NFL Divisional Round Picks

usa_today_10527000-0

I know you’re all thinking it, so I might as well answer your question: Yes, I did have a good birthday. I finally bought myself a Nintendo Switch so I can stop complaining about it, and am looking forward to ruining all productivity in my life as I try to 100% Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. Buying yourself birthday gifts is one of the great joys of adult life. I have a million things I need to do and a million things I need to buy in the next couple months to prepare for a huge moment in my life (stay tuned), but on my birthday that all goes away and I can just buy whatever I want. Who’s going to tell me not to? Not me, that’s for sure. As two of my favorite characters from the greatest comedy show of all time (don’t @ me) said, sometimes you just have to Treat Yo Self.

You what else is a great gift? Accurately predicting NFL playoff games. I didn’t ask for this power, but I have a responsibility to use it for good. If I used it for selfish gain, what separates me from the absolute dregs of society? Nothing, that’s what. That’s why I share my precognizant picks with all of you. So that others may benefit from my startlingly potent game-picking prowess. How else would you have known to bet the house on the Titans? Everyone in the world was telling you to pick the Chiefs. It was so obvious that the Chiefs would roll. Andy Reid and Alex Smith in the playoffs? Rock solid. Having one the worst run defense in the league? Great sign. Being the Chiefs? Always works out. Well, everyone was right. That game was obvious, and the result was clear halfway through the first quarter. “What about the Falcons?” you ask. The answer is simple: I merely overlooked one of the most ancient of Playoff Clichés- You Need Experience to Win (if this is true how would any team win a Super Bowl without previously winning a Super Bowl? The Forgotten Ones who wrote the list of football clichés cared not for our human locig). How foolish of me. It won’t happen again.

At first glance, this week’s games seem a little murky. Some tight matchups that could go either way, some odd lines, Nick Foles. Too many variables for the average football fan. Good thing I’m not an average fan. After climbing to the sacred Temple of the Shield at the top of Gridiron Mountain and meditating with the aid of pigskin fumes, all became clear to me. What appeared to be a difficult group of games to predict became a walk in the park, and I’m confident I’ve got another 4-0 week on my hands. So grab a seat, and make sure to keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. All lines from Bovada.

Last week: 4-0-0

Playoffs: 4-0-0

Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles

This is a game that’s going to scare a lot of people. Falcons look like they’ve put it all together. How can you resist betting against Nick Foles in the playoffs. How can you resist betting against an Andy Reid disciple in the playoffs? I certainly understand the appeal of the Falcons. They looked great last round. But you can’t run away from the DNA, and the National Championship Game was the worst possible sign for the Falcons. What does that have to do with anything? Well, without Carson Wentz, looking at the season-long numbers for these teams is kind of pointless, at least in terms of Eagles O vs Falcons D (Falcons defense is also way better in real life then the numbers would suggest, which is something I can’t really wrap my head around). So that means this game is going to come down to Matt Ryan versus a far superior defense than the Rams’, Dan Quinn vs. Doug Pederson, and the mental toughness of both teams. Now it looks a little different, doesn’t it? Now it comes down to Loser DNA. Granted, Philly has some potent, potent Loser DNA. Some of the worst city-wide Loser DNA out there. But not even Philly is as bad as Atlanta. Which brings us back to the National Championship (another game whose outcome was obvious if you’ve ever watched a game of football before). If Georgia was able to hang on and finally, finally, win something for a Georgia-based team, I’d have a completely different feeling about this game. But they lost. In spectacular fashion. In impossible fashion. It was the slowest, most unavoidable death these eyes have ever seen. It somehow set the city of Atlanta back another 25 years, and they were already about 175 years back from the other countless horrifyingly terrible losses. Falcons have a 0% chance of winning this game. There’s just too much history going against them.

Pick: Eagles +3

philadelphia-eagles-fans

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-14)

Do we really need to talk about this game?

Pick: Patriots -14

chris-evans-freaked-out-over-super-bowl-win

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)

One of my favorite things people do is take games that happened in the first half of the season and use them as gospel when trying to figure out who has the edge in a playoff game. For example: when the Jags went to Pittsburgh in week 5, they forced Big Ben to have one of the worst games a QB can have (0 TDs, 5 INTs) on the way to a blowout victory. Surely the same can happen again, no? Well, since that game the Steelers are 9-1 in games in which Roethlisberger and Co. played, Big Ben took the fork out of his back, and the Steelers regained their place as the team everyone is hoping can beat the Pats in the AFC after a sluggish start. Blake Bortles went from being the worst to being good to being the worst at least five times during that stretch. Point is, pretty much any individual game that happens before Thanksgiving can be thrown out in the playoffs since teams and players reinvent themselves so many times over the course of the season. Something you can draw from? Actual playoff games that happened last week, and if I’m a Jags fan, I’m not feeling great. They had to eke out a 10-3 win against the Bills. The Bills! Yes, the defense looked amazing, as usual. But it’s a big difference between facing the number 26 team in Offensive DVOA and the number 3 team. The Steelers are scoring more than 3 points. Antonio Brown is playing. Probably not at 100% health, but playing nonetheless. Want to put Jalen Ramsey on him to shut him down? Cool, there’s still Smith-Schuster. Want to put A.J. Bouye on him? That’s fine, LeVeon Bell is still the best pass-catching back in the league. And Martavis Bryant, contrary to popular belief, is technically still in the NFL. And they probably have two or three other random ass receivers they took in the third or fourth round that are unstoppable on third down. As long as they aren’t playing the Patriots, the Steelers will score on anyone. The Steelers’ D is better than the Bills’, too. Marginally better (9th in DVOA as opposed to 15th, 19 points allowed against 22, and Steelers led the league in sacks), but still better. Jags looked completely inept on offense. You’re telling me the team that won on Sunday in Jacksonville is going to go on the road to Pittsburgh, where it’s forecasted to be at most 18 degrees on Sunday, and score more than 10 points? Yeah, no. I want the Jags to win. I want the easiest possible schedule for the Pats, competitiveness be damned. But they’ve got no shot, here.

Pick: Steelers -7.5

2011_bret_michaels_article1

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-4)

When I described myself climbing up the imposing Gridiron Mountain to consult the footballing spirits, this game was the primary reason. You could pretty easily make the case this is the best matchup on paper of the entire season. Both teams rank in the top 10 of offensive and defensive DVOA (Vikings rank in the top 5 in both, fwiw). Both top 10 in points scored and points allowed. Somewhat improbably, both teams have one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league. Both coaching staffs are good, or at least don’t make horrible decisions at every turn, which puts them in the top four remaining in the playoffs. It would seem these teams are perfect foils for each other. Which way do I turn? How can I possibly split these hairs? Sure, Drew Brees is better than Case Keenum and I trust him more when the chips are down, but I also trust the Vikings’ defense more than I trust the Saints’. And while the Saints’ trio of Ingram-Kamara-Thomas is one of the best and most explosive group of playmakers in the league, the Vikings have five or six guys that can match that production. The Vikings ruined a perfectly good home field advantage by not giving their stadium a retractable roof, so the dome-team-coming-up-north-to-play-in-the-cold factor is out. Both teams have decent enough kickers that don’t have a history of blowing games. So, when all else fails, where do you look? You have to find the best storyline. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Super Bowl is in Minnesota this year, and no team has ever played the Super Bowl at home. Wouldn’t it be something if the Vikings made the Super Bowl this year? It sure would. But what about the Loser DNA? Ahh, excellent point! The Vikings have some of the most vile, corrosive cases of Loser DNA in recorded history. But theirs is a special strain of Loser DNA. With the exception of the Blair Walsh debacle, the Vikings’ Loser DNA only rears its ugly head when hope is at its highest. Only when the fanbase is fully invested can the Vikings break their hearts, like some kind of perverse god who feeds on the belief of its worshippers. A divisional round matchup against a tough team that’s a popular Super Bowl pick in what’s essentially a coin flip game? That’s not when everyone’s feeling good. Even the most optimistic of Viking fans are surely mentally prepared to lose this game. But an NFC Championship game against either the Nick Foles-lead Eagles or the 6-seed Falcons? Getting one step away from history, only needing to win a game that will look impossible to lose? That’s when the trickster god that controls the Vikings fate will make his presence felt. I already feel bad for the people of Minnesota.

Pick: Vikings -4

article-2437713-18621b4200000578-421_634x423

Advertisements

NFL Wild Card Round Picks

899757084-0

Rejoice and be glad, for it’s finally time for the NFL playoffs. It was a long, mostly terrible regular season, but the carrot at the end of the stick that is playoff football is so close you can almost reach out and touch it. Sadly, the Patriots have yet another first round bye, so they won’t be able to ritualistically murder a hapless AFC opponent this week. Don’t let that take away from the excitement, though. The next three weeks of play get all the shine, but Wild Card weekend is an underrated source of thrills: it’s the perfect blend of pretty high stakes, some teams that were slightly less terrible than other teams in the regular season, and, of course, the start of the Playoff Diet, which consists entirely of pizza, wings, chips, various dips, and beer. Gym’s open on Monday, though, so it’s okay to pig out.

With only four games this weekend, it’s time to get a little more in depth on each game. I’m a stat junkie, so I’ll be hitting you with as much hard-hitting #analysis as you can handle. Aside from ESPN and NFL.com, the sites I like the most are Football Outsiders (DVOA), Pro Football Focus, and some other, secret corners of the web that only the true football intelligentsia can access. Not only that, by doing this in the middle of the Bomb Cyclone currently blasting the Northeast, I’m imbued with all of Mother Nature’s game-predicting prowess. As you all know, I went 256-0 in the regular season, so I’ll be looking to keep things rolling in the playoffs. All lines taken from Bovada.

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-9)

You knew the second the Titans clinched a playoff berth that they’d be playing on Saturday afternoon, and here we are. In many ways, this is the least intriguing playoff game I can remember. The Titans are just terrible and the Chiefs are one of the least trustworthy teams in the NFL. The Titans finished in the bottom half of the league in virtually every possible offensive category (the finished 15th in rush yards per game, hooray! DeMarco Murray won’t play, though. Oh no!). They’re totally inept. I was a huge Marcus Mariota guy when he was at Oregon, and I was rooting so hard for him to be good in the NFL. He just isn’t. After showing flashes the last few years, he completely imploded this year. More picks than touchdowns, barely 7 yards an attempt, career low yards per game. He stinks. The Titans stink. I literally can’t remember a worse playoff team. Any team worth its salt should beat this team by 300. Only problem is the Chiefs aren’t worth their salt. Their defense is a total abomination. 30th in total defense DVOA (ignore the 31st ranked team), including dead last against the run. Wait, didn’t we just say running the ball was the only thing the Titans were okay at? Hmmm. Chiefs have an explosive offense with multiple weapons, but the fact that they completely disappeared for the entire middle part of the season shouldn’t be ignored. And, of course, there’s the intangibles. Alex Smith had a career year. That didn’t make him not Alex Smith anymore. I love Andy Reid to death and think he’s the second or third best coach in the NFL, but the playoffs haven’t been kind to him. The Chiefs haven’t won a home playoff game since 1994. I repeat, the Chiefs haven’t won a home playoff game since 1994. You know who’s won a home playoff game more recently than the Chiefs? The Bills! The team that finally broke the longest playoff drought in the league has a more recent home playoff win than the Chiefs. You think the mentally weak Chiefs aren’t thinking about that? You think Travis Kelce won’t be thinking about Gronk somehow getting a comedy special on Showtime the whole game, seething with rage? This game is so obvious it’s honestly depressing. The Titans are winning a playoff game, folks, and the Chiefs are to blame.

Pick: Titans +9

2de14344e51f3c36bdf823030742b112-tennessee-titans

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams (-6)

Now this is more like it, you’re probably thinking. Two high flying teams locking heads in a playoff shootout. Defense stay home, right? Wrong. Yes, these are two top ten offenses statistically. Very similar, in fact. The Rams averaged 3 yards fewer per game than Atlanta (it should be noted that the Rams didn’t play their starters in week 17). Both strike a strong balance between a downfield passing game and tough-yet-explosive running games. They can both score points in a vacuum. But this isn’t a vacuum, and the Falcons’ defense stinks and the Rams’ doesn’t. In DVOA, which I go to all the time and admit isn’t perfect, the Rams rank 6th in defense and the Falcons rank 22nd. The Rams rank 3rd against the pass, and, despite struggling against the run, have the best defensive tackle in history on the roster. The Rams also had more sacks and ten more takeaways. They’re just better defensively. And the Rams best unit is special teams, too! They have the second ranked special teams in DVOA, trailing only the Ravens (who didn’t make the playoffs, so make of that what you will). The Rams hold a clear advantage on the field and on the sidelines. Dan Quinn is an abysmal game coach. The amount of basic strategic mistakes he makes every week is totally baffling. Sean McVay, on the other hand, is probably the leader in the clubhouse for Coach of the Year. So the Rams have a better d, better special teams, a better coach, anything else? Oh, yeah. They don’t have the biggest collapse in sports history weighing on their minds. Matt Ryan took a huge step back this year already, and once he feels those bright playoff lights shining down on him, he’s likely to collapse. This one could get ugly.

Pick: Rams -6

920x920

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars (-9)

Bills-Jags playoff game let’s goooooooooooooooooooooo!!! The ultimate bizarro world matchup. Two of the sparsest yet most passionate fan bases in the league. Two of America’s most treasured cities. Two of the proudest, most historic franchises in pro sports. I’m legitimately excited for this game, but I’m worried that may be short lived. To put it simply: the Jags have the best defense in the NFL and the Bills have one of the worst offenses and may be without their best player LeSean McCoy. It pretty much just comes down to that. The Bills won’t be able to get anything going on offense. The only thing they have is that they don’t turn the ball over: take away the Nathan Peterman game and they’d have the fewest giveaways in the league. It just so happens the Jags had the second most takeaways in the league. “But Brian,” you’re saying, “the Jags offense isn’t good either. Do you really trust Blake Bortles in a playoff game?” As for Bortles, honestly I have an odd amount of faith in him. He just seems like one of those guys who’s randomly good in the playoffs. As for the offense as a whole, it’s true, it isn’t especially good. It also isn’t that bad. 16th in DVOA, but 6th in total yards and 5th in points per game. The Bills defense also leaves a lot to be desired. Rookie corner Tre’Davious White is an absolute superstar, but they finished 31st in rushing defense DVOA and gave up more rushing TDs than anybody. Guess which team finished the season with the most total rushing yards and tied for second in rushing touchdowns? If you said the Jaguars, you’d be right. I feel the city of Buffalo’s pain, but their first foray into playoff football since 1999 might be short-lived.

Pick: Jags -9

jaguars_fans_3098979c

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-7)

It’s NFL Cliche cannon at this point that it’s tough to beat a team three times in one season. But is it, though? Turns out not really. There have been 20 playoff games where one team won both games during the regular season. The team that won the regular season? They’re 13-7. Saints won both times these two teams met up in the regular season and the game is being played in the notoriously difficult to play in SuperDome. Defensively, they’re so similar it’s almost not even worth talking about. They finished 8-9 in defensive DVOA and were one point away from allowing the exact same amount of total points on the season. Panthers had more sacks, Saints had more takeaways. It’s a wash. Panthers offense, on its best day, is adequate. Saints have the best offense in the NFC and a definite coaching advantage. Do people even know Drew Brees set a new completion percentage record this season? He and Mike Thomas are somehow afterthoughts, that’s how good the Saints are on o. Unless Cam Newton goes crazy and drags the team to a win, I can’t see the Panthers winning. I can see them covering, though. Seven points is too much for a third matchup of the season that doesn’t involve the Patriots.

Pick: Panthers +7 (but Saints win)

saints-fans-61e5a3b678d4cedc

BONUS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PICK

  • Alabama -4.5 vs Georgia

Random Take: If Gilbert Arenas’ Career Started Four Years Ago He’d Be a First Ballot Hall of Famer

566312-gilbert_arenas

Going back home to Vermont for the holidays always brings back memories from a life I left behind long ago. The old DVDs, the family photos, the clothes no one’s had the heart to get rid of yet. The archaic gaming systems in particular drum up some of the first takes I ever had about sports. When I got together with my high school friends and we fired up the PS2 and started playing some old NBA games, my mid-2000s NBA takes came flooding back. I couldn’t help myself and just started spewing them out: “If he was in a better system Kelenna Azubuike would have been an All Star.” “Kevin Martin will lead the league in scoring at least five times.” “Stromile Swift is the greatest athlete in pro sports history.” And, of course, “Gilbert Arenas is the best player in the NBA.” I loved Gilbert. He was my favorite player. I had his shoes! These ones here:

ature-shoes-adidas-ts-elevate-ga-black-gold97_lrg

I was the biggest Gilbert stan in the world. I put on for Agent Zero like random kids from Iowa put on for Kobe. When it all fell apart for him I was heartbroken. It just seemed so preventable. And when I thought about him a few days ago I told my friends “If Gilbert Arenas’ career started today he’d be a first ballot hall of famer.” We kicked around the idea for a bit, but quickly moved on. And I thought that was that. But then when I watched Isaiah Thomas come back last night (did you know he got traded in the offseason? And that he was unhappy about it? I just found out the other day. Crazy) and play well right away, it brought back the Gilbert thoughts. Isaiah can dominate in today’s game, couldn’t Gilbert? Couldn’t Gilbert have been even better today? Then I knew I had to dive in and make the case that Gilbert Arenas should have been an all time great.

I adjusted the take to “If his career started four years ago” because Gilbert’s short-lived prime started four years into his career. Now, Gilbert’s ascendancy to all star status had a lot of Isaiah-like variables: taken in the second round, traded after showing promise, kind of given up on. For the purpose of this, lets just assume all those things happen again so he has the same backstory and motivation. Anyway, from 2004-2007 he made three straight all star games, putting up 27.7 pts, 5.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds (I take it back. What point guard could be considered elite in 2018 only averaging 4 rebounds a game?), and 2 steals shooting .432/.361/.826. He shot over 7 threes a game in a time when threes were still considered poison. He got to the line over 9 times a game in a time where the only thing considered a foul was literal murder. He was one of the most talented scorers in the NBA. Take a look at some of these highlights.

Gilbert dominated playing the modern game in 2006! He would have feasted today. The game is so much more open these days, the driving lanes he had to create himself are now there naturally (that Wizards team was actually strangely ahead of its time with Antawn Jamison at the four, but in 2018 75% of the league’s big men are just as good, if not better, at shooting than he was). He won’t have such a speed advantage today, but James Harden isn’t exactly Usain Bolt and I think he’s okay at getting to the rim. Gilbert would have lived at the line. He averaged 10 free throws a year in 05-06. Do you know how hard that was? That was prime “back in my day, the game was more physical and we didn’t shoot these god damn three pointers!” time. You had to work for those calls. Now they give them away. Gilbert was so quick and had such a tight handle he might get fully erect seeing all the open space afforded him in 2018. And perhaps the important part? Notice all those long 2s he took? Those would all be 3s today. In his prime, he took about 7 3s a game. He finished first or second all three years in most three pointers attempted. If he played in a time that embraced 3s, it’s not like he’d shoot less. He’d be around 10 attempts per game, which is what the most active 3 point bombers like Harden and Steph Curry hoist up. So he’s taking three more 3s a game for that three year stretch, and, assuming he shoots the same percentage, is making at least one more per game. All of a sudden he’s averaging over 30 points per game over a three year period. His three point percentage would have only gone up, too. Coming to basketball maturity in a 3-centric time would have meant more time spent practicing 3s. He wouldn’t turn into Steph or Klay or anything, but I think he goes from shooting 36% to shooting 38-39%. It’s not a huge jump, but it’s probably another made three a game. So now he’s averaging at least 33 points per game over a three year stretch? That’s enough to get Kobe two jerseys retired.

Now, averaging 33 points for three years would probably already be enough for enshrinement. It’s a running joke that literally everyone gets into the Hall of Fame. But what if it was more than just a three year stretch? At the end of the 06-07 season, Gilbert blew out his knee and was never the same. He played 47 combined games over the next three seasons because of the knee, various other injuries, and, of course, the infamous gun incident with Javaris Crittenton (shoutout to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for playing NBA basketball despite being in jail). The missed time, off-court distractions, and the weight of the massive contract he signed in 2008 effectively ended his career. Wouldn’t all of that be avoided today? Arenas missed two and a half seasons because of a torn MCL. Paul George missed less than a full season after his leg was severed in two. Modern medicine (and steroids) are so advanced Gilbert would have been back by the All Star break the following season at the latest, using the rest of that season to get his sea legs back. Unless he’s Derrick Rose, that would have been the end of it. He’d be back to getting somewhere between 28 and 35 points a game for another five years or so. Longer, even. LeBron doesn’t look close to being done yet, and, in this scenario, Gilbert is younger than LeBron. He’d pile up some scoring and shot attempt numbers that would make Russell Westbrook green with envy. The contract wouldn’t have been an issue, either. In those days, people were still outraged about contracts and acted like players should apologize that a team wanted to give them a bunch of money. JJ Redick signed a one year, $23 million deal this offseason and people said it was money well spent. I don’t think there would have been any kind of drama around Gilbert getting a max contract. So there’s two distractions out of the way. Lastly, Javaris Crittenton wouldn’t wind up on his team in 2021. So unless there’s another NBA journeyman who likes to bring guns to the locker room out there, I think we can safely say that scenario wouldn’t happen. By playing today, all the things that derailed Gilbert’s career are gone. I’m going to give a conservative estimate and say he would have averaged at least 25 points a game in nine seasons. That’s enough to put someone on the express train to Springfield. I won’t say anything to his team success because who knows what team he’d be on but since it wouldn’t be the Warriors odds are he’ll never win anything, but if he got the Conference Finals a few times and maybe got to the Finals once or twice I don’t see how anyone could say he wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I think Gilbert Arenas is the biggest lost talent in NBA history. Long live Hibachi.

bestdeficientblacklemur-max-1mb

qivngif

So Are People Still Upset Alabama Made the Playoff?

jalen-hurts_38bp36k1j88n163smrxgtvihe

Remember when people thought Alabama wasn’t one of the four best teams in the country? I do. I remember having to write about how foolish it was that there was a sizable percentage of the population that thought Ohio State should have made the playoff over Ohio State. I’m not usually one to say I told you so, but I told you so. Obviously Alabama was a top four team. 90% of the roster is going to the NFL and they have the best college coach since color TV was invented. Alabama destroying Clemson last night was the most obvious result in college football history. Oh, you’re going to question Alabama’s legitimacy and give Saban even more motivation to beat the team that beat them in last year’s championship game. I apologize if you weren’t smart enough to see a complete demolition coming. It must be hard not understanding how football works.

I don’t want to be confused with a mouth breathing Alabama homer, though. I don’t particularly like them, I just recognize their inherent greatness. The Sugar Bowl was a terrible game for the most part, made even worse by the amazing Rose Bowl that preceded it (I think the Rose Bowl has the highest amazing game percentage of any annual sporting event. Literally every game is a classic). And Alabama predictably making the championship game doesn’t necessarily prove that the playoff works perfectly in its current state. How easy would it be to give this exact same take if Ohio State made it over Alabama and beat Clemson? The only thing it would prove is that both teams are better than Clemson (I don’t think people outside the northeast truly realize how bad that loss to Syracuse really is). And it’s great that we wound up with a championship game that has two of the three best teams in the country (R.I.P. Baker Mayfield), but the same team beat both of these teams, and that team turned around and lost to a team that finished 13-0 and outscored its opponents by roughly 50 points a game. It’s so easy to do this after the season when we’ve seen the results of bowl games where half the teams don’t care, by why the hell wasn’t UCF more involved in playoff talks? If you watched them for one second this year you would have known they were legit. They beat one of the best teams from the big, bad SEC, but they’re still not good enough? Huh? Because they didn’t play anybody? First of all, as the only American Conference homer on the net, back off, and second, it’s really not their fault everyone they play stinks. Alabama player Mercer and the SEC was bad this year. Did you see any SEC bowl games? Nine SEC teams made bowl games and only two besides Georgia and Alabama won. They stink. The SEC is dead. But playing Vanderbilt is really more impressive than playing Temple? Why? If the selection process was purely concerned with picking the best teams with the most talent, that’s understandable. But then there never should have been a debate about Alabama in the first place. And the committee always said it was a combination of talent and resume. Well UCF beat everyone in front of them, and most of the time by a pretty wide margin. Why are they less worthy than a team that lost to Iowa, or two teams that lost to Auburn, a good team that didn’t win their conference, or a team that lost to Washington State? Either expand the playoff or make up your mind on the kind of language you want to use as an excuse to pick the blue bloods over upstart teams. If you want to make the playoff the four teams with the most future NFL players on it, I’m fine with that. Just say that’s what you’re doing. Don’t say it’s inclusive and all about resume and then ignore the team with the best resume. Don’t piss on my head and tell me it’s raining.

With all that said, Alabama will clearly win the title. Georgia doesn’t win national championships. They’re close enough to qualify as an Atlanta team, they don’t have a chance. Especially playing in Atlanta. Too much history, too many expectations. All it means is that Alabama wins again and we have proof that the playoff doesn’t need to be changed since the underdog four seed won so anything can happen. Oh, well. At least it’s almost my birthday.

Countdown to 2018

foreign-earned-income-exclusion-for-2018

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone. Welcome to the second annual Countdown of Countdowns, where we go through a bunch of random power rankings to celebrate the changing of the calendar. Makes sense, right? If you’re old enough to remember, last year there were sixteen countdowns to commemorate 2016. Well, stay with me here, this year there’s going to be seventeen as we say goodbye to 2017. Before we begin, it would feel disingenuous if I didn’t mention that, despite how great the Countdown of Countdowns and random New Year’s Eve concerts are, New Year’s Eve stinks and I’m glad I’ve reached the point in my life where there’s starting to be less pressure to go out someplace way too crowded, spend way too much money, and have no fun. Anyway, now that you know I’m a New Year’s Scrooge, let’s dive right in to the CoC.

Top Five Movies from 2017 Based on Brian’s Den Scoring

  1. John Wick 2– A true cinematic masterpiece
  2. Dunkirk– Best war drama since Fern Gully
  3. Fast 8– I still can’t get over the Rock pushing a moving torpedo with his non-dominant hand
  4. Logan– That Wolverine/Professor X sex scene was wild
  5. Captain Underpants– Only sophisticated senses of humor will understand

Top Five Movies I Didn’t See but Will Say I Saw Come Awards Season to Sound Smarter

  1. Call Me By Your Name– Classic “look up the plot on Wikipedia so I can always act like I know the plot” kind of movie
  2. Darkest Hour– I’m a big Gary Oldman guy so I’ll probably get to it eventually
  3. Lady Bird– Literally have no interest whatsoever
  4. Mudbound– Sitting here wondering if it’s problematic or not that I haven’t heard of this
  5. Phantom Thread– Heard Daniel Day-Lewis plays a spool of thread. Impressive

Top Five Video Games I Played in 2017

  1. Persona 5– Played through this game two times in a row so that tells you how cool I am
  2. Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon– Pokemon games are always top five. Sorry
  3. Nioh– Finally made me believe that, no matter where you are, a white guy can be the hero
  4. Horizon Zero Dawn– Bashes you over the head with its social message, but the gameplay and visuals are top notch
  5. Assassin’s Creed Origins– After playing this I was surprised to learn that Moses did, in fact, look just like Christian Bale

Top Five Songs of 2017

  1. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  2. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  3. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  4. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber
  5. “Despacito”- Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber

Top Five TV Shows I Watched in 2017

  1. Stranger Things– I’ve been #teamSteve since season 1
  2. Game of Thrones– Even a disappointing season is better than most things on TV
  3. Black Mirror– If you love introspection and hate technology, this is the show for you!
  4. Wallykazam!– Most complex depiction of a troll in recent memory
  5. Super Bowl 51- I didn’t really watch much TV this year so I’ll just throw this here

Top Five Athletes of 2017

  1. Tom Brady- Not much explanation necessary
  2. Kevin Durant- He’s got a whole army of fans on social media that will go to bat for him
  3. Pablo Sandoval- Was somehow the worst player in both leagues
  4. Quavo- The new Jim Thorpe?
  5. Maya Moore- She went to UConn, you know. As did I, if I haven’t mentioned

Top Five New Fast Food Items of 2017

  1. Taco Bell Potatorito
  2. Taco Bell Dollar Stacker
  3. Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips
  4. Taco Bell Naked Egg Taco
  5. Burger King Farmhouse King

Top Five New Year’s Eve Concerts

  1. Kid Rock- Spirit Center, Kansas City, MO
  2. Migos- Red Rocks, CO
  3. Diarrhea Planet- Rough Trade NYC, Brooklyn
  4. Sting- Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
  5. Celine Dion- Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas

Top Five Villains in Movie History

  1. Gothmog, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King– Best voice of all time
  2. Hopper, Bug’s Life– The Charles Manson of the bug world
  3. Palpatine, Star Wars– PPPPPPPOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ULTIMITED PPPPPOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWEEEERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!
  4. Darth Vader, Star Wars– The OG
  5. The Night Slasher, Cobra– The greatest acting performance in history

Top Five Things I Love When Other People Do

  1. Shovel snow
  2. Wash dishes
  3. Fold laundry
  4. Taxes
  5. Pick something to watch on any streaming service

Top Five Fast Casual Tex-Mex Chains

  1. Chipotle- Sorry I’m not mentally weak enough to let a little food poisoning scare me away
  2. Moe’s- Best chips going
  3. Pancheros- Most underrated by far
  4. Qdoba- Can’t believe they got rid of their old cactus logo
  5. Del Taco- It’s no Taco Bell

Top Five Colors

  1. Fuschia- Violet or lavender could also substitute
  2. Sky Blue- Compliments my eye color nicely
  3. Turqoise- Just feels like a tropical breeze
  4. Burgundy- Maybe the classiest color along with mahogany
  5. Magenta- Sorry if you don’t like feeling warm and fuzzy inside

Top Five Fictional Animals to Have as a Pet (Before you say anything, Pokemon are partners, not pets)

  1. Pegasus- Riding a horse typically looks cool, but then the horse unfurls its wings and takes flight? Yes, please
  2. Direwolf- Only if you lived in isolation. Which is my dream
  3. Owl- This means Harry Potter owl. I know owls exist in real life
  4. Dragon- From any story. Pick any dragon in recorded history and I’m down with having it as a pet
  5. Jackalope- A good conversation starter

Top Five Condiments

  1. Maple Syrup- I’d have to turn in my “Vermont native” card if I went with anything else. Yes, I have drank maple syrup, and yes, it was amazing
  2. Chick-fil-a Sauce- Arguably the greatest innovation in fast food history
  3. Mustard- All mustard, but specifically deli mustard and spicy brown
  4. Sweet chili sauce- Underrated and pairs with any meat
  5. Ketchup- Can’t ignore it altogether, but if ketchup is your favorite you have plebeian taste

Top Five Gemstones

  1. Garnet- My birthstone, so you know it’s the best
  2. Red Diamond- Most expensive gem in the world
  3. Emerald- I’m a sucker for green
  4. Alexandrite- Love stuff that changes color
  5. Opal- Just looks cool

Top Five Kinds of Bread

  1. Semolina- If cookies weren’t a thing I’d say the Italians had this whole cooking thing figured out
  2. Sourdough- Regular sourdough, not (I repeat: NOT) vaginal yeast sourdough
  3. Wheat- Lets me pretend I’m eating healthy
  4. Cinnamon Raisin- Using cinnamon raisin bread for french toast >>>
  5. White- Old reliable

Top Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

  1. Avengers– Gonna be the greatest movie since the last greatest movie ever
  2. Taco Bell’s newest specialties- Who knows what they’ll come up with next?
  3. Getting one step closer to the end of the world- About time the planet hit the reset button
  4. Kingdom Hearts 3– Just kidding. It’s never coming out
  5. Another year of The Brian’s Den- 2018 is gonna be BIG. I can feel it

NFL Week 17 Picks

b75361412994015015

I find myself saying this a lot, but there really is no better time of year than NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios Season. This year feels tame by typical standards, but the years where no one without a doctorate in mathematics can figure out who’s in and who’s out are always amazing. Are the Titans in? Well, not only do they have to win, there has to be a waning crescent moon and Jupiter and Mars must be in perfect alignment. What about the Ravens? They have to win, everyone else has to lose, and if it isn’t an El Nino year, forget about it. The Bills? Believe me, it’s better if you don’t know. The other great part about this time of year? No one cares anymore. By my count, only 12 teams can gain anything by winning (13 if you include the Browns). That means 62.5% of the league is jockeying for draft position, planning vacations, getting ready to fire coaches, padding stats, and trying not to get hurt. Makes for some great, competitive games! Gonna be a good week, I can feel it.

These picks and all remaining picks until the Super Bowl will be made in the memory of my cat, Sundae. We got her when I was in 7th or 8th grade, and we had to put her down on Wednesday. I know people usually care way more about dogs than cats, but Sundae was an important part of my life; one of my best friends and one of the original fans of the Brian’s Den. She was real sick, so I know she’s in a better place now, but she’ll still be missed. No one was better at picking games than her, and I will do all I can to live up to her memory. On to the games.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-7)

Did you know Blake Martinez leads the league in tackles? It really doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things (the majority of individual defensive stats don’t), but just something to tuck away. Both coaches should be fired after this game, but somehow Mike McCarthy will hang on again.

Pick: Packers +7

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-11)

Another fun fact: the Super Bowl is in Minnesota this year. And the Vikings are in the playoffs. Crazy, I know. Bet you haven’t heard that be brought up this year.

Pick: Vikings -11

Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles

Folks, I have some bad news: Nick Foles is not, in fact, as good as Carson Wentz. RIP Eagles.

Pick: Eagles +3

Washington Redskins (-3) at New York Giants

Literally the only interesting thing that could happen in this game is a brawl on the Giants’ sideline after Eli Apple comes down from the crowd like he’s Roman Reigns.

Pick: Redskins -3

New York Jets at New England Patriots (-15)

I’d say the Jets could probably cover, but that would mean they’d actually score a point. Surprise, surprise, Pats get homefield.

Pick: Pats -15

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-10.5)

I haven’t felt this good about a game all year: I’m all in on the Browns. Steelers have a bye secured and could theoretically get homefield if the Pats lose. As we just covered, the Pats are playing the Jets. Everyone, including the Steelers, knows the Pats will win. The Steelers are just going to want to get this game over with and escape with no injuries. They won’t care whatsoever. The Browns, on the other hand, care very much. No one wants to be the second 0-16 team. The first time was funny, sure, but the second time doesn’t make anyone happy. Don’t be surprised if Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky take Big Ben out in the locker room before the game to ensure their record is safe.

Pick: Browns +10.5

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-4)

Please go scoreless so they never cut to this game on RedZone.

Pick: Texans +4

Buffalo Bills (-3) at Miami Dolphins

To make things simple: If the Bills win and Ravens lose, they’re in. If they hadn’t started Nathan Peterman, odds are they would have already clinched. Gotta love NFL coaching! Yet another fun fact: there have been three seasons in NFL history where a player caught at least 100 passes and had less than 1,000 yards, with all of those players playing primarily in the backfield (shoutout Larry Centers for catching 100 passes as a fullback). Unless he has at least 105 yards on Sunday, Jarvis Landry will become the fourth player and first wide receiver to ever do it. Someone get him out of Miami.

Pick: Dolphins +3

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-9.5)

If you don’t see this shocking Cardinals win as the Seahawks implode on the sideline and try to fight everyone as their season and current run go down in flames, I don’t know what to tell you.

Pick: Cardinals +9.5

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Brocos (-3)

If none of the Chiefs big names play, this could be the most boring game ever played.

Pick: Broncos -3

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Los Angeles Rams

There’s no stopping Jimmy G. I assume the Rams will realize this early on and will proceed to quit. That’s what I’d do if I had to face the second greatest QB in league history.

Pick: 49ers -3.5

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-10)

If the Ravens win, they’re in. If they lose, things get dicey but odds are they’ll still be in. As much as I’d love it if they missed the playoffs, the Bengals haven’t won a game like this since Nam.

Pick: Ravens -10

New Orleans Saints (-7) at Tampa Bay Bucs

Saints win the division if they win, and friends, let me tell you something: the Bucs STINK.

Pick: Saints -7

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-4)

Wait, a game where both teams are actually playing for something? What the hell? Panthers are already in, but would win the division with a win and a Saints loss. Falcons would be in with a win or a Seahawks loss. It would be the perfect Falcons scenario if they made the playoffs, won their Wild Card game, maybe even made the NFC Championship game, only to lose in the most heartbreaking fashion imaginable.

Pick: Falcons -4

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-8)

The Chargers need to win and have both the Titans and Bills lose, which, quite frankly, seems entirely possible. Raiders are so bad but will probably be a popular pick to bounce back next season.

Pick: Raiders +8

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-3)

I really hope the Jags don’t punt on this game, because the Titans should not be in the playoffs under any circumstances. They’re just so bad and so boring and have a 0% chance of winning a game. Which means they’ll be playing the Pats in the second round.

Pick: Titans -3

Bonus Bowl Picks

  • USC +9 vs Ohio State
  • Washington vs Penn State -3
  • Wisconsin -4.5 vs Miami (FL)
  • UCF +10 vs Auburn
  • LSU -3 vs Notre Dame
  • Georgia vs Oklahoma +2
  • Alabama -3 vs Clemson

Happy One Year Anniversary to Me

all-the-joys-of-love

Wow. As of today, it’s officially been a full year since I started The Brian’s Den. I know, I know. Congratulations to me and all that. Hard to believe it’s been 365 days since, a day after George Michael’s death, I decided to start this website. There’s been a lot of ups and a couple downs, but hopefully it was never boring. The world takeover hasn’t quite happened yet, but I still appreciate everyone who comes here to waste a few minutes every day. You’re all part of the the most exclusive club in the world, so don’t be afraid to puff out your chest a little bit and act like you’re better than everyone. You read the most educational website in the world, after all.

Now, were I a true professional, I’d have something special planned for my one year anniversary. Unfortunately, I’m not, so I don’t. So instead of forcing some content to materialize that undoubtedly won’t be good, I figured I’d just run back some posts that I know are good. That’s right, it’s the Official Brian’s Den clip show!

The Videos

Coors Field Concession Review

Denver Airport Conspiracy

Hot Dog Eating Contest

Episode 1 of my short lived cooking show (RIP)

How I Saved New York City

Can’t go too long without mentioning my (sort of) signature series, Burning Questions

Burning Questions Hub

The Food Takes

Which Fast Food Place Has the Worst Dressed Customers?

Fast Food Sauces Stink

Halloween Candy Power Ranking

Crab > Lobster

Why I Hate Lunch

The Grocery Store Rules

Best Pizza Chain

The Best #sports Talk

What’s up with JJ Redick’s tattoos?

The NBA’s Hidden Crime Syndicate

This is probably problematic but I still think it’s funny

Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee?

Pats Won the Super Bowl if you hadn’t heard

Entertainment News

Best Action Movie Characters

Stop Calling Die Hard a Christmas Movie

The Greatest Video Ever Made

Is The Weeknd a Virgin?

The Next Oscar Winner

The comprehensive list of Yu-Gi-Oh! takes

The Special Occasions

Countdown to 2017

Valentine’s Day

Eclipse 2017

Thanksgiving

Christmas (including Hawaiian Christmas)

So, what’s your favorite post? Did it show up here? Or do I have so many good ones that I overlooked some? What was my worst one (trick question, of course)? Let me know what you liked and would like to see more of. It was a good year one, and hopefully year two will be a big one.