me say that again, as McCain and Palin don't seem to be willing to - The Democrats. Are. At. Fault.) is exactly what it isn't going to get...

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NFL picks, week 4

Tennessee (-3) at Baltimore - Can the Ravens put up 10 points on the Tennessee defense? Maybe. Much more than that? No.

Seattle at N.Y. Giants (-8) - Phrase: "Damning with faint praise." Example: "The Seahawks are the best team in the NFC West."

Washington at Philadelphia (-6) - Yes, the Redskins just won in Dallas, where the Eagles failed to. But the game's in Philadelphia, and Washington hasn't got enough good wins in the last few years to convince me that they can mentally handle one. I suspect that the Eagles win by 10 or more.

San Diego (-7) at Miami - Did the Dolphins kick the Patriots' butts up and down the field - in New England - just two weeks ago? Yes. Yes, they did. Aren't they a good bet to stay with the Chargers at home? No. No, they are not.

Chicago at Detroit (+3) - "Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Which old witch? The Wicked Witch! Ding, dong, the Wicked Witch is dead!" And there was much rejoicing. ("But wait!" I hear you cry. "He may be gone, but he left behind a parody of an NFL team. You cannot really believe that they'll beat the might Bears this week, can you?" Yes, I can. Yes, I do.)

Atlanta at Green Bay (-10) - As I'm making my picks, this game is not on the board, due to uncertainty about Mr. Rodgers. So I set the spread myself, assumed that he'd play, maybe not at full strength, and the Packers would win by two touchdowns.

Indianapolis (-3) at Houston - Early season Colts' struggles notwithstanding, this is not something I'm wasting time or energy wondering about until I see some reason to think that's necessary.

Kansas City at Carolina (-10) - One big performance in a rivalry game at home, and suddenly the Chiefs are going to be competitive with a good team on the road? Uh, sorry, Herm.

Tampa Bay at Denver (-3) - The big question here, the real serious question, is this: Does Lyford have the guts to predict that this game goes into the books as a push? Yes. Yes he does. "Three shall be the count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shall thou not count, nor shall thou count two excepting that thou shouldst then proceedeth to three. Five is right out."

Buffalo (-1) at Arizona - Do we give the Cardinals' defense a mulligan for last week? Even if we do, what do we make of this team? What do we make of the Bills? I haven't seen enough of either of them yet to make any kind of rational case either way. My gut says that Buffalo's a better team, and rooting for the worse team is always a little dodgy.

New England (-3) at San Francisco - The Patriots have a lot riding on this game. They are going to be, I think, significant underdogs next week in San Diego, and I think that they're going to be on the West Coast for the whole week. Another loss, particularly a loss in which the defense gets chewed up, is going to make for an unpleasant week, and the very strong potential of looking at three straight losses before October is over. But I don't see that happening. The defense tightens up, they loosen the reins on the offense a little bit, and New England wins fairly comfortably, 24-14 or so.

Cincinnati (+17) at Dallas - Would it surprise me to see Dallas cover this, winning in a three or four touchdown blowout? Not even a little bit. But I don't trust them to play consistent sound football, and we've seen the Bengals play tough enough to lose close to good teams before. That's what I expect to see again this week. Dallas by 7-10.

Pittsburgh (+4) at Jacksonville - If they play this game 10 times, they go 5-5 with an average spread of margin of victory of three and four of the 10 games being settled in overtime. Picking the Steelers to beat the spread is fairly easy, picking a winner isn't. Eeny-meeny-miny-Jaguars. By three.

Minnesota at New Orleans (-3) - What can I say? I'm not buying the Vikings yet.

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