Pigskin Pick’Em: The zany keeps getting zanier

  • By Nolan Rose
  • Wednesday, October 8, 2014 10:33pm
  • Sports

Has there ever been a football weekend filled with more upsets and general zaniness than the one we’re still recovering from? The Kenai Kardinals gave a dominant SoHi Stars team everything they could handle before falling 21-14. The state of Mississippi became the capital of the college football world with Ole Miss’ upset victory over the Crimson Tide of Alabama and Mississippi State’s drubbing of Texas A&M. I’m fairly certain the American Civil War was the last time the state of Mississippi was this relevant. The Pac-12 conference was turned upside down when undefeated powers UCLA and Oregon each fell at home to traditional conference doormats!

The roller-coaster ride continued into Sunday. Cleveland became the first visiting team in history to overcome a 25-point deficit in the regular season when the Browns stormed back to topple a bewildered Tennessee Titans team 29-28. Of course, the narrow one-point victory wasn’t enough to cover a 1.5 point spread. Fun!

Want more? The Philadelphia Eagles were on cruise control late in the third quarter, up 34-7 over the St. Louis Goats. St. Louis, led by third string quarterback Austin Davis, proceeded to score 21 unanswered points to pull within six with just under five minutes remaining. The Goats were unable to add another score, but the six-point deficit was enough to cover a seven-point spread.

Obviously, predicting the outcome of a football game against the spread is challenging. Theoretical physics is easier on the brain. That’s why the Clarion hired my alcohol-induced alter egos to handle the job. The Prince of Pick’em, the Sultan of Sides, The King of Covers, whichever version of me you prefer, has been on an absolute tear! Another 11-4 triumph in week five pushed our season’s tally to 44-31-1. After an uncharacteristically slow start to the year the column has gone on a 31-12-1 run the last three weeks. For the math majors out there that’s a 72% clip. All this after siding correctly 57% of the time for the entire season in 2013. I’m expecting a call from a Las Vegas casino tycoon any day now.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @
Houston Texans +3

The Colts are riding a three-game win streak heading into a pivotal AFC South showdown in Houston against the Texans. Houston? Houston has a problem. Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks more apt to slay a bear in the Alaskan wilderness than complete a pass to his own team. Houston had every chance, behind a hot running game, to steal a win in Dallas a week ago, but Fitzpatrick’s inaccurate arm single-handedly secured defeat. This will be a competitive affair, but the Colts advantage at quarterback will be the difference. Colts win 27-19

JACKSONVILLE JAGS @
Tennessee Titans -6

Hide them women and children! Men, avert your eyes. The NFL’s version of two separate train wrecks colliding with each other is set to take place this Sunday in Nashville. Prior to last week’s relatively narrow eight-point defeat the Jungle Kittens hadn’t lost a game by less than 17 points. The Titans just blew a 25-point lead at home. Something has to give. Jaguars win 21-20

BALTIMORE RAVENS @
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5

Tampa Bay has played inspired ball since their 56-14 meltdown in Atlanta three weeks ago. The Bucs topped Pittsburgh by a field goal before blowing a late lead in New Orleans last Sunday. Baltimore looked sloppy in their loss to the Colts last Sunday, but I still like this Ravens team. Laying a field goal plus scares me, as I expect Tampa to be competitive, but Baltimore is the stronger side and the smart play. Ravens win 28-23

DENVER BRONCOS @
New York Jets -9

Rex Ryan and the New York Paper Airplanes are finished. Done. Kaput. Jets quarterback Geno Smith missed a team meeting last Saturday because he didn’t know what time zone he was in. That’s real. That actually happened. Ryan supported his young passer by saying it was an honest mistake and noted that Smith had hustled in. What is this? Pee-wee football? You hustle when you’re an eight year old. You can’t defeat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos if your quarterback doesn’t know what time zone he is in. Broncos win 45-0

Detroit Lions @
MINNESOTA VIKINGS +2

We’re taking a leap of faith that Vikings rookie Teddy Bridgewater will be under center this weekend. I wouldn’t touch the Fighting Norwegians if they’re forced to go with Christian Ponder again. How is Ponder still in the NFL? Detroit is riddled with injuries at wide receiver and running back. If Calvin Johnson is effectively absent for a second consecutive game the Lions will struggle to score touchdowns. The team signed Matt Prater this week to handle kicking duties, an obvious upgrade over the errant legs they’ve been trotting out there, but it won’t be enough on Sunday. Vikings win 26-24

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ Buffalo Bills +3

In spite of a hot mess at quarterback Buffalo has stampeded its way to a 3-2 start, good enough to share the top spot in the AFC East after five weeks with the New England Patriots. The shared prosperity will end this Sunday. The Brady Bunch, after a week of non-stop media hostility, dismantled the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals a week ago. A pissed off New England team will ride that momentum to a comfortable victory. Patriots win 30-17

Carolina Panthers @
CINCINNATI BENGALS -7

How does Cam Newton do it? The Panthers quarterback has the team at 3-2 despite a surprisingly leaky defense and a supporting cast of unknowns on offense. Can Carolina rely on their smoke and mirrors attack against a strong Cincinnati team looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat in Boston? Bengals receiver A.J. Green is questionable with a toe injury. Green’s health will play a large role in the outcome of this contest. If Green is effective I like the Bengals at home. Bengals win 30-20

Pittsburgh Steelers @
CLEVELAND BROWNS -2

The Browns failed to cover by a miniscule half point in their stirring come-from-behind victory over the Titans last week. Browns backers won’t need late heroics this Sunday. Pittsburgh is a tidy 3-2 on the year, but their record is misleading. The Steelers lost at home to a winless Tampa Bay team two weeks ago and followed that debacle with a narrow 17-9 victory over the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s safe to say the Mike Tomlin’s men aren’t playing great football right now. Browns win 23-17

GREEN BAY PACKERS @
Miami Dolphins +3.5

Ever since Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers infamously instructed Green Bay faithful to R-E-L-A-X, after a slow start to the year left fans fearing for the worst, the passing attack has been on a roll. Green Bay has won their last two contests by a combined 53 points! That’s a lot. Expect Green Bay to turn a bad Miami Dolphins team into canned tuna. Packers win 35-19

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ Oakland Raiders +7.5

The San Diego Chargers might be the best team in football. Don’t laugh! While I’m not ready to fully endorse San Diego as a Super Bowl favorite, the Chargers do lead the league in point differential at an astounding plus-70 after five contests. The Lightning Bolts aren’t just winning, they’re crushing the opposition, and their opponents this Sunday, the Oakland Raiders, excel at getting crushed. How can you side against San Diego in this matchup? Chargers win 31-13

Chicago Bears @ ATLANTA FALCONS -3

Both of these teams feel like they should be better than their 2-3 records indicate, but to borrow a phrase from one of my all-time favorite coaches, Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are. The Bears couldn’t hold a 21-7 advantage a week ago in Carolina. Atlanta blew a late 10-point lead in New York against the Giants. Both can put points on the board, but seem allergic to tackling on defense. Coin flips favor the home side. Falcons win 33-28

DALLAS COWBOYS @
Seattle Seahawks -8

It’s been a long time since “America’s Team” was good at football. These Cowboys can run the football with DeMarco Murray, they can throw it behind Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, and they’ve played surprisingly strong defense. This is all terrible news for me. One of my favorite pastimes is making fun of the Fighting Jerry’s. Seattle is a tough place to win and I don’t think the Cowboys are ready to pull off the upset and win the game outright, but Seattle has been mistake-prone enough offensively to let the Boy’s stick around. Seahawks win 24-17

WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ Arizona Cardinals -3.5

Who’s playing quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals? Carson Palmer is out with an apparent nerve injury in his throwing shoulder. Backup Drew Stanton suffered a concussion last week in Denver leaving his status in doubt. That leaves really bad college quarterback and current NFL rookie Logan Thomas as the remaining QB on the roster. On defense, the Cardinals are without Calais Campbell, lost to a knee injury. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy is out. Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett have yet to play a game. At some point all these injuries have to add up. Redskins win 24-21

New York Giants @
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -2.5

If I was wrong about a team this year it was the New York Giants. Coach Tom Coughlin was old, Eli Manning was finished, the defense couldn’t defend, there was a laundry list of reasons the Giants weren’t going to be competitive in the NFC. It appears none of them were accurate. The Eagles are 4-1 but it hasn’t been Chip Kelly’s high powered offense leading the way. The Eagles have scored seven touchdowns this season on special teams or defense! That’s good. If the offense gets on track Philadelphia will be tough to stop. Eagles win 30-27

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @
St. Louis Rams +3.5

The 49ers travel to St. Louis with a lot of turmoil in their luggage. The team is a mess. Injuries, suspensions, arrests, etc… You name it and it’s an issue for San Francisco. Reports have surfaced that not a single person in California likes crazed Coach Jim Harbaugh. Despite all the tomfoolery the 49ers sit at 3-2 after five weeks, in great position to make another run into January. Incredible. 49ers win 23-16

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