There are a few reasons I only go to Vegas once a year. For starters, the abuse I put my body through for that weekend requires a few weeks of recovery. Secondly, I stink at picking games, especially when real money is involved. The only winners I hit were Alabama over Tennessee, Haiwai'i over Nevada, Navy over SMU, Michigan State over Michigan and Rutgers over Pittsburgh. The rest of my bets were picks that never had a chance (Chargers -3 against New Orleans) or parlay cards busted by one bad pick (Iowa State's failure to cover 3 at home versus Texas A&M was a particularly painful one).
On the bright side, I did get to meet some interesting people whilst watching the Spartans and Wolverines in the Plaza sports book. Many of them were drunk at 9am. One guy, as my friend Shaun so aptly put it, was probably an alcoholic during his third trimester in the womb. These guys were living and dying by some of the most random games on the schedule. One guy absolutely lost his mind when Fresno State kicked a 58-yard FG on the last play to beat Utah State. He ran in circles, jumped up and down, screamed obscenities and then ran out of the sports book, not to be seen until the Alabama/Tennessee game started that night. Two guys sat and grumbled all day about the Indiana/Northwestern matchup not being on TV. Others ripped their tickets up in disgust when Louisville put the game away against South Florida. Everyone was watching the final moments of Texas/Oklahoma State with a palpable fear as the Cowboys continually threatened, but failed to take the lead.
It was exciting, and at the same time disgusting. Some of these people were tourists, like me and my friends. We just showed up to lay a few bets and watch one game. Others were locals who obviously lived in the book during football season. The myth of the high-rolling sports gambler who wears Versace and sports a Rolex has forever been shattered. It's been replaced with the image of an unkempt soul wearing a torn-up sweater and dirty khakis for two or three days in a row. He bums cigarettes off people and occasionally sips on a drink someone else left behind. He whines all day when his team doesn't cover and proclaims himself a genius when his picks work out (This is key: he has never made a bad pick in his life. He's simply been hosed by a team/coach/player/fluke bounce/football gods). He smells like sweat and despair and you would never let him into your home under any circumstances. You would lock your daughter in a dungeon for the rest of her life before allowing her to spend even one moment in the company of these people. No jury in the world would convict you of it. And yes, I can't wait to go back next October.
Michael Turner vs. Oakland
Turner has been money against lousy defenses all season, and Oakland has a lousy defense. On top of that, Jerious Norwood is questionable, so Turner owners shouldn't have to worry about losing many carries.
Donovan McNabb vs. Seattle
McNabb hasn't exactly been a fantasy stud lately, but the Seahawks stink and I'd imagine the Eagles won't want to put too much of a load on Brian Westbrook's shoulders so soon after returning from injury.
Ronnie Brown vs. Denver
After a couple brutal weeks, Brown should rebound against the Broncos sieve-like defense. You can't blame the guy for struggling against the Ravens, and Ricky Williams was the beneficiary of the goal-line carries last week. There are no excuses this week. If Brown can't produce against Denver it might be time to re-think him as an automatic starter heading into the fantasy playoffs.
Earnest Graham vs. Kansas City
Graham has been quiet recently, but that should change against the Chiefs because their defense is weak and Warrick Dunn is dinged up so he should get the bulk of the carries.
Roddy White at Oakland
Matt Ryan's progression took a giant step forward last week with a solid outing against a good Eagles defense. And let's face it, the Raiders ain't the Eagles. His favorite target, White, should reap the benefits Sunday.
Kurt Warner at St. Louis
Too easy. Playing his former team with a full stable of receivers to throw to now that Anquan Boldin is back makes for a huge game for Warner.
Jeff's Risk/Reward Picks BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Indianapolis Tim Hightower vs. St. Louis Jason's Risk/Reward Picks Aaron Rodgers at Tennessee Marvin Harrison vs. New England Jeff's Players to Avoid as if They've Been Dipped in Ebola Ben Roethlisberger vs. Washington Jamaal Lewis vs. Baltimore Jason's Players to Avoid Like Their Name is Rusty Hilger Edgerrin James at St. Louis Kerry Collins vs. Green Bay Jeff's Cash Money Picks Wisconsin (+4.5) at Michigan State Bears (-12.5) vs. Lions Jason's Strong Like Bull Picks Michigan (+1.5) at Purdue Detroit (+12.5) at Chicago Jeff's NCAA Picks Texas (-3.5) at Texas Tech Rice (-2.5) at UTEP Jason's "For the Love of Pete for Entertainment Purposes Only" NCAA Picks ****EDITOR'S NOTE**** Jason picked Cincinnati before the Thursday night game kicked off on ESPN. Oklahoma St. (-30.5) vs. Iowa State Texas (-3.5) at Texas Tech Jeff's NFL Picks Cardinals (-3) at Rams & Take the over (+/- 48.5) Jason's "Huge Embarrassing Failure" NFL Picks Buffalo (-5.5) vs. NY Jets Denver (-3.5) vs. Miami Jeff's Lock of the Century Last Week: 3-5 Jason's Lock of the Century Last Week: 2-6
Calvin Johnson vs. Chicago
Megatron has been surprisingly consistent since Roy Williams was traded as is coming off three solid games against Minnesota, Houston and Washington. For as great as the Bears D is against the run, it's absolutely awful against the pass. On the other hand, the Lions passing attack is not inspiring with Dan Orlovsky under center, nor will it get better if we sign Daunte Culpepper.
Sammy Morris is unlikely to play this week, meaning BJGE and Kevin Faulk will once again split time. Green-Ellis is going to be the short-yardage guy while Faulk does most of the work outside the red zone. Green-Ellis got into the end zone this week and has a good chance of doing it again versus the Colts weak run D.
Edgerrin James is starting to look his age and may well lose his job to the rookie. Hightower has already eased into the role of touchdown vulture and would probably be a better starter than James. The risk here is that Cardinals love to throw the ball when they're inside the 5 yard line, as any Larry Fitzgerald owner can tell you.
Steve Slaton at Minnesota
Minnesota has a great run defense-- in terms of giving up yards (about 75/game.) But they have given up 7 rushing TD's this year and Slaton has been hot so you could do worse if he's your only option.
He's been great this year, but isn't 100% healthy. And oh yeah, the Titans D is awesome. His saving grace is the Pack have had two weeks to prepare and the Titans are on a short week of practice after playing Monday night.
Why he's a risk: Peyton Manning and the Colts have been hit or miss this year. Why he could reward: Reggie Wayne has a bum knee and may not play so he could get the majority of the looks.
Ryan Grant vs. Tennessee
Grant has been more productive of late, including his first 100-yard game and first TD of the season two weeks ago against Indianapolis. But now he's facing the scariest run defense in the league. Couple that with a banged-up Aaron Rodgers and it might be best to find a replacement this week.
Did you see Ben play against the Giants last week? He looks horrible and the shoulder is probably bothering him more than he's letting on.
I wouldn't trust any Cleveland player, especially a dinged-up RB who hasn't really been playing well all year, especially when the Ravens D is involved.
Jason Campbell vs. Pittsburgh
The Steelers defense is number 4 against the pass and number 1 against the run. Should make for a long night for Mr. Campbell-- especially if he doesn't have Clinton Portis to stretch the defense.
Edge is quickly becoming the forgotten man in the Cardinals offense (-1 fantasy points last week) and now there's rumors he may get benched.
I don't think many people are playing Collins, but if they are-- don't. He looks like he's lost arm strength in his numerous underthrown passes and Green Bay has a solid defense.
Michigan (+1.5) at Purdue
I know we stink this year. We've lost four in a row, failing to cover in any of those games. We couldn't move the ball against Toledo or against MSU's pedestrian defense. Our QB is hurt and he's not much good when he's healthy. Our offensive line stinks. Our safeties and linebackers stink. Our special teams are the worst I've ever seen. Yet I think we beat Purdue. Curtis Painter probably won't play and the Boilermakers haven't beaten anyone remotely good this year. We're due to win one at some point, and it probably won't be against Minnesota next week. Take the points.
Two road dogs in a row? Here's why: The Badgers aren't anywhere near as bad as their record would indicate. They blew a game they had in hand against Michigan, played Ohio State down to the wire, ran into a buzzsaw against Penn State and fell into a trap against Iowa. This is a perfect trap game for MSU. Let's face it, Sparty's history following a win over Michigan is not good. I don't see State stopping Wisconsin's running game and I don't see Javon Ringer having his way with the Badgers. Remember, his numbers were a little deceiving against Michigan. Take away a horribly-defended 60+ TD run and he was below 4 ypc.
Really? Only 12.5? The Bears D will score that many points and I doubt the Lions hold their offense off the board.
Wisconsin (+4.5) at MSU
I think MSU can pull this one out, but as a lifelong Spartan, I know a letdown game when I see one. Too much Rose Bowl talk this week may catch up with them.
Purdue is a weird team. They hold the Penn St. and Ohio St. offenses in check, yet CMU and Northwestern have their way with them. It's gut-check time for the Wolverines and I think they win this on maize and blue pride alone.
This game burned me earlier this season, but I have a hunch Dan Orlovsky will use the Daunte Culpepper talk to show his skills and look to Calvin Johnson a little more. They may not win, but they'll cover.
Notre Dame (-5) vs. Pittsburgh
Pitt just got housed by Rutgers to the tune of 54 points (one of the few winning bets I placed in Vegas) and I refuse to ever pick the Wannstache in any sort of high-profile game.
Tech is a fraud every year. They start out looking unstoppable on offense... until the run into a team that actually plays D. Texas plays D, as evidenced by their wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Why on Earth would I make the Rice/UTEP game one of my picks? Vindication. The Owls cost me $70 in Vegas by screwing up a beautiful parlay card when they beat the tar out of Tulane. Rice was up 35-0 before I even knew the game had started. I won't be fooled again, sir.
Cincinnati (+2.5) vs. South Florida
Brian Kelly's team is better than SF and they're getting points at home.
The Cowboys could allow 28 points and still cover this spread.
The Longhorns have played the best and beaten the best. They should do it again this week. Bonus pick: Take the under on 75 points.
Buccaneers (-8) at Chiefs
Any time Kansas City is getting single digits against a good team, I'm there.
I like a shoot-out here. The Rams can't stop anyone, but their offense has started to produce. They might be lacking Steven Jackson, but Antonio Pittman filled in nicely against New England last week and Donnie Avery is in the process of replacing Torry Holt as the big play receiver.
Philadelphia (-7) at Seattle
To paraphrase the great Jeff Proctor: Giving 7 against Seneca Wallace? Sign me up.
Buffalo couldn't handle the pressure of being a first-place team last week in Miami, but they should get back on the horse this week. Plus, Brett Favre has been terrible this season.
Home with a week off to prepare for the Dolphins? If Shanahan can't get his team ready for this one, he's a bum.
Philadelphia (-6) at Seattle
I don't care if it's on the road, Philly is going to kill Seattle. The Eagles know they can't afford a letdown against a terrible team. And really, does anybody see Seneca Wallace and Julius Jones scoring much on the Eagles D?
Lock of the Century: 4-2
Pittsburgh (+1.5) at Washington
The Pittsburgh D should give the Redskins and an injured Portis fits all day. Plus, Big Ben and company has got to be upset about how they lost last week to the Giants.
Lock of the Century: 3-2-1
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Indianapolis
Tim Hightower vs. St. Louis
Jason's Risk/Reward Picks
Aaron Rodgers at Tennessee
Marvin Harrison vs. New England
Jeff's Players to Avoid as if They've Been Dipped in Ebola
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Washington
Jamaal Lewis vs. Baltimore
Jason's Players to Avoid Like Their Name is Rusty Hilger
Edgerrin James at St. Louis
Kerry Collins vs. Green Bay
Jeff's Cash Money Picks
Wisconsin (+4.5) at Michigan State
Bears (-12.5) vs. Lions
Jason's Strong Like Bull Picks
Michigan (+1.5) at Purdue
Detroit (+12.5) at Chicago
Jeff's NCAA Picks
Texas (-3.5) at Texas Tech
Rice (-2.5) at UTEP
Jason's "For the Love of Pete for Entertainment Purposes Only" NCAA Picks
****EDITOR'S NOTE**** Jason picked Cincinnati before the Thursday night game kicked off on ESPN.
Oklahoma St. (-30.5) vs. Iowa State
Texas (-3.5) at Texas Tech
Jeff's NFL Picks
Cardinals (-3) at Rams & Take the over (+/- 48.5)
Jason's "Huge Embarrassing Failure" NFL Picks
Buffalo (-5.5) vs. NY Jets
Denver (-3.5) vs. Miami
Jeff's Lock of the Century
Last Week: 3-5
Jason's Lock of the Century
Last Week: 2-6