Championship Game Picks

Ahh, Championship Sunday. One of the greatest days of the year. The last true football Sunday of the season. Where legacies are forged. Where heroes are crowned and goats poop their pants under the bright lights. And, more often than not, the Patriots prevail. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After a near perfect week last week, proving to the skeptics that the wildcard round’s poor showing was, in fact, intentional, we’re back to .500 in the Brian’s Den. After we go 2-0 this week, assuring a winning record for the playoffs, the I’ll be able to flex my precognitive muscles in the Super Bowl. I would encourage the public to be on the right side of history.

Before we get to the picks, I want to give a shoutout to the moronic and incompetent Knicks owner James Dolan, CEO of the worst cable company ever created. I thought the worst part about being cursed with Optimum Cable would be the social stigma that comes with admitting to relying on such a second-class company, but I was wrong. In my area, Optimum no longer carries CBS. CBS! The first channel ever created. It’s basic cable. It’s pretty much free to have. Everyone in America has CBS. But Optimum is too cheap to pay the affiliates what they want. It’s stupefying. So now I have to watch the AFC Championship Game on my laptop. It’s embarrassing. I’ve never felt so poor and destitute. Hey James, I’m glad you run the worst franchise in sports. Have fun hanging out with Carmelo you kazoo-playing scumbag! Rant over.

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)

When I started thinking about this game, I only knew one thing for sure: I was betting the over. This game is gonna be a shootout. No one’s stopping anybody. Last one with the ball wins. Right? Well, I’m not so sure. In the media’s rush to see who can gush lovingly over Aaron Rodgers more in an effort to fill the fatherly void in his life and make everyone move on from Tom Brady (full post coming Monday. If the Pats win.), everyone has forgotten that the Falcons are one of the greatest offenses of all time. The Packers defense is so, so, so, so, so, so, so bad. They’re as bad as you can get against the run and the pass. The Falcons are as good as you can get running and throwing. This is a total mismatch when the Falcons have the ball. The Green Bay offense is 100% Rodgers at this point. What if he’s not perfect? It’s happened before. Did all those first round exits and underwhelming postseason losses suddenly not happen just because he made some crazy throws? Listen, I’m not gonna sit here and say he’s gonna have a bad game. He’s going to dominate. But the Falcons defense is pretty fast and can kind of rush the passer sometimes. They can do what the Cowboys did in the second half of last week’s game. All they need is one or two stops the entire game! If the Rodgers is off schedule early, this could get ugly.

PICK: Atlanta -4.5

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots (-6.5)

We all know where my heart lies, but what about my head? Spoiler alert: the same place. People are scrambling to sell that the Steelers can win and take down the big, bad Patriots. Sure they can win. This isn’t a Globe Trotters game. It’s not scripted. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to. This Pats defense is trash! Their stats are totally inflated due to the fact that they played almost exclusively crappy QBs, which they had complete control of, by the way. LeVeon Bell will rush for 400 yards while adding another 250 receiving yards! It’ll be over by half! Brady’s done! You know how many times the Pats have allowed a 100 yard rusher in a playoff game in the Brady-Belichick era? 4. In 32 games! Once every 8 games a running back has a big game against the Pats in the playoffs. Odds are that’s once every 3 seasons. They aren’t going to be caught off guard here. They know how to take away the opponent’s best weapon, and I’m pretty sure Bell qualifies. Ben Roethlisberger is been horrible in the playoffs. Outplayed by both Matt Moore and Alex Smith. And he’s garbage on the road. He’s on the road this game. The so-called greatest and most talented offense ever constructed couldn’t score a touchdown last week. They’re Facebook living locker room speeches. Everyone has the flu. It’s pure chaos in Pittsburgh. Plus, you may not have heard this, but Tom Brady owns the Steelers. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions against Mike Tomlin. The Patriots offense was better than this would-be juggernaut in every offensive category! I’m not super confident that the Pats cover. After all, Big Ben thinks the backdoor is always open and is a master of garbage time tds against the Pats. But, I would be stunned, dumbfounded if the Pats lost. Patriots vs. Falcons, book it.

PICK: Patriots -6.5

New England Patriots vs Houston Texans

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The new Power Rangers trailer looks awesome

I don’t think it’s breaking news when I say that I’m a huge Power Rangers guy. Love Power Rangers. Seen about a million episodes of Power Rangers and may be among the preeminent Power Rangers scholars in the world (sad, I know). I am all in on this movie. I think it looks awesome. I admire the will power to resist making the black kid the black ranger. I only hope that they kept some of the Mighty Morphin tradition going and bullied and oppressed the blue ranger because he’s gay in real life. I’ll save my treatise on why Mighty Morphin is far from the best edition of Power Rangers (it’s in Space) for when this movie comes out, which can’t come soon enough. I just hope for his sake that Jason David Frank got a cameo or something. I’m sure he wasn’t too busy.

NASA plans on sending a rover to Mars to collect possible life samples in 2020

source–  As early as July 2020, the 1-tonne, 6-wheeled vehicle will blast off from Florida, carrying 43 such tubes on a 7-month trip to the red planet. Once it arrives, the rover will drive across the Martian surface and fill each tube with dirt, rock or air. Then it will seal the tubes, place them on the ground, and wait — for years, or possibly decades — for another spacecraft to retrieve them and fly them back to Earth. It will be humanity’s first attempt to bring back part of the red planet.

If all goes to plan, these will become the most precious extraterrestrial samples ever recovered. Tucked inside one of those metallic tubes could be evidence of life beyond Earth in the form of a microorganism, biominerals or organic molecules.

(Most of the article is just boring stuff about how much they love keeping things clean.)

I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. How can NASA be so foolish? How can they not see what the result of this experiment will be? Has no one seen a movie or watched tv?

This all falls on this Adam Steltzner guy. Either he’s just as naive as NASA is and has no idea what’s coming, which shows a level of gross negligence not seen since the green lighting of Speed 2: Cruise Control. Or, he knows exactly what he’s doing and should immediately be locked up with no chance of parole.

Because this life they’re going to bring back? It’s not coming in peace. The fact that it’s probably just microscopic organisms makes it even more dangerous. These life forms are either carrying deadly diseases (best case scenario), or capable of acting as a symbiote that can control people’s minds. Ever heard of Venom and Carnage? I guarantee Steltzner has. I’d be shocked if his end goal wasn’t using these lifeforms in some kind of power play. Maybe he allows himself to be controlled, inevitably enhancing his physical abilities; or maybe he contains the lifeforms and waits to infect important people, knowing the devastating effect the symbiotic relationship has on long term health. The fact that none of this has occurred to NASA is a huge red flag. Does he already have a way of controlling people? Is he blackmailing the entirety of the NASA board? Or perhaps he himself is an emissary of Mars and is trying to slowly bring his brethren to Earth for a hostile takeover.

I’m not going to stand for it. I’m prepared to march on Cape Canaveral on the day of the launch to protest. Someone needs to stand up for our species, and I’m willing to lead the movement. Unless, of course, the Mars faction wants to cut me in on their plans. I’m not a fool. I know when I’m outmatched, and humans generally don’t have much of a chance against extraterrestrials. I’d be an asset to the Martians. I know how humans think and have no problem selling them out if it means I wind up on the right side. Then, once I’ve ascended through the ranks, I’ll take out Steltzner during the final battle to prove I was secretly with the humans all along. I’ll be a hero. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’m going to protest at all. I will do everything in my power to ensure this launch takes place. Science must move forward!

My NBA All Stars

As I’ve mentioned recently, the NBA All Star starters will be announced on Thursday, followed by the reserves being announced a week after. The starters will probably be wrong, since Dwyane Wade and Zaza Pachulia (yes, that Zaza Paculia) will be in the starting lineups and neither should be in the same state as the All Star Game. Moving past that, I’ve put together what I think the rosters should look like. All stats are accurate as of January 17, 2017.

EAST

STARTERS

thomas-isaiah-usnews-getty-ftr_7kqxdq3s1uhn1gpdmp1z56fvgIsaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics– I’d say you could call me a homer if Isaiah wasn’t one of the best ten players in the league this season. He leads the East in scoring, shooting career high percentages from the field and from the free throw line, and is top twenty in assists. In the pre-Harden and Westbrook world, leading the conference in scoring and still managing six assists per game was a rarity. He has completely dominated the months of December and January and has established himself as one of, if not the, best fourth quarter players in the league. The Cavs’ army of devoted fanboys doesn’t want to hear it, but he’s been better than Kyrie this season.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ersKyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors– The second backcourt spot was a toss up between the duo up north of Lowry and Demar Derozan. The Raptors have been the best team in the East outside of Cleveland again this season, and their offense is now operating at crazy heights, currently averaging more points per 100 possessions than even the Warriors. Though Derozan carried the team as Lowry got off to a slow start this season, Kyle’s been scalding hot since. It’s almost getting redundant at this point since you can seemingly say it every year, but he’s having the best season of his career. He’s averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds, and player efficiency rating, while shooting a Curry-like 44% on 7.5 three point attempts per game, and is second in the league in real plus-minus. He’s the true engine for the league’s best offense.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game OneLebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers– It’s seemingly been a quiet season for Lebron, but he’s still been Lebron. Top ten in points and assists, still rebounding well, and is the best player on the best team in the East. He’s still flopping and overdramatic, still seemingly forgets the Warriors actually beat his team in the Finals two years ago and that it isn’t some one sided rivalry, but he’s still the best.

giannisGiannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks– The Greek Freak has become what everyone but Danny Ainge (shoutout to Kelly Olynyk! No, I don’t lose sleep over the fact that Giannis should be a Celtic! Why do you ask?) thought he could be. He is a (pun intended) freakish athlete that effects the game in virtually every way. He’s kept his offense at the level we saw at the end of last year, scoring at will inside, setting up teammates, and getting to the line at the highest rate of his young career. He still can’t shoot three’s, but when you can dunk from the three point line it doesn’t really matter. He’s a menace on defense and could become the fourth player ever to average 2 blocks and 2 steals a game.
chicago-bulls-jimmy-butlerJimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls– No one seems to notice or care, but Jimmy Butler has turned himself into one of the best player in the league and he keeps getting better. He’s singlehandedly kept a bad Bulls team afloat, and all his stats either are or are close to career highs. He’s third in the league in real plus-minus. I never thought he’d become this good, and I have no idea how much better he can become, but I’m not betting against him.

RESERVES

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland CavaliersKyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers– Kyrie is probably going to start in real life, and although he doesn’t crack my starting lineup, he’s still an all star. He’s having his best statistical season, and as the second best player on last year’s champions he’d probably make the team regardless. I don’t know how he’s only shooting 46% from the field, since whenever I watch him he never seems to miss. Everyone always wants to say he’s better than Steph, but there’s just something missing. His defense is still bad. He still doesn’t really pass, but that doesn’t matter when you have Lebron. I know there’s a lot of Curry fatigue out there, but I don’t think Kyrie is the answer.

kevin-love-ftr-042315_wpjp86vjxtqz1lpdo12prs6voKevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers– The best way to get into the #clique and make the Instagram pics is to play like the all star you were in Minnesota. He’s back to averaging 20 points a game, is top ten in rebounding, and is lighting it up from 3. Being on the best team in the East doesn’t hurt his all star chances.

maxresdefault1John Wall, Washington Wizards– Somehow always overlooked, John Wall is playing the best ball of his career and is probably the most underrated player in the league. He leads the East in assists and steals, is scoring more than ever, and is more efficient than he’s ever been. He’s leading a resurgent Wizards team that has exceeded expectations, partly due to Bradley Beal actually staying healthy, but mostly due to the fact that Wall has become a truly elite point guard capable of winning games by himself in the Eastern Conference.

derozanmvpDemar Derozan, Toronto Raptors-Mentioned above, but Derozan really carried the Raptors in the first part of the season, leading the league in scoring for a solid month. He’s cooled off slightly, but he’s still averaging a pretty efficient 28 points per game. He gets to the rim and to the line at will, and is a midrange marksman in a league full of 3 point gunners. He’s one of the most frightening players in the league attacking the rim.

635848408893220753-ap-46794507105-1Paul George, Indiana Pacers– PG13 is having another good season, but the league takeover that seemed imminent a few years ago has yet to materialize. His once elite defense has slipped this year, but his efficiency on offense has improved, with his highest field goal percentage since his rookie year. He can be streaky from 3, but he’s hot right now, and is the best player on a slightly lackluster Pacers team. In an East without a ton of legitimate all star candidates, though, he makes the team.

kemba-walker-121014-getty-ftrjpg_1f1vcl0978voj1qipxipij8znhKemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets– Fun fact: my freshman year at the University of Connecticut was the year that Kemba took over college basketball and dragged the team to the championship, so Kemba will always hold a special place in my heart. (For the mathletes out there, that would mean my senior year was the year Shabazz Napier did the same. Combine those two with the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins, and I’ve seen a lot of winning in my life. I’m an expert in winning.) However, this is no sentimental pick. After the best season of his career last year, he’s been even better this year. His shooting percentages keep getting better as his usage rate goes up. The rest of the Hornets have been inconsistent, but Kemba has kept the team from free fall with his consistently good play.

121915_jabparJabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks– The last spot on the roster could go to a few different players, but my vote goes to the player I think will win Most Improved Player. The other half of one of the most exciting young duos in the league, Jabari Parker has really blossomed as a scorer. After shooting a Wade-esque 25% from 3 his first two years, all of a sudden he’s up to 41%, while steadily bringing his field goal percentage closer and closer to 50%. His defense is….not great, but his smooth, efficient offensive game gets him onto the roster.

Apologies to: Kristaps Porzingis (he should be up for sainthood), Joel Embiid (team is too bad), Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal.

No Apologies to: Hassan Whiteside for the most egregious stat chasing I’ve ever seen. He’s not a good player. Like, at all.

WEST

STARTERS

james-hardenJames Harden, Houston Rockets– These first  two entries won’t be very exciting because they really need no reasoning. For my money, Harden has been the best player in the NBA this season. The move to point guard has totally unleashed his unique skill set, and now he’s leading the league in assists and is third in scoring. He’s a beast.

russRussell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder– He’s averaging a triple double.

 

 

 

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Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors– Crazily enough, putting one of the most talented scorers in the history of the NBA with the two best shooters of all time leads to good offense. Durant has been predictably (and otherworldly) efficient, but his defense has been a surprise. Though he’s shown flashes of being an elite defender, he’s embraced that side of the ball this season and has been a disruptive force and is currently twelfth in the league in blocked shots. He’s a decent player.

120415-nba-kawhi-leonard-pi-mp-vresize-1200-675-high_-20Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs– Kawhi “Mr. Electricty” Leonard has taken the mantle of Spurs talisman and has fully committed to the role, quietly chugging along and showing no personality while doing it. But guess what? He’s still getting better. He’s transformed himself from an athletic rebounding specialist in college into an elite offensive player and terror on defense. He’s the best two way player in the league (Lebron doesn’t try enough on defense), and has vastly exceeded all realistic expectations for what his career could be. But it still feels like there’s untapped potential here. I don’t know if the Spurs got lucky or if they really are three steps ahead of everyone when it comes to scouting and player development, but they found another potential all time great to replace the one that just retired.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Detroit PistonsAnthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans– This spot could easily go to DeMarcus Cousins, but I’m going Davis because of the absurdity of some of his stat lines. 50-15-5-5-4. 45-17. 41-16-4 steals. Seemingly every night, he’s doing something crazy. Kind of funny how after last season everyone forgot they loved Davis to fawn over Karl-Anthony Towns. Davis took it personally, apparently. He’s Mr. Glass, though. He misses like every other game with some minor injury. Kobe used to play through pain, if you hadn’t heard. Wouldn’t mind seeing Davis try doing the same.

RESERVES
curry-profSteph Curry, Golden State Warriors– How about the fact that Steph’s “down season” is still better than Kyrie’s career season? Steph is averaging more points, assists, rebounds, steals, and fewer turnovers than the man who many think (wish?) is better than him. He’s still one of the best players in the league. He’s still the greatest and most prolific shooter of all time. This is his worst three point shooting by percentages. Everyone saying he’s struggling and looking to bury him. He’s shooting 39.8% from 3. On an absurd number of attempts. If the season ended today it would be the first time in his career he shot under 42% from 3. I think he’ll be just fine.

draymondDraymond Green, Golden State Warriors– The West this year is so ridiculously stacked with potential all stars that I can only take three of the Warriors’ big four. (Sorry, big five. I forgot Zaza is an all star.) I went back and forth on this so many times, but in the end Draymond’s unreal defense this season is what gets him in. Not to mention the fact that he’s averaging more assists than last year while averaging almost one full fewer turnover a game. Plus, given the choice between the two, I would rather have the Warriors win the title than the Cavs. I feel like Draymond missing the all star game would be infinitely more detrimental to their success than Klay missing out.

gordon-hayward-122914-getty-ftrjpg_wqfrrr1g069o1nc0qpa17td6eGordon Hayward, Utah Jazz– After years of hearing about their promise, the Jazz have finally showed up as a playoff contender, lead by (hopefully) future Celtic Gordon Hayward. After years of keeping the crown fairly easily, Hayward took the title of best American white player from Kevin Love and has kept it this season. Almost makes me teary eyed to see two white boys in the NBA All Star Game. Unfortunately for analysts, Hayward doesn’t fit the traditional white guy mold. He may be scrappy and have a high basketball IQ, but he’s also a great athlete, great off the dribble, and makes the players around him better. He’s averaging career highs in points and rebounds, while shooting more efficiently despite his ever growing role on offense. Not to stray too far from his heritage, though, he’s an avid League of Legends player and was once a pro tennis prospect. Need to counterbalance basketball greatness with that kind of nerdiness to keep his whiteness levels in check.

marc-gasol-grizzlies-ftr-getty-031915_7neuch1v6caw11j9q59gvbk58Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies– I don’t know why no one thought to let Marc shoot 3s before this season, but he’s gone from having 12 career 3s before this season to shooting almost 40% while taking over 3 per game. Long been one of my favorite players to watch, Marc has taken his game to a new level. With Mike Conley missing significant time and Zach Randolph’s reduced role, Marc has the Grizzlies as the six seed in the West. He’s scoring more than ever while still dishing out his 4 assists a game and playing great defense. In many ways he and Tony Allen are the most lasting pillars of the Grit n’ Grind era, and he’s taken them into the 21st century.

r170266_608x342_16-9DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings– Extracurricular antics aside, Boogie is a true beast. Always good for at least 28-10, he’s added a pretty reliable 3-pointer this season, and has a career high PER. He still has lapses on defense, but his active hands help get his share of steals and blocks. The closest thing to the dominant big man of yore, DeMarcus can score on anyone at anytime.

chris-paul-getty-ftr-010516_ifl1w3gzvaps1jgwobqsazzyuChris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers– CP3 just keeps putting out great seasons. He leads the league in real plus-minus by a wide margin. He leads the league in steals (again), is top five in assists, doesn’t turn it over, and is shooting his usual healthy percentages. All the while maintaining a solid flop rate and continuously yelling at teammates. The actual all star game is better with him in it, as he usually finishes with about 15 assists.

Portland Trail Blazers v New York KnicksDamian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers– God, this was tough. So many players going for the last spot on the roster. In the end, I’m going Lillard. He’s having his best offensive season, with a career best turnover percentage and true shooting percentage. The fact that his defense has been so bad and he still has the Blazers in the playoffs shows how good he’s been with the ball in his hands. Let’s end this before I change my mind again.

Apologies to: Klay Thompson (ask me again tomorrow), Rudy Gobert (best defensive player in the league), Blake Griffin (too injured), Karl-Anthony Towns (how did he not make it?), C.J. McCollum, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe.

LAST SECOND UPDATE:

Chris Paul is going to miss 6-8 weeks after getting thumb surgery, so he needs to be replaced.

karl-anthony-towns-getty-ftr-112015_1i033msxfpw6w16c5vdxwbiw3u

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves– Yet another tough call, but there just aren’t many guys that can average 20-10, especially at such a young age. He’s really good, and makes the team despite his team’s disappointing season.

 

What is the best pizza chain?

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Every football weekend usually gets me thinking about pizza, but the playoffs get my pie-centric brain working overtime. Growing up, I always hit up my favorite local place for some ‘za as I watched playoff football, but ever since I moved out (be honest, after the Pokemon blog you thought I still lived at home. I don’t hold it against you) I’ve had to switch it up. No more go-to spot has opened the door for more experimenting and, much to my great joy, plenty of the Big Three: Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa John’s. But which is the best? As is natural in playoff time, someone needs to be crowned the winner. Before we get into it, if you consider yourself too good to indulge in chain pizza, you can get the hell out right now. The Brian’s Den is a socialist commune for pizza, and everyone gets a fair shake. Yes, you can get better pizza at plenty local places. But you can also get worse. All pizza is good pizza, no matter what is says on the box. Now, let’s get to the tale of the tape.

Pizza Quality

I guess the most important category to start with is the actual quality of the pizza. It should go without saying that we’re talking about the basics. Default crust, sauce, and cheese, at most one topping. Just the pure pizza experience. I’ll say this about Pizza Hut: It’s awesome if you have it once a year. Once in a blue moon I’ll get a random craving for Pizza Hut and it’s probably the strongest craving I get for any food. It can’t be ignored. But once you start having more often than that you start running into trouble. I recently tried Papa John’s pan pizza. It was better than Pizza Hut. Pan pizza is Pizza Hut’s calling card. If someone does your supposed strength better than you, that’s a bad sign. It’s hard to remember what Domino’s was like before their big redesign a few years ago, but they hit the ground running and haven’t looked back. The new garlic crust is awesome. The sauce is good and the cheese is fine. Considering the only adjective I can think of to describe Papa John’s Pizza is that it’s pretty good, this is a win for Domino’s. Extra points for possibly having the least bad aftermath.

Winner: Domino’s

Specialty Crust

Hinted at above, but Papa John’s pan pizza is awesome. It’s better than their regular pizza by a mile. Domino’s non-regular options are so bland and subpar that I seriously question why anyone would bother to get them. Pizza Hut gets points for sort of creating stuffed crust, but stuffed crust sucks.

Winner: Papa John’s

Breadsticks

I was tempted to just throw breadsticks in with rest of the sides, but they’re too important not to recognize. Breadsticks are a staple of the pizza chain menu, and each one brings strong entries. Pizza Hut’s breadsticks are excellent. The seasoning meshes perfectly with the bread. More than anyone, Pizza Hut’s breadsticks are an extension of the crust. If Pizza Hut’s pizza was as good as the breadsticks, I’d be tempted to go more often. Domino’s has quality breadsticks, as well, with the added wrinkle of being baked as one big piece that you rip pieces off of. It lends itself well to cheese and other toppings, but we’re talking straight breadsticks here. I get them every time and always enjoy them, but Domino’s has the weakest of the three. I feel like not many people know it, but Papa John’s is a titan of the breadstick world. They’re thicker than most places, but high on natural bread flavor. That’s a plus for me. I think they’re the best for dipping, and, most importantly, are great cold. Pizza Hut’s aren’t. That’s the only thing separating these two Hall of Famers.

Winner: Papa John’s

Sides

Here’s where we factor in pretty much every non-pizza, non-plain breadstick food everyone offers. This is an easy win for Domino’s simply because of the chicken. Their chicken nuggets, or whatever they call them, are great if you get them plain or with the various toppings they offer. The cheesey bread is good too. I honestly couldn’t tell you what other sides Papa John’s has and if you get wings from Pizza Hut you should probably go in for a psych evaluation.

Winner: Domino’s

Best Gimmick

Kind of felt bad that Pizza Hut is getting left behind here, so this is for them. No one takes chances like they do. Whether it’s pretzel crust, that New York style thing they tried where it was just regular pizza but like 24″ in diameter, or the P’Zone, Pizza Hut is always at the forefront of innovation. I tried the pizza they had where the crust was just a bunch of pigs in a blanket and it changed my life. Jury’s still out on if the change was positive.

Winner: Pizza Hut

Desert

Though I will admit to trying most of the menu for research purposes, you’ve got to be in a pretty dark place in your life to be getting pizza chain desert regularly. This would be a tie between Pizza Hut and Domino’s for their cinnamon sticks, but Domino’s pulls away with the chocolate lava crunch cakes. Domino’s asking if you want to add one to your order online is the strongest temptation I can think of.

Winner: Domino’s

Delivery

This is the only category that prevented this from being a fatal four way. Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready pizza is so good and so underrated that I have to give it a quick shoutout. They don’t deliver though, which is just about the only requirement to get into this debate. The big three are all pretty even here. I’ve had both fast and slow delivery times with all of them. However, when I was in college the only one we had was Domino’s and they were open super late on the weekend. It may seem biased, but the importance of that fact cannot be overstated.

Winner: Domino’s

Mascot

A pretty rough category all around. The Pizza Noid is stupid, as is that speed box folder Domino’s tried to impress us with. Pizza Hut’s recent ad campaigns have been a combination of boring and annoying, as they keep trying to get in on the new trend of just being super weird and random in commercials and hoping people remember it. They don’t remember, and they probably hate the ad. Papa John seems like a decent guy and I don’t really care about Peyton anymore, but J.J Watt, man. He’s just so fake and insufferable. It’s an upset he hasn’t gotten his grandma on one of the ads yet, and an even bigger upset he hasn’t gotten his great grandma in one. He still hangs out with both of them, you know. Not sure if you would, though, he never mentions it.

Winner: Nobody

Well, it’s pretty clear that Domino’s is the winner. I don’t think I really thought it would be this apparent when I started, but you never know what can happen during the course of a debate. Domino’s rewards program where you get free pizza if you order enough is just the icing on the cake. Domino’s runs away with it, proving that in the chain pizza game, as in life, every detail matters.

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I hate NBA All Star fan voting

This Thursday the NBA will announce the starting lineups for this year’s All Star Game. Ideally, it’s a snapshot of the league that season, with the best five from each conference matching up with each other before the game inevitably devolves into a layup line. It’s also voted on by the fans. They are aloost always wrong. Thankfully, they finally took complete control away from the fans and added in a players and media vote to help curb the madness. A lot of times, I don’t have a problem with it. For example: As it stands right now, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would be starting for the East. I don’t think they should be starting, but they are both legitimate All Stars this year, so I don’t really care too much. But Dwyane Wade is also in line to start. And that’s where my anger begins.

The common line you always hear when people like me complain about undeserving players being voted in is that it’s a game for the fans so it should be what the fans want to see. That’s all well and good, but why do we then use all star appearances when discussing Hall of Fame candidacy? When Kobe is up for enshrinement, among his many accolades his 18 all star appearances will be mentioned. At least five were undeserved. Popularity doesn’t suddenly make someone good.

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Never Forget

Dwyane Wade is not an All Star. His team stinks and he’s having his worst season. Almost all of his per-36 minute numbers either are or are close to career lows. The only thing he’s randomly doing better is shooting 3s, but a blind person who had never heard the word basketball before would be a better 3 point shooter than Wade has been. There’s at least 15 players in the Eastern Conference more deserving than him and someone is going to get screwed because people like Wade for some reason. Twenty years after his retirement everyone will forget the countless dirty plays and will just see all those totally legitimate all star appearances and think he’s a top ten player ever. That’s not right.

While we’re at it, Carmelo Anthony is currently 6th in front court voting. Which means if the entire roster was decided by fan voting he’d make it. Melo STIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINKS. How anybody can watch this guy and think he’s an all star is beyond me. He’s on yet another embarrassing, bum ass Knicks team and scoring the worst, most hollow 22 points per game maybe in league history. He cared about passing and defense for like a month in 2013, but that time is long passed. He’s pretty much the entire reason the Knicks are horrible, too. He and Derrick Rose create new ways to ignore the best player on the team Kristaps Porzingis. His massive contract and refusal to waive his no-trade clause have hampered the league’s worst front office’s pathetic attempts at roster building, and they’re caught in between tanking and being the sixth seed. Or, they would be if Carmelo wasn’t a dreadful excuse for a star. Same with Dwyane Wade- someday people will look back and see all the all star starts and be like “oh, wow, Carmelo was really good. He must have been a great player and a great teammate and a great leader and not a coward who thinks winning gold medals against teams with at most three NBA players is just as good as winning an NBA championship.” He’s horrible and if you think he’s good, you’re horrible too. Either don’t let stupid fans decide important things that impact a player’s “legacy,” or don’t have all star appearances matter for the Hall of Fame.

And I really hope that in one of the toughest times to make the all star team in the Western Conference, where three or four very deserving players will miss out, I don’t have to explain why Zaza Pachulia making the starting lineup would be the dumbest, most inexplicable and nonsensical thing to ever happen in the history of American voting.

Divisional Round Picks

We’re back with some more fearless, peerless predictions. If you were paying attention last week, you’ll notice that we didn’t do so hot. Fret not, dear reader, because it was only a test. A way to weed out the truly devoted from the fair-weather fans. Now that I’m confident only the most loyal of readers remain, I’m willing to give my true, infallible picks. Some great matchups this week, and my beloved Patriots take the field in an important scrimmage against Foxborough High School. Let’s get to the games.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)

The first of four rematches sees the Seahawks travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. The Seahawks won the previous game thanks to a predictably missed pass interference against Richard Sherman. While it would be easy to say that since the Seahawks are on the road they won’t get the benefit of literally every single call during every game played since 2012, but the reasons they lose go deeper than that. For starters, Atlanta’s offense is insane. Top five in passing and rushing yards per game. Number one in scoring. Number one in offensive DVOA. This is quietly one of the greatest offenses ever facing a defense that, while very good, is missing its best player. Opponent passer rating has gone up and they only have one interception since Earl Thomas went down. Seattle’s ugly destruction of the hapless Lions made them look far better than they really are. The Seahawks offense isn’t very good. Granted, the Falcons defense is very bad, but not bad enough to sink them in this matchup. Seattle just doesn’t have enough weapons to keep up. Everyone loves to say Matt Ryan can never get it done, forgetting he was once on the goal line with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Atlanta is going to score, and, as the home team, is going to get the benefit of the whistle. I can’t wait for Richard Sherman’s post game anti-official rant. Come at me 12s!

Pick: Atlanta -4.5

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Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots (-16)

Will the Brocket Ship return to orbit or will Terry Bradshaw collect a nice royalty check as Failure to Launch airs for three hours on Saturday night? I think we all know where this is going. I will say this, though. I usually prepare myself for the doomsday scenarios. The unthinkable Patriots losses against inferior opponents. Those thoughts haven’t even begun festering in my mind. If Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo both die on the field, everyone on the Pats D blows their knees out, and Goodell takes out the lead official and becomes the ref WWE-style and the Texans win, this would be the most embarrassing loss of my lifetime. Worse than losing to Rex Ryan. Worse than the Bruins blowing a 3-0 lead to the Flyers. Worse than the Red Sox completely no-showing last year against the Indians. Nothing could top losing to this JV squad. On a lighter note, without the Redskins in the playoffs, my streak of consecutive football posts mentioning the god of quarterbacks Colt Brennan was finally snapped. I was hoping the Raiders would give me a reason to bring him up again, but, alas, they lost. The only connection I could find is that he played for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League in 2011. The Patriots almost moved to Hartford once. This game is going to be such a blowout I wouldn’t be surprised if Nantz and Simms start talking about this eerie coincidence in the fourth quarter.

Pick: Pats -16

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Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)

I have two schools of thought about this game. The first is that there’s a real possibility the Cowboys repeat the beating they put on the Packers in week five. This Cowboys team is perfectly built to beat the Packers. The Packers’ small front seven can get swallowed in the wake of the righteous wave of fury cast down upon us by the immortal beings known as the Cowboys Offensive Line from their Holy Seat on High, the ball control offense keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field, and though the Cowboys have a vulnerable defense, they actually intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in week 5, a true accomplishment. On the other hand, I don’t really want to be on the other side of Aaron Rodgers. Benefitting from my fairly obvious jinx attempt last week, he slayed the dragon that haunts my nightmares, and, for that, I am eternally grateful. He’s the most naturally talented quarterback I’ve ever seen and he couldn’t be hotter. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last eight games. That’s insane. I don’t think the Cowboys relatively weak defense will really be able to contain him, even with Jordy Nelson, the NFL’s leader in touchdown catches, sitting out. This could be a weird shootout, with the Cowboys driving down methodically and scoring after 7 or 8 minutes with the ball, then the Packers responding instantly, lather, rinse, repeat. This won’t be a defensive game, and I think it goes down to the final drive. With apologies to fellow UConn Husky Byron Jones, (random tangent: My senior year I took a one credit basketball class because I had so much free time. You just showed up and played hoops. Byron Jones was in the class and he wasn’t allowed to play with everyone else, either by his own volition or administrative decree. He would just go to a basket no one was using and dunk for an hour. It was breathtaking.) Packers at least cover.

Pick: Packers +4.5

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)

This is an interesting game and a rematch of a Steelers blowout win. I expect a different game this time around. For starters, the Steelers aren’t going to go up 22-0 right away this time. I know they just destroyed the Dolphins, but, if you read last week, you know that I predicted that they’d wipe out the hapless Dolphins easily. The Chiefs lead the NFL in takeaways, and Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 88 interceptions in his 93 career road games, including 17 in his last 14. That adds up to bad news for the Steelers passing game, despite the fact that the Chiefs run defense is putrid. Everyone always love to trash Alex Smith, but if he just keeps feeding Travis Kelce and breakout star Tyreek Hill they should be able to move the ball effectively against an average Steelers defense. Every little thing matters, and the Chiefs special teams unit is probably the best in the league, lead, of course, by Hill. And if you still weren’t convinced, this game was just moved to 8:20 pm. Night games in Arrowhead usually end badly for opposing teams, as the best fans in the league (suck it 12s) cause havoc. Chiefs roll.

Pick: Chiefs -1.5

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