NFL Week 11 Picks

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Somehow, some way, Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Where did the time go? One minute you own the 8th grade playground the next you’re a washed-up 25-year-old independent blogger with no future. Crazy how time flies. Anyway, as I was getting lost in the lovely shade of blue in the Titans jerseys (I refuse to call them Color Rush jerseys since every facet of the set is in their regular jersey rotation. The only difference is that the socks don’t have the white outer sock they usually have. I take Color Rush seriously), it dawned on me that adding more SkyCam to the broadcast is the most NFL thing of all time. Oh, we lucked into something people sort of like? Quick, jam it down everyone’s throats and ruin any shred of positive publicity! Good job, guys. Titans stink, by the way. Doesn’t really relate to anything, I just feel like it needed to be said. As opposed to last week’s wasteland, there’s actually some pretty good matchups this week. Should be fun watching the action unfold.

Baltimore Ravens (-2) at Green Bay Packers

Psyche!!!! You didn’t really think there were going to be good games this week, did you? This is the NFL! Every game is terrible because every team is equally terrible because the league desires it so. This is why no one like communism, folks. It yields an unpleasing on-field product, I think McCarthy said that in the 50s.

Pick: Ravens -2

Detroit Lions (-3) at Chicago Bears

I don’t know if I’ve ever had less of an emotional investment in a pro sports game than I have for this. I legitimately don’t care about this game whatsoever. If they cancelled it, my life wouldn’t be changed at all.

Pick: Lions -3

Kansas City Chiefs (-11) at New York Giants

This line can’t be high enough. Giants already quit, but then last week they super quit. Any non-NFC East team that plays the Giants from here on out should just ask the league for another bye week so no one gets hurt.

Pick: Chiefs -11

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints (-8)

This season is so weird. Are the Saints seriously Super Bowl contenders? Seems less crazy by the week. Just feels so random that they’re good. They were a nothing team before the season. No buzz, no hype, no discussion about them at all. Yet here they are, playing great D and lighting up the scoreboard. Their offense feels very 2009ish. People forget they ran the ball more than they threw it that year (a little joke for everyone who remembers those days of old. Saints running more than they pass was that year’s Altuve is short and Judge is tall. Good times).

Pick: Saints -8

Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings (-2)

Possible NFC Championship preview? Inconceivable before the season (at least to me), I’d be more surprised if one of these teams didn’t make it at this point. These are pretty similar teams with lots of talent on both sides of the ball, but it really just boils down to the Rams having Jared Goff (good) and the Vikings having Case Keenum (bad).

Pick: Rams +2

Tampa Bay Bucs at Miami Dolphins (pick)

Remember when I said I’ve never cared about a game less than Lions-Bears? Yeah, I lied.

Pick: Dolphins

Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans (-1.5)

I feel like I’ve been too negative lately. Blaine Gabbert taking the high flying Cardinals into Houston for a shootout with Tom “Nic Cage” Savage is exactly what I’ve been looking for to raise my spirits. Appointment viewing for a league desperate for ratings.

Pick: Cardinals +1.5

Jacksonville Jaguars (-8) at Cleveland Browns

I gotta be honest, I’m a little disappointed, here. Jags-Browns was always a high point in the year for those of us who enjoy teams jockeying for draft position, and it always seemed to fall around this time of the season when both teams had already quit. But now the Jags had to go and ruin it by being good! How selfish! I’m trying to envision a scenario where the Browns score a touchdown that doesn’t involve a kick return or pick six, and I’m not seeing anything.

Pick: Jags -8

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers (-4)

What’s the point of starting Nathan Peterman? They can’t think he’s actually going to be good, can they? He’s a rookie fifth round pick whose only playing time came in a blowout loss. What do they gain by benching the clearly superior Tyrod Taylor? Unless they’ve accepted their fate and know they’re dead, in which case I applaud the decision to just cut bait and aim for as high a draft pick as they can possibly get. Throwing this random rookie out there against one of the most fearsome pass-rushing tandems in the league on the road (does it count as playing on the road if it’s at the StubHub Center?) for his first career start in week 11 doesn’t really seem like the move a team that’s trying to win would make.

Pick: Chargers -4

Patriots de Nueva Inglaterra (-7) contra los Raiders de Oakland

Ciudad de México, bebé! La gente olvida que la Ciudad de México es mucho más elevada que Denver, donde los Pats simplemente dominaron. También practicaron en Colorado toda la semana, por lo que es como si estuvieran tomando esteroides con todo el aire extra que tienen en sus pulmones. También están en llamas y nunca, en ningún momento, perderán ante esta versión de los Raiders, que apestan. Un equipo de calacas (una pequeña referencia de México, amigos) sería mejor a la defensiva que los Raiders, que usan verdaderos “jugadores de la NFL”. Los Pats son el equipo más popular en la Ciudad de México, lo que me dice que nuestros vecinos del sur tienen un excelente sabor.

Elegir: Patriots -7

Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (-2.5)

Do the Broncos play road games? I’m starting to think no. Literally every game they play is in Mile High, and even with the only tangible home field advantage in the NFL, they still stink! Hard to believe most of this roster won a Super Bowl two years ago. Still better than the Bengals, though.

Pick: Broncos -2.5

Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) at Dallas Cowboys

This one seem like it’s easy to overthink. It’s in Dallas. It’s Sunday night. Cowboys need a win badly. Eagles have been too good, so something has to go wrong. Just don’t think about it. Go with your gut. Eagles are way better than the Cowboys and should dominate. Tyron Smith is probably out again, rendering the Golden God known as the Cowboys’ offensive line a collection of mere mortals, and the Eagles’ d-line is just a liiiiiiiitle bit better than the Falcons’. Almost forgot to make a snarky comment about the impressive streak of consecutive NFC East division games played in primetime, just like the Cowboys will probably forget to show up.

Pick: Eagles -4.5

Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks (-3)

Of all the teams the Patriots have effectively killed over the last 15 years or so, I think the Seahawks and Falcons give me the happiest memories. Thinking about how many times Brady shoved the Bills’ or Steelers’ noses in the dirt is nice, but the Seahawks and Falcons are special. They turned Seattle from a potential dynasty to a dysfunctional, poorly run, unpopular group of crybabies and 9/11 truthers. Then beating the Falcons was the equivalent of a feudal lord squashing a peasant rebellion and putting some severed heads on spikes as warning. And now they’re playing each other and think the game has real stakes! How quaint. I’m happy for both of these teams for thinking they still have championship hopes, I really am.

Pick: Seahawks -3

Bonus College Picks:

  • Michigan +7.5 at Wisconsin
  • Virginia +18.5 at Miami (FL)
  • TCU at Texas Tech Over 53
  • UMass +4.5 at BYU
  • Navy +18 at Notre Dame
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NFL Week 10 Picks

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Nights like last night are what separates the Color Rush men from the Color Rush boys. Not only the highlighter green Seahawks jerseys, but the Cardinals inexplicably going all black instead of red. If you couldn’t handle it, well, the Color Rush game might not be for you. I have to confess, though: much like Russell Wilson after his “concussion test,” I don’t remember anything about this game. Might be for the better, though, because it looks like I jumped the gun a little bit declaring it #seahawksoffenseSZN. Last night served as the proto-Legion of Boom era Seahawks game: ugly, weird ass score, Russell Wilson makes some absurd escape, someone gets hurt, and Pete Carroll spends the whole game wondering if jet fuel can really melt steel beams. Seen it a thousand times by now. Rough, rough slate of games this week, but that doesn’t mean I get to turn off my NFL prescience. It’s more of a curse that a gift, really.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-6)

I don’t know if it’s because of the league or I’m just more cynical than I used to be, but every game I look at this week just suuuuuuucks on paper. Any game where the Bears (yes, the same Chicago Bears that completed four, count ’em, FOUR passes in a game recently) are six point favorites has to being played in some kind of alternate universe. Is this like a post-FlashPoint dimension or something where the NFL universe is getting a big reboot and the Bears are good now? Because if it isn’t, I can’t legitimately say the Bears will cover any spread as a favorite, I don’t care which cardboard cutout of a human being is playing QB for the Packers.

Pick: Packers +6

Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) at Indianapolis Colts

As much as I enjoy seeing the masterminds behind the national nightmare known as Deflategate struggle to remain competitive, the Steelers on the road are pretty much the answer to the age old question, “what would happen if a CFL team played in the NFL?”

Pick: Jacoby Brissett +10

Minnesota Vikings (-1.5) at Washington Redskins

Remember Teddy Bridgewater? The guy that literally perished on the practice field last preseason? Wears gloves all the time because he has small, dainty hands? Yeah, me neither. Well, he’s back. He won’t play this week, but he’s still back. Vikings have also won four straight while no one was looking, and everyone on the Redskins roster is still hurt. I’ve also decided to forgo a Native American joke this week, sorry if this offends.

Pick: Vikings -1.5

Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions (-11)

When Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth, he had Browns and Lions fans in mind.

Pick: Lions -11

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-4)

I would like to send my preemptive thoughts and prayers to Phil Rivers’ family, because I can’t see him surviving this one. Jags defense is making a stronger case that it’s the best in the league every week, and, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Chargers are a West Coast team coming east for a one o’clock game.

Pick: Jags -4

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (-4.5)

Are there any good games this week? At all? Luckily this week’s college football lineup is stacked or I’d be doing a lot of cleaning around the house all weekend.

Pick: Bengals +4.5

New York Jets (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Bucs

Alright, now we’re talking! Josh McCown Revenge Game combined with Ryan Fitzpatrick Revenge Game. Electrifying television. The Bucs might actually perform better now that Jameis isn’t giving them weird pump up speeches. I think the biggest surprise this entire season is the fact that the Jets are actually pretty fun to watch. The Bucs play defense in the most theoretical sense of the word, so I’m kind of pumped up to watch McCown light it up. Which means it’ll be a 9-3 final.

Pick: Jets -2.5

New Orleans Saints (-3) at Buffalo Bills

Bills are dead. Deader than dead, in fact. I’d be surprised if they won another game this season that didn’t have snow involved. I hope everyone who bought the hype feels stupid. Meanwhile, how about the Saints? Looking like a legit contender. Playing legit defense! Eighth in defensive DVOA! What were the odds of that before the season? Marshon Lattimore is already one of the five best defensive players in the league and I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to call him one of the best draft picks in team history. Saints playing in Buffalo feels like such a weird, random game.

Pick: Saints -3

Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams (-11.5)

I don’t know what’s crazier, the fact that the Rams can’t stop scoring and I pretty much trust them in any matchup despite predicting they’d finish with the worst record in the league, or that anyone would pick a Tom Savage-led offense to cover any spread. Their defense isn’t even good anymore- they’re 30th in points allowed per game. This is going to be a bllllooooowwwwoooouuuuttttttttt.

Pick: Rams

New York Giants (-3) at San Francisco 49ers

Oh my godddddd these games are sooooooooo badddddddddddddddddddd. I actually don’t hate the NFL scheduling every horrible game in one week to get them out of the way. Remember when the 49ers would lose in heartbreaking fashion and cover spreads? I miss that team. Until Jimmy G gets up to speed you couldn’t pay me enough to take the Niners. That’s a lie, but you get my point.

Pick: Giants -3

Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons (-3)

I’m really just dumbfounded. Where are all the people betting on Atlanta? I would like to meet the person who’s still holding on to the dream. I could use that kind of positivity in my life. It doesn’t matter that Zeke is currently suspended, because he’s either going to end up playing anyway or Darren McFadden will have his annual Turn Back the Clock game. Saying the Falcons are dead is just old hat at this point, but I’ll say it anyway: Falcons are dead.

Pick: Cowboys +3

New England Patriots (-8) at Denver Broncos

I know the Pats always struggle in Denver. I know the Broncos defense will be all fired up after getting emasculated last week. But last time I checked, Brock Osweiler is viewed as the best option to play quarterback for the Broncos. That’s good enough for me.

Pick: Pats -8

Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers (-9)

If you want a real reason to protest the NFL, how about the fact that the Dolphins are on in primetime for the second week in a row? One of the most offensive things I’ve ever seen.

Pick: Panthers -9

Bonus College Picks:

  • Michigan State +16 at Ohio State
  • Georgia -3 at Auburn
  • Iowa at Wisconsin -11.5
  • Notre Dame -3.5 at Miami (FL)
  • TCU +6.5 at Oklahoma

NFL Week 9 Picks

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You didn’t really think the Bills were going to go 6-2, right? Like, have you followed an NFL season before? If so, you not only saw last night’s crushing loss coming, but you can also see exactly how the second half of the season is going to go for the Bills. What I don’t understand is how the media falls for it every year. Each and every year the Bills get off to a blistering start, and every year it’s “this is the year they put it together.” Newsflash- it isn’t. There’s a reason they haven’t made the playoffs since 1999. They have Loser DNA. I’ve mentioned it before, but it baffles me that more people can’t see Loser DNA right away. The Bills have more Loser DNA than regular DNA. Did people actually think the Falcons, the Atlanta Falcons, would beat the Pats? The Suns, the Sacramento Kings, the Capitals, the Jets, the Vikings, the Bengals, there are so many teams that are never good and will never be good, and people fall for them hook, line, and sinker every year. The Bills STINK. The Pats gained ground on their division on their bye week yet again, an underrated tradition during the Brady-Belichick regime. If you take the Bills seriously as a contender, you’re just a moron. Unfortunately, no fun holiday gimmick this week, just plain, boring NFL takes. Lame, I know.

Denver Broncos at Philadelphia Eagles (-8)

T-Minus two days until the Brocket Ship lifts off, bitches! Can’t wait to watch horrendously inaccurate passes, negligible pocket awareness, and lots and lots of sacks, gonna be great. That Brock is somehow viewed as better than Trevor Siemian should be enough to force the NFL’s greatest Northwestern alum since Mike Kafka to consider retirement. Still, this is a bit of a tough game. You should never back Brock, but the Eagles have won 6 in a row. You want to talk Loser DNA, well the entire city of Philadelphia has it. Something has to go wrong, eventually. Blowing an easily winnable game against one of the best defenses in the league seems like a good place to start.

Pick: Broncos +8

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at New York Giants

Literally the only reason this won’t just be a complete walkover is that the Rams are coming East to play a 1 p.m. game. Don’t know if you’ve ever heard that reasoning before.

Pick: Rams -3.5

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

No line yet after the shocking news that wunderkind quarterback Deshaun Watson blew his knee out in practice and will miss the rest of the season. Pretty big downer for those of us that love blowouts and absurd stats, because Watson vs. this Colts defense was probably going to be one of the biggest mismatches of the entire NFL season. Alas, now we get to watch Tom Savage bang his head into a wall for 60 minutes. Practice injuries always remind me of my own football career. I “played” in high school, and I put played in parentheses because I rarely saw the field. I had some talent, but rather than do things like stay in shape or practice hard, I ate McDonald’s and played video games. No, I don’t regret it. That much. So, yeah, I didn’t make the NFL, but I also didn’t blow my knee out in practice, so who’s the real winner?

Pick: Texans I guess?

Tampa Bay Bucs at New Orleans Saints (-7)

I feel like I’m kind of in a rut right now where I’m just going with opposite logic. The Saints are on fire and at home. The Bucs are ice cold and have a banged up QB that might not be good when he’s healthy, anyway. So why am I considering taking the Bucs? Is it crazy? This could easily be a 35-17 drubbing. Actually, you’re right. I’m overthinking this.

Pick: Saints -7

Atlanta Falcons (-2) at Carolina Panthers

This is a solemn promise: I will never pick the Falcons when they’re favored as long as Matt Ryan still draws breath in this world.

Pick: Panthers +2

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)

This game is going to suuuuuuuuuuck. Remind why the Titans, who currently have a -15 point differential, are favored against the Ravens, who, despite being absolutely unwatchable on offense, still have one of the stingier defenses in the league and have a history of winning games they have no business winning? Titans are bad.

Pick: Ravens +3.5

Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (-6)

I regret to report that one of the most impressive and unprecedented runs of success in history is over. For the first time all season, I failed to spell Cincinnati correctly on the first try. I don’t know what to say other than I let everybody down. To quote Clayton Kershaw, maybe one day I won’t fail. Until then, I’ll just try to get better.

Pick: Jags -6

Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks (-7.5)

It’s that time of year where Russell Wilson starts averaging 400 yards per game despite a pitiful offensive line, just in time to welcome a battered and bruised Washington team that is just dying to get blown out. Redskins don’t have a great history of going west, anyway.

Pick: Seahawks -7.5

Arizona Cardinals (-2) at San Francisco 49ers

Didn’t these two just play? Or do are both teams so bad they just blend together and it seems like they’re always playing each other. Unfortunately, no Jimmy G to salvage some watchability, so avoid this at all costs (my take on the trade: I think I like it. 49ers 2nd round pick is essentially a first round pick, so flipping a guy that went at the end of the 2nd round for an early 2nd rounder is a win. And, I mean, I love Jimmy, but he’s played a game and a half in three years. Does anyone actually know how good he is? He could be a star, he could be Matt Cassell. I’ll trust Bill Belichick’s judgement when it comes to personnel moves. They weren’t going to be able to resign him, so getting a great pick for him is as good of a deal as you can ask for).

Pick: 49ers +2

Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys (-2)

I don’t understand this Zeke Elliot situation whatsoever. I don’t get why this suspension won’t stick, I don’t get why Brady couldn’t get this same deal, I don’t even remember what the suspension was for in the first place. This whole thing is just a big fiasco that’s probably never going to end. This game also might never end because no one’s going to stop anyone. This feels like a game the Cowboys win and get the “are the Cowboys Super Bowl contenders” conversation going again.

Pick: Cowboys -2

Oakland Raiders (-3) at Miami Dolphins

I’ve got a laundry basket full of clean clothes that I’ve been putting off folding, looks like Sunday night is a good time to do it!

Pick: Raiders -3

Detroit Lions (-3) at Green Bay Packers

Are the Lions capable of winning a game they should win on the road by more than three points? I really don’t know. They’re actually better on the road than at home, but they’re and NFC North team playing in Lambeau, which usually means a big ol’ L. I’m actually not sure if the Packers are physically capable of scoring more than 17 points, though.

Pick: Lions -3

Bonus College Picks

  • Penn State at Michigan State +10
  • Wisconsin at Indiana +14
  • Iowa State at West Virginia -2.5
  • Oklahoma +2 at Oklahoma State
  • Texas at TCU Over 47

NFL Week 8 Picks

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Greetings, mortal. Welcome to a super spooky Halloween edition of the Brian’s Den NFL Picks. If you dare to enter, who knows what kind of horrors await around every turn. What’s that? You’re a big tough guy who’s not afraid of nuthin? Watching the Dolphins offense doesn’t give you nightmares? Ha Ha Ha Ha. Fool. There’s plenty more blood, guts, and horrible quarterback play in here waiting for you. We’ll see just how firm your resolve really is. You think you’ve got this whole NFL Betting thing all figured out? You think you’ve finally cracked the code? Well, once you gaze upon the forbidden knowledge I’ve acquired over the millennia, I think you’ll change your tune. Just remember- I warned you about the the dangers you’re about to face. Don’t blame me when you’re reduced to a crying puddle, begging for your mother to save you. Apologies in advance for all the bad puns and jokes you’re about to read.

Minnesota Vikings (-10) vs Cleveland Browns

It’s nighttime in old London Town and the fog is thick tonight. You just left your job at the textiles factory and are trying to get home as fast as possible. After all, as an attractive young lady, you know the dangers of being alone at night, particularly a night like tonight. You’re not sure how, but you can feel someone watching you. Maybe it’s just the fog playing tricks on you. Maybe it’s your overactive imagination. Papa was always saying women shouldn’t think too much, after all. But just to be safe, you turn around. No one in sight, but you swore you could hear footsteps. You pick up the pace a little bit. Wouldn’t hurt to get some exercise, regardless of what Papa says about how ladies shouldn’t exert themselves too much. You don’t get to move about too much at the factory. You’re positive you hear footsteps, now. You glance over your shoulder, still nothing. You start looking desperately for a taxi, but the fog is so thick it’s impossible to see. This is a small street, too, you realize. Very out of the way. And not in your normal route home, either. How did you wind up here? You start to panic. Your heart rate is through the roof. Then you feel it. Someone is right behind you. You turn and are greeted by a man in a brown trench coat and brown hat. He reaches into his coat and looks at you. You gasp. It’s Hue Jackson! “Please,” he says,” take my resume. I’m good with QBs.” He hands you the paper he took out of his coat. Against your better judgement, you look down on the cursed document. That’s where your memories end.

Pick: Vikings -10

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (-7.5)

Phil Rivers woke up in a cold sweat. The same dream again, he thought to himself. This time it felt too real. He got out of bed and walked to the bathroom quietly. Don’t want to wake the wife and kids. Looking in the mirror, he almost doesn’t recognize himself. He looks like a man who hasn’t slept in days. He’s got dark circles under his eyes, his skin is sallow, and his stubble is thicker than he likes. I can’t wait for this week to be over, he thinks. Maybe these damn nightmares will stop. He turns the faucet on and splashes some cold water on his face. When he looks up, he sees someone in the mirror that wasn’t there before. Turning slowly, the realization dawns on him as he sees the pile of Unreal Candy and Himalayan pink salt at the specter’s feet. “Hello, Phil,” Tom Brady says. “You ready for Sunday?” All Phil can do is scream.

Pick: Pats -7.5

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-13)

Not many people know what happened that night at the Wentz Church in the heart of South Philly. Witnesses say a large group of men dressed in all red and gold entered just before midnight, only they never came out. Reports of screams and horrifying sounds until around 3 am. But, when a concerned citizen entered the church early in the morning, she found nothing wrong. No bodies, no weapons, not a pew out of place. The only noteworthy thing was a message on the wall, written in blood: “We should have won by a lot more,” it said, “but they dominated the coaching matchup so badly that we only won by 10.”

Pick: 49ers +13

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints (-9)

You never know what you’ll find if you get lost in New Orleans. Just ask Mitch Trubisky. After an evening of enjoying everything the French Quarter has to offer, he tried to stumble his way back to his hotel room. He started hearing whispers. Though impaired, he could have sworn he heard someone call his name. Sobering rapidly, he foolishly decided to follow the voices. Down one street, up another. The buildings were getting older, darker. Finally, he found himself in front of an old shack at the end of an alley. Skulls hung above the door and bones lines the walkway. The rickety door opened slowly, seemingly on its own accord. Mitch decided he had come too far to walk away now. He entered, and saw shelves full of odd trinkets and body parts and books in languages he couldn’t read. “Welcome Mitch,” a voice said. An elderly Creole woman was eyeing him ravenously. “I hear you want to be completing more passes every Sunday. I think I can help with that. Just take this football and you’ll become a star!” She was holding an ancient looking football, maybe one of the first ever produced. “All I need to do is take this ball and I’ll be able to complete more than four passes a game?” “That’s right, child,” she said, chuckling. “Just take it and bring it with you everywhere.” He hesitated. Mom always told him not to trust strangers. But all he had to do was take this ball and he’d become an NFL-level quarterback? What does he have to lose? “Alright,” he said, reaching out and grabbing the smooth leather. He felt a small shock, but though nothing of it. “What do I owe you?” “Oh, child,” she said, “you’ve already given me all I want.” She started laughing hysterically and Mitch took it as his cue to leave. After a few steps down the alley, he thought he might want a picture of this place so he could return. Maybe this woman could give him good receivers, too. But when he turned around, it was gone. All that remained was an overflowing dumpster. Looking at the football in his hand, Mitch Trubisky wondered if he had just made a huge mistake.

Pick: Saints -9

Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals (-10.5)

Imagine the plot of Pet Sematary only instead of cats the undead animals are tigers and redheads. That’s the horror that awaits the Colts.

Pick: Colts +10.5

Atlanta Falcons (-6) at New York Jets

“Pull over, honey” Matt Ryan’s wife said. “We’re clearly lost. You need to ask someone for directions.” They had been driving aimlessly for hours, now, but Ryan was trying desperately to avoid stopping. It was true, they were lost, but he still had a decent idea of where they were. “Matt!” his wife said forcefully. He knew he had no choice. They were approaching a small gas station on the side of the road. Ryan pulled in. Wary of the fact that this was seemingly isolated from anything resembling a town, he walked inside. The man at the desk was wearing a dirty, green flannel shirt with the sleeves cutoff and a well-worn knit hat. “Hey, man” Ryan said, “we’re kind of lost. What’s the best way back to the highway?” “You just follow this road and take a right,” the man said, staring at him through horn-rimed glasses. His perfectly coiffed mustache moved with every word. “Just be careful, now. This here’s AFC East country.” “S-sure, thanks.” Matt was rattled. He was afraid of this. He scrambled out of the building, but saw a small child standing in front of his car. “Mr.Ryan, why did you lose at home to the Bills?” “I-I don’t know kid, it just kind of happen-” “Why did you blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?” a second boy asked, appearing out of nowhere. “I-I don’t….I don’t-” “Mr. Ryan,” another boy wearing a hooded sweatshirt said, “why did you blow a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl and then completely quit against the same team when you had the chance for revenge?” “I don’t…I-I-” He fell to his knees. More children kept appearing, asking him how his team could be so bad. He covered his ears with his hands, praying for it to stop. The door to the gas station opened, and the man came out, now holding a machete. “Like I said, this here’s AFC East country, and we don’t take kindly to your kind around here.”

Pick: Jets +6

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Bucs (-1.5)

Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills (-3)

I’m not sure I can really explain to anyone who wasn’t there how real the threat of ghost pirates were during the Summer of ’87. People along the coastline grew accustomed to them and knew how to avoid them. Whenever there was a heavy fog on the water and a chill in the air, everyone knew the ghost pirates were about to land. Tampa was hit hardest. The ghostly ship would appear on the horizon and dozens of phantom pirates would cross the water to come terrorize the town. They’d break windows, steal all the alcohol, and harass all the Hooters Girls. It was terrible. I’m not sure why, but one day they stopped coming. No one heard from them for decades. But then, out of nowhere, that same ship appeared on the banks of Lake Erie. They started raiding chicken wing joints and possessing Bills fans, compelling them to jump through tables and light things on fire. I’m not sure if anyone knows how to stop them. I’m not sure if anyone wants to stop them, to be honest.

Picks: Panther +1.5, Raiders +3

Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks (-5.5)

Imagine, if you will, you’re a Seattle native. You’re holding on to the grunge phase all these years later just waiting for it to come back, all of your passions are ironic, you’ve loved the Seahawks since they first came into the league in 2012, the whole deal. You wake up one morning and find that, much to your surprise, your coffee cupboard, usually stocked to the brim with artisanal roasts and locally sourced small-batch grounds, is totally bare! You can’t start your day without coffee, so you go to your favorite coffee shop. “Can I have my usual,” you ask River, the barista you’ve known for years. “Sorry, man,” he says, “we’re fresh out of coffee. Huge rush this morning. We should get another delivery soon if you want to wait.” “No thanks,” you say. “I need my coffee now.” You go to the place next door. It’s not as good, but you can stomach it. “Sorry, bro,” the barista says, “we’re all out of coffee.” What is going on, you wonder. This is Seattle! Surely someone has coffee. But no one does. You try the place next door, then the place next door, then the place next door, then the place next door, then the place next door. Everyone is out of coffee. You’re fully awake, now, but it’s a matter of pride at this point. Where is all the coffee? You’ve seemingly tried every coffee shop in the city, and no one has any beans. Since you’re a Seattle hipster, you don’t consider Starbucks to be coffee, so that’s out of the question. Are you going to have to skip a day of work just to find some coffee? “Wow, you smell really nice,” a random person says as they walk by. “Thanks, I guess,” you say, confused. You didn’t put any cologne or anything on this morning. Must be my natural musk, you think. “Mmm, love that smell,” another person says. Then you notice it- the unmistakeable smell of coffee. Finally, you think. At least someone has coffee in this town. Only, you walked to the only place in Seattle that doesn’t have a coffee shop in sight. But where is the smell coming from? Then you remember people have been complimenting you on your smell. You look down and gasp. Your Seahawks number 12 jersey is now made of coffee grounds! High quality ones, too. The only way to get coffee and prove you’re from Seattle is by brewing your 12th Man jersey, which you own to show people you’re from Seattle! What a cruel twist of fate. What would you do in this impossible situation?

Pick: Seahawks -5.5

Dallas Cowboys (-2) at Washington Redskins

“You sure this is a good spot?” you ask. “Of course it is, partner,” Stinky Pete said. Stinky Pete, the most famous outlaw in the five-county area and your boss, had just broken ground on his new HQ, to be built with the wood from the forest they had spent the last few weeks cutting down. You weren’t so sure, though. Something about this place seemed off. When Stinky Pete dug his ceremonial golden shovel into the dirt, he exposed a pile of bones. Odd, erie totems were placed all over the edge of the clearing, each topped with the skull of a different animal. And, ever since they had decided to use this location, crazy things had been happening to their crew. A tree fell unexpectedly, killing three men. A freak lightning storm caused a forest fire, killing another five. Even though animals seemed to instinctively avoid this place, bears and cougars have attacked multiple times. It’s seemed to you like a cursed venture at this point, but you’re not in charge. Stinky Pete is, and he’s determined to see it through. “Uhh, hey boss,” Ralph says, crouched over. Ralph is Stinky Pete’s right hand man. “I think we might have an issue.” “What is it this time Ralph?” Stinky Pete asks. “I think this might be an Indian Burial Ground.” He held up a human skull he had pulled from the ground. Then he pulled up a battered Redskins helmet. “First of all, don’t call them injuns, Ralph,” Stink Pete said. “Have some respect. They’re called Redskins. And this ain’t no burial ground, no more, this is Stinky Pete’s future HQ!” There was a flash of lightning, and, suddenly, the ghost of Kirk Cousins materialized behind Ralph. He grabbed his head and yanked it back, breaking his neck. “You like that?” the ghostly voice asked. “You like that?” More and more ghosts were appearing. You could see Colt Brennan, Heath Shuler, Mark Brunnell, Jason Campbell, and Rex Grossman among others. “What do we do, boss?” you ask. But Stinky Pete is gone without a trace. As is everyone else in the crew. It’s just you against hundreds of Redskin ghosts. All of a sudden you’re starting to regret jumping on the Cowboys bandwagon in the ’90s.

Pick: Redskins +2

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Detroit Lions

You had thought it was strange when he told you to meet him at the abandoned car factory. It wasn’t the strangest place you had ever gone for a date, but you kept an open mind. You knew he was eccentric, maybe he was some artist that used the old car parts to make statues. That would have been cool, you thought. Too bad that’s not what happened. Almost as soon as you stepped foot in the old factory, you felt a needle go into your neck. Now, you were strapped to a cold, metal table surrounded by car parts and bits of metal. Who knows how much time had passed. “You know,” he said, noticing you were awake, “people like to say the Industrial Revolution is over. We have all this technology now, what’s the point of manual labor and metal work? Well, I like to think I’m keeping it alive.” He had a welding mask on and a torch in hand. Standing over you, he had a deranged look in his eye. “I’ve always wanted a metal girlfriend,” he said. “Hopefully you’re the one.” He flipped the mask down and held a steel beam against you arm. “Just warning you,” his muffled voice said, “this is going to hurt.”

Pick: Steelers -3

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)

The thought of watching another Broncos primetime game is scary enough, honestly.

Pick: Chiefs -7.5

Bonus College Picks

  • Tulane at Memphis Over 63
  • Oklahoma State at West Virginia +7
  • Georgia -14 vs Florida
  • Penn State +6 at Ohio State
  • TCU at Iowa State -6.5

Should General Sherman Have Just Burned Atlanta to the Ground and Saved Its People from Heartbreak?

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The Pats beat the Falcons last night. They didn’t just beat them, really. They totally dominated them physically and mentally. It was one of the most pathetic displays I’ve ever seen. Obviously, this was a big time matchup: Sunday Night Football, rematch of one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever, can the Falcons get revenge?, all that. I was really hoping the Falcons would go up big early just to see how they’d handle it. There was never a scenario where the Pats would ever lose to the Falcons, but still. I was curious to what they’d do if they found themselves in the same situation they were in in February. Instead, they completely folded at the first sign of adversity. The fog hadn’t even rolled in yet and they had already quit. It was sad, really. Here was a supposed juggernaut, a titan of offense last season, totally reduced to rubble. All because their offensive coordinator left? Really? The Pats killed them in the Super Bowl, and they just exorcised their ghost last night. Matt Ryan stinks now. Julio Jones is saying the Pats caused the fog in a desperate attempt to not take any responsibility for their horrible season. It’s one thing to blow a gigantic lead against the Patriots then be so scared when they saw those helmets again they completely shit themselves, but to lose at home to the Bills and Dolphins? Yikes. Some idiots out there will probably still take them seriously as a contender, but they could be up 77-0 and I’d still assume they were about to lose. I’d honestly rather be a Browns fan because at least I know what to expect.

Anyway, seeing the Falcons get murdered yet again had me wondering if the good people of Georgia would have been better off if General Sherman just level Atlanta during the Civil War. As you surely know, General Tecumseh Sherman captured Atlanta then drove to the sea, destroying Confederate supply lines, settlements, industry, and just generally causing chaos along the way. If he had just razed Atlanta right then and there, wouldn’t it have been better for everyone? Like what does Atlanta even have? They obviously have no spirit left thanks to the Pats. Coke and Chick-fil-a? Is that it? I’m pretty sure the visionaries behind those two institutions could have flourished anywhere. They literally have one (1) major championship, so not losing much there. Don’t know what I’d do without all those Hawks highlights. I’m willing to bet Hank Aaron, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Dominique Wilkins, and Julio Jones would be Hall of Famers in other cities, too. Not only are all their teams terrible, but they don’t even have a ton of memorable losses like other tortured cities. Sure, the Super Bowl is the worst loss of all time, but every other big loss is just kind of a loss. Read this. Did you recognize any of those? When you think of terrible, crushing losses, do any of those come to mind? Not really. Which means their teams are bad and forgettably so, which is the worst spot to be. The only real loss would be the Atlanta music scene, which, in all seriousness, would be a huge blow to The Culture (gonna be honest, I’m very white so I’m sure my thoughts on The Culture are really valued by everyone). But you’re telling me Outkast, T.I., Future, Young Thug, Gucci Mane, Ludacris, Migos, and countless others only are who they are because of Atlanta? Please. They’d be great regardless of where they were from.

I know it sounds harsh saying a major metropolitan area should have been destroyed in the 1800s, but I’m only looking out for the people. How much more can they take? How many more losses, how many more terrible performances? I know I would have tapped out a long time ago. Having one of the biggest cities in America be a den of losers is a bad look for everyone. It wouldn’t surprise me if the government stepped in and did something soon.

Week 7 NFL Picks

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Apologies to anyone riding Chiefs -3. The refs did all they could, but even they couldn’t stop the inexorable death march. It wasn’t exactly a crushing defeat, since I think everyone on earth saw it coming when the Chiefs didn’t score on their last two drives in the fourth quarter, but still. Maybe if the Chiefs caught some of the thousand deflected passes at the goal line and didn’t take timeouts to bail out the scrambling Raiders they could have hung on, but whatever. Maybe if Alex “Jeff George” Smith didn’t clam up at the end and kept going deep against the worst secondary ever things might have been different. No, I didn’t have the Chiefs, why do you ask. As I’ve said before, my picks are trash on Thursday, but they’re cash money on Sunday and Monday. Luckily for you, Thursday already happened. Lines from Bovada.

New Orleans Saints (-4.5) at Green Bay Packers

I find myself overthinking these scenarios almost every time. Aaron Rodgers is out. Brett Hundley looked something less than good in relief last week. Saints have been playing better defense lately, insofar as they’ve actually fielded eleven NFL defensive players, and their pass rush has been hot. Packers o-line is banged up. This is the most obvious game ever. But I just can’t shake this feeling in my gut. It’s in Lambeau. Saints were trying really hard to blow a 45 point lead against the Lions. The NFL is stupid. I fully expect the Packers to win. Which makes me want to go against my instincts because it’s so obviously wrong. But then I get so sure of the Saints that will cover that I flip flop again. It’s an inescapable vortex of indecision that will somehow spit out a correct pick. Or an incorrect one.

Pick: Packers +4.5

Carolina Panthers (-3) at Chicago Bears

Bears have covered every single home game. That’s a fact. No one switches from hot to cold to hot quite as quickly or extremely like the Panthers, and they got embarrassed by the Eagles last Thursday. You don’t come into Soldier Field on at noon on a Sunday (I can figure out timezones, NBD) and get an easy win if you’re struggling. Not with Trubisky under center.

Pick: Bears +3

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings (-5.5)

Did you know the Vikings would have a bye if the playoffs started today? I bet you didn’t. That’s what happens when such a dynamic playmaker is leading the offense. Case Keenum refuses to be contained, putting up adequate numbers every week proving the h8trz wrong. Ravens are just terrible, which makes me very happy. The Color Purple is wasted on them.

Pick: Vikings -5.5

Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5) at Indianapolis Colts

The fact that this the Jags are only a 3.5 point favorite smells like the biggest mousetrap in history. I flat out refuse to take the cheese.

Pick: Colts +3.5

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-3)

AFC East. Catch the fever!

Pick: *closes eyes and jumps* Jets +3

Arizona Cardinals vs Los Angeles Rams (-3.5)

You know what they say, “never trust a West Coast team coming east for a 1 o’clock start.” But what if they’re playing another West Coast team going east for a 1 o’clock start? And what if they’re going so far east they left the country? And what if they’re not playing at 9:30 am or in Wembley? Will a rugby stadium add some toughness to both teams? Or make everyone play scared lest they get hurt and get shamed by the rugby crowd? Why does the NFL think anyone overseas cares? Is Adrian Peterson Back or was last week just a final stand, double barrel middle finger to the Saints? Will Carson Palmer survive this encounter with Aaron Donald? Is there any end to the questions, or is this Cardinals-Rams game the kind of provocative, interesting game that will keep the national discussion going nonstop? I’m going to assume no on that one.

Pick: Rams -3.5

Tennessee Titans (-6) at Cleveland Browns

Wednesday night I went to the Celtics home opener against the Bucks. When I got the tickets, I thought it’d be awesome to be there the first time the new-look Celtics took the Parquet Floor. It didn’t go according to plan. And they lost. Anyway, on the way home from Boston I have to (I don’t really have to, but it’s the fastest way) take the same highway I took at the back half of my drive from my home in Vermont to UConn back when I had some optimism in my future when I was a student. As I approached the exit, I figured what the hell why not go through campus again, maybe get some food from one of my old haunts. So I did. It was a mistake. The huge, multi-million dollar plaza they started building my senior year was done, and it not only looked amazing but also had a ton of stuff I would have liked to have when I was around. Coupled with the countless happy young people who would sniff my old ass out in a second if I ever tried to party with them and it made me pretty depressed. I was low, so I needed something I could rely on. I stopped at my favorite place on campus, Wally’s Chicken Coop. I not only got lunch, but I took some home for dinner, too. It was a short-lived moment of bliss, eating a chicken-nugget-based diet once again. But then this morning, my body reminded me I was no longer in college and probably shouldn’t eat like that anymore. I was on campus for at most 20 minutes and it made me more depressed and downtrodden than anything I’ve done since I graduated. Don’t know if it’s possible to be lower. Oh, wait, yes I do. I could be a Browns fan!

Pick: Titans -6

Tampa Bay Bucs at Buffalo Bills

Do they just not make lines for Bucs games anymore? Do they really think Jameis isn’t going to play? He literally said he’s playing. Whatever, I probably wouldn’t have taken them, anyway. I’m not standing in front of the pre-week 9 Bills train.

Pick: Bills -whatever

Dallas Cowboys (-6) at San Francisco 49ers

Niners are allergic to doing anything but lose in heartbreaking fashion. Ezekiel Elliot is allergic to getting suspended. Something has to give.

Pick: 49ers +6

Seattle Seahawks (-5) at New York Giants

Don’t let the Giants get hot! Seriously, though, please don’t let the Giants get hot.

Pick: Seahawks -5

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-5)

It’s gotten lost in the monsoon of Dalton jokes, but the Bengals have won two straight and have allowed the second fewest points in the AFC. Bengals D is legit and is going to keep this game close. They won’t win. The Bengals have a mental block that prevents them from A) beating the Steelers and B) winning a game that starts after 1pm, but they won’t get blown out.

Pick: Bengals +5

Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots (-3.5)

The spread for this should really be Pats -1000. Falcons lost to the Bills. Falcons blew a 17 point lead and lost to the Dolphins. They can’t beat the AFC East. And now they’re facing the boogeyman that gave them their crippling fear of holding on to big leads? In the belly of the beast? Falcons could be up 56-0 at the half and I’d still be positive the Pats were covering. The Falcons are the softest team I’ve ever seen. Atlanta is the softest city I’ve ever seen. The Patriots own Atlanta. Tom Brady owns Atlanta. I own Atlanta. There’s a better chance of Boo 2! winning the Oscar for Best Picture than the Falcons doing anything other than puking and pooping all over themselves the second the Pats come out of the tunnel.

Pick: Pats -3.5

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5)

Been way too long since there’s been an NFC East division game on national TV, feels good. Eagles have the best point differential in the NFC, and third highest in the league (behind only the Chiefs and…..Jaguars???). Their offense has been smashing people left and right. But the Skins D has been better than a lot of people (me) thought coming into the season, and they have the offensive firepower to hang with the Birds if they go off. This might end up being a fight to the death, and the Eagles may have to forcibly rip every blade of grass they gain from the Redskins’ hands. Or the Eagles will just roll again, but we’re talking about Philly, here.

Pick Redskins +4.5

Bonus College Picks

  • Louisville at Florida State Over 59
  • Maryland at Wisconsin -24.5
  • Oklahoma State -7 at Texas
  • Purdue -9.5 at Rutgers
  • Oregon at UCLA Over 67

2017-18 NBA Western Conference Preview

Eastern Conference

Just gonna jump right into the West after using all of my preamble capacity introducing the East. This is going to be considerably less bleak, since the West has more than four good teams.

122px-golden_state_warriors_logo-svgGolden State Warriors– I know I’ve become known for coming with some strong, unpopular takes, but I think this one might take the cake: the Warriors are the best team in the league.

Over/Under 67.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing the legend Nick Young

Burning Question: Is my Twitter account real, or am I just another Kevin Durant burner account?

Bold Prediction: I think it’d be bolder to say they won’t win the title

 

280px-houston_rockets-svgHouston Rockets– What would happen if you took a clone of Steve Nash and put him on the 2005 Suns, giving them two Steve Nashes to run the Mike D’Antoni system? We’re about to find out! The Rockets made major waves in the offseason by trading the majority of their bench for Chris Paul, who plays the same role in an offense as James Harden, who just had his second second-place MVP finish in three years. Bold strategy, but it might pay off. Even though at this stage in their careers Harden is the better player, Paul certainly has more point guard bona fides, and will likely handle most of the ball handling duty, lest Harden wants to deal with a CP3 temper tantrum on a nightly basis. Moving off the ball might put Harden back in his OKC mindset, where he was just a heat-check scorer-playmaker that would take over games in the fourth. If Harden just becomes a catch-and-shoot, slashing, quick-decision-and-not-just-dribbling-the-ball-for-23-seconds-before-shooting scoring two guard, he might lead the league in scoring. Regardless, I give it 3 weeks before Chris Paul is screaming at Harden during games.

Over/Under 54.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Chris Paul

Burning Question: Will Chris Paul be invited to the club after they lose second round?

Bold Prediction: They’ll set a record for most 3s attempted in a season by the All Star break

 

385px-san_antonio_spurs-svgSan Antonio Spurs– At this point, I think people respect Popovich and the system more than the actual team. Yes, Kawhi Leonard is a basketball cyborg that seemingly doesn’t have any kind of built-in ceiling, but the rest of the roster is kind of meh. Manu and Tony Parker are on their last legs’ last legs. LaMarcus Aldridge became bad sometime last season, and Pau doesn’t offer much besides smart passing and a skilled shooting touch anymore. Then the role players are just that- a bunch of role players that aren’t particularly different from anyone else’s. Leonard is the only outlier on this roster, but the coaching is so good and the players have such great chemistry and continuity that they’ll still bludgeon weaker, unorganized teams and keep it close against the giants of the West. But I don’t know if there’s enough here to go over-the-top. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m assuming this Spurs team has a very post-Brady-but-not-post-Belichick Patriots feel to it.

Over/Under 53.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Rudy Gay

Burning Question: Did Tim Duncan give all of his Old Navy chique wardrobe to Kawhi when he retired?

Bold Prediction: They’ll sit their starters in a TNT game at some point and get the player rest convo going again

 

247px-oklahoma_city_thunder-svgOklahoma City Thunder– I’m pretty sure these win totals might have come out before the Carmelo Anthony trade, because this feels low for them. In one of the greatest displays of general managing/blackmail in NBA history, the Thunder turned all of their bad bench players into Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Not sure if they were holding Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard’s family hostage or something, but picking on the inept Knicks like that should result in some kind of penalty. It’s just not fair for everyone else in the league.

The thought process behind all these moves and the hype surrounding them is pretty simple. Last year, Russell Westbrook was literally the only person on the team, and now he’s got two proven, explosive scorers flanking him. The organization and media will point to the huge extension Westbrook just signed and say “this is because the team showed him they were committed to winning,” but, in reality, Westbrook had no choice whatsoever after the display of pettiness and hatred he showed towards Kevin Durant after he left. The Thunder could have drafted me and said I was playing 40 minutes a game and Westbrook would have signed with a smile on his face (even if he’s dying inside). My biggest concern for this team is can they put the toothpaste back in the tube? They unleashed and unshackled Westbrook last season, allowing him to do anything he wanted on the court whenever he wanted. He shot at will and completely dominated the ball out of necessity, but can he turn it down a little? We all know Melo doesn’t like sharing the spotlight, so I can’t imagine he’ll be super happy if he becomes a higher paid version of Anthony Morrow. Paul George will likely be the de facto backup point guard, but giving him 8 minutes a game when Westbrook is on the bench to spread his wings doesn’t sound like the way to keep him from leaving after this year. I just think Westbrook is going to be Westbrook, shoot the ball a billion times a game including everything even resembling a “clutch” shot, alienate his fancy new teammates by being so intense and never giving them the ball, then play the same woe-is-me, I’m-so-tough-and-loyal-for-sticking-around-unlike-those-pussies-that-skipped-town card that he’s used non-stop since KD left. They also have no bench.

Over/Under 52.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Getting PG and Melo

Burning Question: If you really think about it, what’s the point of any of these West teams trying, anyway?

Bold Prediction: At some point in mid-March, Melo’s feet will fully fuse with the court as he stands in the corner all game

 

269px-minnesota_timberwolves_logo-svgMinnesota Timberwolves– The Wolves are kind of the West version of the Sixers, in that they’re a popular pick to take a big step forward and everyone desperately wants them to be good. And, like with the Sixers, I’m not really all the way in, but at the least the T’Wolves have at least one player who’s proven that he can both play 82 games and play actual defense in all of them in new addition Jimmy Butler. Everyone knows (I just kind of assume everyone remembers every take I’ve ever had) I didn’t want the Celtics to give up everything to get Butler, but that’s mostly because he would have been the Celtics primary option on offense. He won’t be, here. Karl-Anthony Towns could legitimately be the best offensive player in the NBA, and it’s going to seem awfully nonsensical in a couple years that he didn’t make an All-Star team or All NBA team his first two years after he reels of 10 straight. There’s literally nothing he can’t do on the court that the laws of physics and his own massive body prevent him from doing (except playing defense). I don’t even know how he can get better, but I know he can. Andrew Wiggins seemed like the perfect complimentary piece, but Jimmy Butler plays the same position and has the exact same game. And because they got Jimmy Butler, they felt like they had to trade Ricky Rubio, who has become a true unicorn in the era of unicorns: a legitimately underrated NBA player. Now they have Jeff Teague running the point, and I really hope they don’t sincerely think Teague’s leading them to the Promised Land. This team kind of feels like it was cooking along low and slow in the smoker, maturing and progressing at their own, natural pace, but then Tom Thibodeau took it out and threw it in the microwave for some instant results. I’m worried Towns is going to get stuck in the same vortex of mediocrity Kevin Garnett was in when he was in Minnesota. Being the five or six seed and losing first round every year isn’t helping anybody.

Over/Under 46.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Jimmy Butler

Burning Question: How furious is Jimmy Butler that he couldn’t have been traded to Miami or somewhere where it isn’t terrible in winter?

Bold Prediction: They’ll have the number 20 pick in the draft for the next five years

 

268px-denver_nuggets-svgDenver Nuggets– Gotta say, I’m not a fan of the Nuggets going primarily navy blue in their updated jerseys. The light blue was prime time. No one tunes into some Nuggets action looking for some navy blue jerseys (unless it’s the Melo-era alternates, which were awesome) (Speaking of Melo-era Nuggets: the Nuggets from when Allen Iverson got there until Melo left were legitimately some of my favorite teams ever. Everything was fast paced but also 100% isolation-based. There wasn’t Al-Harrington-Don-Nelson era Warriors level of reckless jacking by anyone who touched the ball (another one of my favorite teams ever), but they got some shots up. My favorite thing about them that I think only I ever noticed was that every game they would switch the colors of their accessories. My favorite looks were when they went white jerseys with light blue headbands/sleeves and when they went light blue jerseys with yellow headbands/sleeves. Navy alternates with yellow headbands/sleeves was also a good look. Light blue jerseys with whit headbands/sleeves was an underrated look, but I’m glad they didn’t go to it too often. I also miss the hanging Pepsi globe they used to have). At least the yellow alternates look good.

Anyway, the Nuggets are going to be really fun to watch. Their games are pretty much just first to 150 wins, so don’t expect them to be playing that lockdown, championship level defense come the playoffs.

Over/Under 43.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Getting Paul Millsap

Burning Question: Has the Denver Airport recovered since I left?

Bold Prediction: They’ll lead the league in both scoring and points allowed

 

275px-los_angeles_clippers_28201529-svgLos Angeles Clippers– After years of hating the entire Lob City experience (Chris Paul, the flopping, the bitching, Chris Paul, the constant yelling at refs, Chris Paul, the playoff collapses, Chris Paul), I find myself kind of liking (at least the idea of) this new Chris Paul-less Clippers. Maybe it’s just because they now have Danilo Gallinari, may favorite NBA player (I don’t know why, either). Maybe it’s because they don’t have Chris Paul (my second least favorite NBA player). Either way, I’m kind of excited for this team. I’m ready for a huge Blake Griffin season and am fully invested in Milos Teodosic, who could easily supplant Gallo as my favorite player if he keeps firing no look passes for no reason other than the fact that he can. Unfortunately Doc Rivers is still the coach, which means Austin Rivers (who actually is kind of decent now) will play the whole game. If they can finally get Doc out of there, the Clippers might have something going.

Over/Under 42.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Getting rid of Chris Paul

Burning Question: How will DeAndre Jordan get any State Farm commercials without CP3?

Bold Prediction: Milos will average 15 assists per game in November until everyone just puts some freak athlete on him and ruins the fun

 

268px-portland_trail_blazers_logo-svgPortland Trail Blazers– The only potential playoff team in the West to pretty much come back with the same roster as last season (partly due to their brutal cap situation), the Trail Blazers are pretty much just going to be exactly what they were last year (difficult logic, I know). I have a soft spot for high scoring, high volume backcourt duos, so the Lillard-McCollum tag team is right up my alley. The only problem is they don’t have much else. Sure, Jusuf Nurkic plays an important role in the NBA’s underground crime syndicate, but he’s kind of just a big chunk of meat. There’s no real reliable third scoring option or second unit ballhandler, and they might have the worst backcourt defense in the league. If they make the playoffs, they won’t be there for long.

Over/Under 40.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Nothing

Burning Question: Did you know Portland was weird? You rarely hear about it

Bold Prediction: One game they’ll try to have Lillard or McCollum take every single shot

 

246px-new_orleans_pelicans_logo-svgNew Orleans Pelicans– Last season’s mad science experiment of acquiring DeMarcus Cousins to play next to Anthony Davis in a league obsessed with going small yielded pretty uneven results. The ‘Cans went 7-10 with Cousins in the lineup, but now they’ve had a full offseason to jell. They can learn each other’s tendencies, work out positioning, build up passing and (possible?) pick and roll chemistry, and get ready to dominate teams on the interior. A few issues: Anthony Davis is always nicked up. He misses games left and right every season and is dangerously close to “Mr. Glass” territory. DeMarcus doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to team chemistry and willingness to be coached, and is always liable to get suspended. They also don’t have anything besides those two. I may count Jordan Crawford isos as reliable offense, but I think I’m in the minority. If either one goes down or if it just doesn’t work this team is absolutely done. Cousins is a free agent after this year, too, so if things aren’t going to plan he might get traded once again.

Over/Under 40.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing (gulp) Rajon Rondo

Burning Question: Can we get J.R. Smith back in the Big Easy?

Bold Prediction: Everyone’s getting traded

 

281px-utah_jazz_logo_28201629-svgUtah Jazz– Think the Jazz are the only West team to get this distinction, but Utah has been given the Official Brian’s Den Seal of Anti-Approval. Do not watch this team play basketball if you don’t share my unhealthy love of missed shots, shot clock violations, bad spacing, and turnovers. They’ll play stifling defense, sure, but that only adds to their inherent unwatchability. I just don’t know where the scoring is coming from since Gordon Hayward left Utah’s warm embrace (how could he?). The only saving grace will be Ricky Rubio (who I love) running some pick and roll with Rudy Gobert, who has a legitimate chance at Defensive Player of the Year. Barring a scoring explosion from Joe Ingles (can’t rule it out), Jazz will be sippin’ milk at home as the watch the playoffs.

Over/Under 38.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Getting Rubio

Burning Question: Can Joseph Smith rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the burned Hayward jerseys?

Bold Prediction: Every big time free agent from now until forever will always choose to leave Utah

 

216px-memphis_grizzlies-svgMemphis Grizzlies– Sad times in Memphis. Sad times indeed. A true end of an era. Grit ‘N’ Grind, gone but never forgotten. Without Z-Bo and Tony Allen, the Grizzlies’ well forged identity is gone. Sure, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol remain, but they’re not necessarily Grit ‘N’ Grind, they’re just really good players. And now without their spiritual rudder, the Grizzlies’ ship may go adrift in the rough waters of the Western Conference. Everyone on the roster outside of Conley and Gasol is either always hurt, young and unproven, or old and proven to be bad. There’s really not a lot to like and there doesn’t seem to be much of an identity. I love Marc Gasol. He’s one of my absolute favorite players to watch in the league. But he’s not a guy who’s going to drag his teammates up to his level and force them to win games. Conley is a bit, but he won’t be enough to keep them out of the lottery. Possibly the high lottery.

Over/Under 38.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Getting Tyreke Evans (yikes)

Burning Question: Can we please just get Tony Allen back on the team?

Bold Prediction: Marc Gasol will be sad all season, which will make me sad

 

248px-dallas_mavericks_logo-svgDallas Mavericks– There’s too much blue in the NBA. That’s my take. Too many teams with some shade of blue as their primary color. Time to switch it up a bit.

Anyway, Dirk is one of my favorite player ever (is it bad that I keep listing all these white guys as my favorite players? I think I’ll just avoid talking about who I like from now on), so seeing him finish out his career on bum teams is a real downer. Hopefully him and Dennis Smith, Jr. can roast some people offensively, because I’m not sure if this team is going to stop anybody all season. Rick Carlisle should help them win more games than they should, though.

Over/Under 35.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Finally resigning Nerlens Noel after a bizarre contract negotiation

Burning Question: If they fail to make the playoffs again, will that be the reason that Mark Cuban is out? (A little Shark Tank joke because I give the people what they ask for)

Bold Prediction: Dirk will win All Star game MVP in my dreams

 

291px-los_angeles_lakers_logo-svgLos Angeles Lakers– Did you guys know that Lonzo Ball has that special passing gene that infects the whole team? Did you know he brings a special energy that lifts the team and will likely be enough to win the title this year? Did you know Lonzo is not only the best point guard in the NBA, but is also the best coach, and, soon enough, will be the best GM? If you didn’t, you’ll find out soon! Get ready to get hit in the head with the Lonzo-is-God storyline every time the Lakers win (or come close to winning) a game. It’s going to completely siphon all the fun out of the Ball family, and somehow it isn’t Lavar’s doing. Just the side effect of being on the Lakers/Yankees/Cowboys/Knicks. If you show any sign of promise whatsoever you’re the second coming automatically. How do you think we would up as Lonzo and Kyle Kuzma as the two favorites for MVP?

If you couldn’t tell, I don’t like the Lakers, and now I’m doubly rooting against them now that the Celtics get their pick if it falls between 2 and 5. Everyone always wants them to be good, but I’m fine with them being shitty, and they’re going to be shitty again this year, #sorrynotsorry. If Lonzo is afraid to play against De’Aaron Fox, what’s he going to do when Russell Westbrook comes to town?

Over/Under 32.5 Wins: Please Under

Key Offseason Move: Drafting Lavar Ball

Burning Question: Did you know Lonzo has a rare passing skill?

Bold Prediction: Lonzo will post the worst defensive rating of all time

 

kings_primarySacramento Kings– Kings are going to be terrible, but they’re going to be fun and terrible. I was about to say I like that they committed to just going young until I remembered they signing Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, who was born in 1977! And is still in the NBA! Crazy. I hope they don’t play those guys and George Hill too much, because I just want as much De’Aaron Fox as possible. I’m still on the Buddy Hield bandwagon, and the Labissiere-Cauley-Stein duo is Jay Bilas’s wet dream.

Over/Under 29 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Getting George Hill

Burning Question: Is Sleep Train Arena the worst stadium name in history?

Bold Prediction: They’ll make a blockbuster move for malcontent and free-agent-to-be DeMarcus Cousins

 

259px-phoenix_suns_logo-svgPhoenix Suns– Someone needs to tell the purple teams it’s okay to have good teams. Sick of such a noble color being dragged down by these crappy teams.

Suns are trash. Devin Booker is good, but he’s not especially enjoyable to watch. Eric Bledsoe is good but fragile. Tyson Chandler is ollllllllllllllllllld. Everyone else is like 16.

Over/Under 28.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: ???

Burning Question: Why do they keep forcing weird black jerseys on us?

Bold Prediction: They’ll somehow get screwed in the lottery again

Gonna be a great season. Can’t wait.