Week 4 and I'm ticked.

I just read Bill Simmons' power rankings and I'm just livid. He's on some hardcore crack. Still funny, though. I may have a man-crush on him, but I don't have to like him right now...

Time to drown my sorrows in a big bottle of picks. (A note: I'm not writing something about every game. I just don't have it in me right now. Look for this to continue.)

Minnesota (+1 1/2) over BUFFALO
This is one that I really don't understand. Who has Buffalo beaten? Miami? Honestly, I don't remember. But the Vikings play three playoff teams from last year and go 2-1. They gave one of the top five teams in the NFL (Chicago) all they can handle, and now they're underdogs?! Seriously?! It's time for everyone to stop slamming the Vikings. They're better than they get credit for. They're the Mark-Paul Gosselaar of the NFL. When he was on Saved by the Bell, nobody took him as a serious actor. But when he hit NYPD Blue (and even before that in "Dead Man on Campus"), he showed he had some chops. Same thing here. This is the Vikes' "Dead Man on Campus". Two touchdown margin at least.

KANSAS CITY (-7 1/2) over San Francisco
Let's keep in mind that KC has only scored 16 points this season. To beat the spread they need their margin of victory to be half that? Pass. Hey, is [I forget which brother] Huard starting this week?


No, I guess it doesn't matter.

Miami (-4 1/2) over HOUSTON
It seems odd, but I'm getting excited over this game. I'm fairly sure that the defenses shouldn't even bother gearing up this week. I'm going to love watching the scores roll in on this game. I wonder what the over/under is on "unchanged score with each successive turn through the ticker" is. Four? Five? With three big players in this game, my fantasy team (Minnesota Blue Steel) is looking for a big week.

Indianapolis (-9 1/2) over NY JETS
Here's what I would love: The Jets somehow beat the Colts. I don't know, maybe the Colts really mail this one in. We endure a week of "The Jets Have Arrived" stories, and it skews every line on them for the next two months. I would love to watch how long it took everyone to realize, "Oh wait, they still suck." This would be a fun storyline that wouldn't go away for a while, owing to the East Coast Media Bias. (Yes, it gets caps.)

CAROLINA (-6 1/2) over New Orleans
Remember last week when I said that the Saints would win and I'd look like a genius? Just making sure.

ST LOUIS (-5 1/2) over Detroit
I wonder how big the "Fire Millen" campaign will get this year. It was at cacaphony level last year, could it get worse than that? What will it take to fire him? Nobody's denying he's the worst football executive of the past twenty years at least. I don't even think Millen would disagree. But after losing at home to the loathesome Packers, is there any on-the-field humiliation they could endure that might cost Millen his job? Or does this have to boil down to an off-the-field scandal? I bet Matt Millen is really glad he secretly tailed the ownership on their Philipino boy-love trip. That's the only explanation I can come up with.

Cleveland (-2 1/2) over OAKLAND

PHILADELPHIA (-10 1/2) over Green Bay
As baffled as I am that the Packers somehow weaseled their way into a Monday night game, I love that they get to be dismantled on national television. Give up hope, Packers fans.

The Year.

I've been waiting for an appropriate time to write my "Why I Think The Twins Have It This Year" post, and I feel that time has come. Why? Because of last night.

Playing the lowly Royals, and knowing that Detoit has already lost, Brad Radke makes his comeback from a stress fracture in his shoulder. It's his last year (he's already said he's retiring), and a first-place position is on the line. The Tigers have had a lock on sole possession of first place in the AL Central since May 21st. In early August, the Twins were over 10 games back.

Radke throws 57 pitches over five innings, allowing only one unearned run on three hits. He's back. He provides the Twins with a solid, veteran presence as the third starter in their post-season rotation. Still, the bats were cold, as inning after inning rolled by with the Royals clinging to a 1-0 lead.

Bottom of the ninth, two outs, and Joe Mauer comes to the plate. How storybook is this? The first catcher to win a batting title since the 1950s (at this point I don't know if it's even mathematically possible for him not to win it). The drama was high. What does he do? Why, he belts one out of the park to tie it up and send it to extra innings. I only watched the highlight this morning, and it was tough to keep it down to a dull roar. It was that exciting. Of course, the Twins pull it out in the bottom of the 10th inning and claim a tie with the Tigers for first place.

It's these kind of games that make me think the Twins have it this year.

I've been very blessed to see my team win two World Series in my lifetime, to grow up idolizing Kirby Puckett. And yes, I believe I can tell when a year is special. I felt it in 1987 and 1991, and I feel it this year. Games where the Twins come back in improbable fashion make that feeling stronger. When a whole season is considered an improbable comeback, that feeling goes off the charts.

Player for player, I think these Twins are more stacked than either World Series champion team from their past. We have Johan Santana, the most dominant and fearsome pitcher in baseball today, a shoe-in for Cy Young. We have the aforementioned Joe Mauer, AL batting champ. We have Justin Morneau, top two in MVP voting easy. Cuddyer has over 100 RBIs. There hasn't been a 30 HR hitter in a Twins uniform since 1987, and now we have two, Morneau and Torii Hunter. We have a bullpen that is simply sick. We have at least three solid starters for the rotation. The only team that compete with the Twins is the Yankees.

I really like this team, because they never fold. Losing streaks are abruptly stopped, games are salvaged, they persevere. I think it's their consistency since early June that has impressed me the most. They've had their hot streaks, but they really have stayed very competitive for a long period of time.

I'll call it right now, championship!


Bye bye Saturn.

Did you ever have an emotional attachment to a car? Whenever a television commercial comes on with the whole "We Americans Love Our Cars" theme--for auto insurance, oil filters, what have you--I get a little cynical, like a political commercial telling us to elect this guy to protect our children, only with cars.

Well, the reason I bring this up is because I finally sold my Saturn SW1 today. It's been sitting around since we bought a ZX2 in June, but I finally posted it on craigslist and it flew away. (Sidenote: craigslist is the best way to sell a car EVER. I cannot stress this enough.) It's now in the possession of a very nice young missionary couple from Sweden. And last night, after I accepted the offer they gave me (too little in my opinion, but it's more than nothing), I sat in bed and thought about all the good times I've had in that car.

There was a time in my life when I drove 180 miles a day between home and college. Some people ogle at that number, but I wouldn't trade those days for the world. How many songs did I sing at the top of my lungs speeding down a pitch black interstate in central Minnesota? How many days did that thing lug my golf clubs around? I fell in love with sports talk radio in that car. We went to seven states, me and the Saturn. We took the Mrs. to the drive-in. It was the getaway car at my wedding, for crying out loud.

I guess I don't really have a point here but I just wanted to say that it's not silly to have a sentimental connection with your car. And even though I'll be sad for a couple hours, I hope that in a few years I have just as many happy memories with my ZX2.

Me vs. ESPN braintrust, week 3.

I had another shaky week, but it looks like everyone else did as well. Big ups for the Saints, who saved me from pastry purgatory in the office. I went 8-6, which for the week tied Salisbury and Jaworski, and beat Theismann, Hoge, Mortensen (5-9?!), and Golic. Only Schlereth and Allen had me this time. For the season:

Hoge 30-16
Schlereth 30-16
Me 28-18
Allen 28-18
Jaworski 28-18
Salisbury 28-18
Theismann 26-17
Golic 27-19
Mortensen 26-20

And looking ahead to week four, I'm worried. Too many visiting teams to pick, too many games too close to call.


I blame myself.

Around 2 p.m. mountain time yesterday, I felt elated. I was watching the Vikings own Rex Grossman. I was watching Mewelde Moore battle--no, juke, jive, spin, claw--for an impossible first down against the vaunted Bears defense, then do one of the more entertaining celebrations in recent memory, crawling for more yardage after the play. And then, in a move of utter stupidity, I said to myself, "I don't believe it, the Vikings are gonna win this thing." I then spent the next hour reenacting Chris Farley in an old SNL sketch, constantly repeating,

"I blame myself."

Now, I'm not a superstitious man. Far from it. I do happen to believe that God is not a Vikings fan, but beyond that, all bets are off. But lets look back at some of the more memorable highlights of the last few years of my football fandom:

January 1999. The Purple handed a shellacking to the entire NFL that year, going 15-1 and cruising to the NFC championship game. In the last week of the regular season, they beat the division-leading Jaguars by a score of 50-3. 50-3! Then Atlanta rolls into the Metrodome. Gary Anderson misses the only field goal of the year. Denny Green, who has the most potent offense in NFL history up to that point, inexplicably kneels with over a minute remaining to send the game to overtime. Duh. Falcons win, they go to the Super Bowl.

January 2001. I don't really know how it happened, but the Vikes found themselves in the NFC championship again, this time facing the Giants. This one, in a perverse sort of mercy, never got off the ground. The beatdown we received was so bad that the only conceivable explanation was that they were stealing our play calls. 48-0, the Giants go to the Super Bowl.

January 2004. The Vikes start the season 6-0, then stumble to 9-6 with one game remaining. Win, and we make the playoffs. Luckily, our opponent was the lowly Arizona Cardinals, led by the dreadful Josh McCown. With time dwindling in the fourth quarter, McCown leads the worst team in football that year down the field and scores a miraculous touchdown on fourth and 20-something with no time remaining. The Vikings go home.

I blame myself for thinking that my team could ever have a game in the bag with time remaining on the clock. What happens? Fumble, Bears recover, suddenly Grossman looks unstoppable (of course he does), chucks the game-winning touchdown. Vikings lose.

After the game, as I was pouting, my wife said, "Honey, this is the Vikings." This coming from a woman who just last year had to have the concept of a first down explained to her. And even she knew better than I did that the Vikings will always choke in big situations. I spent the next ten minutes trying to lay out all the points of why I think that this Vikings team is different. New coaches, new attitude, new ownership, whatever. It didn't matter for jack when the game was on the line. This is still the same franchise whose biggest favor to me as a fan was losing their four Super Bowl appearances before I was born. Thanks a lot guys. If you need me I'll be slamming my head in a car door.

But will I learn? Heck no.

I'll be cheering for my Purple just as loud next week when they go to Buffalo. Even now I'm searching for signs of hope, and there are plenty. This game had no direct playoff implications. We took one of the elite teams in the NFL down to the wire. The defense looked fantastic for 57 minutes. We're still 2-1 through a brutal first three weeks of the season. I guess this is the life of a fan. We'll gladly take innumerable stabs to the chest just to hold onto the hope that someday the joy of seeing our team win it all will be worth it.

Just make it quick boys.


NFL week 3.

In week one, I was giddy like Christmas morning. In week two, I was eager like the first day of school. Now that it's week three, I'm shaking like I've had a pot of coffee. I think my love of football is becoming unhealthy. SWEET! On to the picks (home team in caps):

MINNESOTA (+3 1/2) over Chicago
We'll call this one Upset Special of the Week #1. And no, I'm not being delusional. Chicago hasn't faced anyone nearly the caliber of the Vikings, on either side of the ball. Everyone's talking about how Rex Grossman is coming alive at quarterback, and oooh, the Bears offense looks dynamite. They've played the Packers and Lions, for crying out loud. Coronado High School could light them up. The fact is that Grossman hasn't seen ANY pressure yet this year. If the Vikings defense (ranked 7th in the NFL, thank you very much) can put any pressure on Rex at all, he'll get his happy feet and could be very prone to mistakes. The Bears defense is a formidable foe, that's true. But they're a cover two just like Minny, and they've been built for speed, not power. If the Vikings O-line lives up to expectations, and we've seen glimpses of that in the fourth quarters of the past two games, the Vikes could end up punching the Bears' D right in the mouth for the whole game. Tony Richardson needs to have a huge game taking Urlacher out on running plays. In the end, this will be the week the Vikings start to be taken seriously. You heard it here first.

Washington (-3 1/2) over HOUSTON
This one was a toss-up for me. Houston put 24 on Indianapolis. That's pretty good. Basically my feeling here is that if the Reskins lose, then all hell breaks loose in Washington. They won't do that. They'll win just enough games to keep a riot down, just enough for people not to get fired before the season ends. Enjoy your 7-9 season, Skins fans.

BUFFALO (-5 1/2) over NY Jets
I don't know. Why does this game even matter?

DETROIT (-6 1/2) over Green Bay
Closed circuit to all the Sconnies that read this blog: give up hope. Your team is 6 point dogs to the LIONS!

INDIANAPOLIS (-8 1/2) over Jacksonville
This is amazing. A team beats the defending Super Bowl champs--absolutely shuts them down--and they're still this much of an underdog?! Who makes this line? I do think the Colts will win (I'll pick them every week until they let me down), but if you're a better, take the Jags on the points.

MIAMI (-10 1/2) over Tennessee
Ok, that whole Culpepper thing was totally off base. Sorry. But if they keep statistics like "best fantasy player who plays for the suckiest team", then I had the steal of the draft with Ronnie Brown. If you're from Miami, thank the good Lord above that he dropped this creampuff in your collective lap.

PITTSBURGH (-2 1/2) over Cincinnati
This one's getting WAY too much hype. There's the east coast bias for you. I suppose technically these are both midwest teams, but... you know what, no it's not east coast bias. People just get way to interested in the Steelers. I really don't know what to make of this game, I guess I just think Cincy has too many injuries and jailbirds.

Carolina (-3 1/2) over TAMPA BAY
I'm still lobbying for the Bucs to go back to their orange and white uniforms, so we can easily identify their suckiness. Remember the good old days of two weeks ago when people thought this would be a huge game?

Baltimore (-6 1/2) over CLEVELAND
Poor Browns. Ain't no way they're winning a division title in the next five years. They could rebuild twice before they could have a shot at the postseason. Oh well, they named their team after poop. They get what they get.

SEATTLE (-3 1/2) over NY Giants
Closed circuit to Mike Holmgren: Don't sit on a lead. Heel to the throat, that's what you should be shooting for. We don't need anyone else putting delusions of grandeur into Eli Manning's head. It's gone on far too long.

ARIZONA (-4 1/2) over St. Louis
Three words: Take. The. Over.

Philadelphia (-6 1/2) over SAN FRANCISCO
I'd hate to be any 49er right now. Philly is looking to take out some frustration this week. Is there any chance that the margin of victory in this game will be less than 21 points? Any?

NEW ENGLAND (-6 1/2) over Denver
It's just really hilarious to hear people calling for Plummer's head. There's no way Cutler will start a game this year unless the Broncos give up on their season (read "until they play San Diego"). New England doesn't really inspire confidence in me--I'd put their Super Bowl chances at about 200 to 1 right now--but they'll beat the Broncos on the revenge factor alone.

NEW ORLEANS (+3 1/2) over Atlanta
Let's call this one the Upset Special of the Week #2. Yes, the Falcons look unstoppable. Yes, New Orleans has gotten good off of weak teams the last couple weeks. But my theory here is that the Saints pull off one emotional win every year. This is the one. Call it a fool's theory if you must, but if women can make picks based on which city they'd like to live in more, then I can do this. When I'm right on Tuesday you can start believing in my genius. It's okay. I'll wait.


Me vs. ESPN braintrust, week 2.

I went 12-4 last week (stupid Pittsburgh), correctly calling San Francisco's and Minnesota's improbable victories. Unfortunately, everyone else had a great week too. I didn't even get close to winning the office pool. For the week I beat out Theismann (10-5), Salisbury (11-5), Jaworski (11-5), and Golic (11-5), and tied with Allen. So my running total is 20-12. Here's the big list.

Hoge 23-9
Schlereth 21-11
Mortensen 21-11
Me 20-12
Golic 20-12
Jaworski 20-12
Salisbury 20-12
Theismann 19-11
Allen 19-13


AL Central mania!

The Tigers go to Chicago for the three-game set this week. As a Twins fan, this is delicious because the two biggest competitors get to beat up on each other during the stretch run. I love it. No matter who loses, the Twins win. And yet, I am picking a side.

I'm cheering for the White Sox.

The Twins catching and passing Detroit would mean they'd host an ALDS matchup, and they wouldn't likely have to play the Yankees until the ALCS. The home-field thing is cool, but playing the Yankess for a trip to the World Series sounds wonderful.

As much as it sounds terrible to say this, I'd like Chicago to catch up to within three games of the Twins over the next week and a half. I want the CWS/MIN series at the Metrodome at the end of September to mean something for both teams. I want my team to eliminate last year's champs, to crush their fleeting hopes once and for all. Thus, I will be cheering for the White Sox this week.

In the words of Bill Simmons, I'll now go wander into oncoming traffic.


Diet Coke rockets, playgrounds, and fantasy football pranks.

Coworker Dan was telling us today about how his grandkids were climbing on the outside of playground equipment and jumping off of it. That makes me feel good. It's been a disturbing ride, seeing steel monkey bars and metal slides on asphalt replaced by soft foam, molded plastic, and wood chips. I was afraid the kids of America were going soft. But if they're still using the playground equipment improperly, if they're jumping from swings, then they'll get tough. We need those stupid kids to fight our wars someday.

Speaking of stupid kids, how about Mentos and Diet Coke rockets? It warms a special place inside me to see YouTube clips of teenagers firing off homemade rockets and giggling like idiots. It reminds me of making a homemade spud cannon with my 40-year-old neighbor. I can only imagine the horror my parents felt, coming home from the grocery store to find Steve and I putting matches inside a PVC pipe filled with flammable gasses. Good times.

I pulled what I'll declare is the best fantasy football warning prank of my life today. Paul, last year's champion and one of three confirmed readers of this blog, stepped out of his cubicle this morning just before I stopped by to drop off some stuff. He should know better than to leave his fantasy football page open with his password saved. Knowing I had to do something fast, I quickly maneuvered to the "add a running back" page. What a delight to see Justin Fargas of the Oakland Raiders still untaken. Well I just thought Paul needed him. I selected Fargas, and uh oh, his roster is full. He'll need to drop somebody. You know, I think Edgerrin James is due for a monumental collapse, let's get rid of him. Luckily for Paul, there's a "do you really want to do this?" page, with confirm and cancel buttons. That's good enough. For me to actually go through with this move would require a skosh more evil than I'm capable of. But for him to come back to this screen is beautiful. Headgames, that's my edge. I'll be dominating my league before you know it. I can get to anyone, anywhere. Nobody's safe.


NFL week 2.

I just can't wait to make my picks. For some reason I'm extra antsy this week. So here are my predictions (home team in caps):

MINNESOTA (+2 1/2) over Carolina
I'm not off the Panthers bandwagon, they're still great. But Steve Smith is still hurt, and I'd put Minnesota's defense up there past Atlanta's. Carolina's on the road this week, and even though they'll come out fired up, so will the Vikings. If Carolina doesn't jump out to an early lead, this one could (and probably will) get ugly. Closed circuit to Fred Smoot: Don't. Say. Anything.

CHICAGO (-8 1/2) over Detroit
Every year we hear in the first few weeks some feeble attempts at asserting, "The roar is restored." No it's not. It hasn't been in a decade, and it ain't now. I'll hand it to the Lions defense for holding Seattle to 9 points, but the Bears looked downright pimpish last week. Detroit, you been holdin' out. You get a backhand from your pimp. Shut up, Roy Williams.

INDIANAPOLIS (-13 1/2) over Houston
I can't believe I picked the Texans to win last week. Go ahead, pile some hot coals on my head. I'll wait.

New Orleans (-1 1/2) over GREEN BAY
Ladies and gentlemen, contestant number one in the "Who's Getting Yanked First Showdown": Brett Favre! It truly is tasty that Green Bay is a home dog for the second time in two weeks. And with good reason. They suck in a way that I've never in my lifetime seen them suck. That's including the Majkowski years. Misplaced Deity Favre is a mere week or two away from being pulled, and when Ahman Green gets injured by week 7, they can finally officially enter the glorious rebuilding phase. As for the Saints, Reggie Bush is the real deal. I love that guy now that he's not at USC. The feel-good story continues for another week.

PHILADELPHIA (-3 1/2) over NY Giants
I said last week that I wouldn't pick Philly until they impressed me. Done. Let's call this one "Manning Bowl II", and then Eli can feel okay about losing this one too.

BALTIMORE (-8 1/2) over Oakland

ATLANTA (-5 1/2) over Tampa Bay
I won't join the rest of the sports media and crown John Abraham the NFC Defensive Player of the Year just yet. I will, however, hand over the "Most Old Testament Surname" award. Congratulations! Elsewhere, I was really surprised that Tampa looked so inept last week. It would have been easier to spot if they just went back to those old orange uniforms. The lobbying starts right now.

CINCINNATI (-10 1/2) over Cleveland
Thanks, Carson Palmer. You racked up only 5 more fantasy points than LenDale White, and he was inactive. You are subsequently benched. I don't care if it costs me in the win/loss department, because I'm getting destroyed anyway this week. Shows you. Funny factoid: As it turns out, I had been spelling Cincinnati wrong my whole life up until recently. Gee.

MIAMI (-6 1/2) over Buffalo
That loss last week was embarassing. I can't believe their quarterback would just buckle like that with the game on the line. Which team am I talking about? Does it matter? We'll gather more data here about whether my Culpepper Upswing Hypothesis holds any water. I'd rather we didn't gather more data though. Just hand it to Ronnie Brown. He's good.

SEATTLE (-7 1/2) over Arizona
I don't feel comfortable about this one at all. Definitely take Arizona on the points.

SAN FRANCISCO (+3 1/2) over St. Louis
Don't start drinking the Rams kool-aid just yet, Denver laid an egg on the first week last year too. Plus this week they're facing a team with a quarterback other than the dreadful Jake "Cream Cheese Turnover" Plummer. I caught the end of the 49ers game last week and I gotta say, Alex Smith looks much better this year. Don't sleep on the Niners.

SAN DIEGO (-10 1/2) over Tennessee
Ladies and gentlemen, contestant number two in the "Who's Getting Yanked First Showdown": Kerry Collins! Anyone who complained about the Chargers' tough schedule need to stop talking immeditately. And probably not open their mouths until next year. I haven't seen this many cream puffs since, well--I'm really losing my touch. Speaking of losing the touch...

DENVER (-10 1/2) over Kansas City
Ladies and gentlemen, contestant number three in the "Who's Getting Yanked First Showdown": Jake Plummer! This one pains me, but I have to pick with my head, not my heart. Just like the Broncos' opposing defenses. [Resigned sigh.]

New England (-6 1/2) over NY JETS
This one's a lot more of a risk than anyone in Boston would ever admit to, but after the scare against Buffalo last week, anything's possible. If the Pats make the Super Bowl, it will be Misplaced Deity Belichek's biggest feat yet, as he's planning on doing it without a wide receiver.

Washington (+5 1/2) over DALLAS
My upset special this week. This one is halfway a spite pick, however. I was giddy like a schoolboy last week watching the Jags humiliate the mighty Cowboys. Who would've guessed Jack Del Rio would outcoach Bill Parcells? I saw it though. It happened. But after watching the Monday night Vikes/Skins game, I really like the Redskins. I'm a big believer in the transitive sports property, so if Washington takes this one, that means Minnesota's better than Dallas too. Then I can talk some trash to my boss. Not that I would, but I could.

Pittsburgh (-1 1/2) over JACKSONVILLE
I don't like making this pick either, but the Steelers looked mighty good last week. Jacksonville got up for this game last year and won in Pittsburgh, but I just got a feeling about this one. That almost certainly means that I'm wrong.

I'm getting all Roy Williams on ya' and guarateeing a winning record this week. It's got to happen. If I just believe hard enough...


JuMo for MVP.

Justin Morneau should be the American League MVP this year. You think I'm just being a homer, but the guy is clutch.

Last night against Oakland is a perfect example. With runners on second and third, down one run, in the bottom of the eigth, Morneau comes to the plate. Do you think there was any chance he wouldn't get those two guys in? Shyeah right, about as much chance as Bonds being clean. Double off the wall in left center, two RBI. Steals home for an insurance run. This guy is definitely in the top of the AL MVP race.

Consider these numbers: Last night JuMo hit his 18th game-winning RBI of the season, tied with Alex "Get Me Chuck Knoblauch's Number" Rodriguez for the AL lead. He has a .962 OPS. I'm still new to that stat, so I can't tell you if that's good or not, but you can't argue with .324 AVG, 33 HR, 120 RBI. He's the first Twin to hit 30 HR since 1987, for crying out loud.

Who's his competition? David Ortiz? Not unless the Red Sox somehow make a unprecedented charge into the playoffs. Jermaine Dye? Again, no playoffs, no pick. Derek Jeter? I'd say he's the main competition. Oh, and let's throw Johan Santana into the mix. The sad part is that the baseball media won't notice Morneau, and they'll hand off the MVP to Jeter by default. It's a shame, but that's how it works. Small market teams get the shaft every time. I'll just have to take solace in a Twins victory over the Yankees in the ALCS.

Added note: I'm declaring the remainder of September "Wear Your Favorite Twins Facial Hair Half-Month". I'll be sporting the Joe Nathan Soul Patch.


Me vs. ESPN braintrust, week 1.

Last year I picked SO much better than most of the "experts" over at ESPN. So this year I'm broadcasting that as a substantive fact, rather than something I randomly boast and have no way of really proving.

I went 8-8 this week, recovering nicely by picking both Monday night games. That makes me better than Allen and Mortensen, and tied with Schlereth. Were I at ESPN I would be tied for 6th out of 9. That's ok though, I started slow last year and really picked up some steam later on. And at least I've got two games on Bill Simmons, who is sitting at 6-10. But it's still way too early to decide anything, other than Minnesota and Baltimore will be ending up in Super Bowl XLI.

Vikings (1-0) 19, Redskins (0-1) 16

I saw a funny bumper sticker on the way into work today. It said, "I found Jesus--he was behind the sofa the whole time." Can't tell if that was pro- or anti-Christian, but I got a good laugh.

You know how sometimes a band you used to like--say, Portishead--pops up in your party shuffle and you just have to listen to the whole album and suddenly you're transported back to New Year's Eve 1998? (Yeah I listened to Portishead on New Year's Eve, didn't we all? No? Just me? Strange...)

Ok, enough small talk. Cue the music, I'm walking on sunshine this morning. And in a perfect world, Brad Childress was dancing around to that song like a little girl while making breakfast today.

A good article from Michael Smith.

I really liked Childress' decision to sit Dwight Smith. I'm tired of the Love Boat scandal hanging over my head. People accuse me of it like I've done something wrong. It's awful. Sitting a starting safety for a Monday night game sent the message loud and clear. Props, Brad.

I love Ryan Longwell. For years he made every big kick against the Vikings, and when there was just over a minute left last night I felt no anxiety whatsoever. The guy's money. I haven't felt that way about a Vikings kicker since Gary Anderson in 1998, and look where that led.

Chester Taylor's stock went way up in my book last night. He wasn't electric per se, but he was solid. He touched the rock 34 times and amassed over 120 yards. If he puts in anything close to that every week, he gets team MVP honors from me. It was frustrating to watch all these 2 or 3 yard carries for most of the game, but I love how they kept going to the run. In the fourth quarter it all made sense, when the Skins d-line was completely worn down and started giving up 8 or 9 yards to our high-price offensive line. It worked like a charm. It was ugly, but I can't wait to see it again next week.

I didn't like Brad Johnson the last time he played in Minnesota. Not enough flash. In 1997 all I cared about were touchdowns and sacks. But even though Johnson is essentially the same player as ten years ago, I love him now. There wasn't a single point in last night's game where I had even a bad thought about Brad. He played his game to a T and at the end the Vikings won a road game, a Monday night game, against a playoff team with a Hall of Fame head coach and a highly-touted offensive coordinator.

Celebrate, Vikings fans! I declare the worst is behind us!


I love football.

I don't know why I bother picking in weeks one or two. It's such a crapshoot, I may as well not try. I'm a solid 6-8 so far this week, yeesh.

I was going to lead off with a scathing rant about the Packers. Fortunately for me, Dan Shanoff already got me covered, with a little piece he calls Brett Favre Absolutely Sucks. Props, Dan. In a related note, I've decided that I won't smack talk anybody's team here at the office unless they bring it up. Civility needs to be maintained, even though all four of my department's other teams lost this week (Broncos, Packers, Cowboys, Cheifs). I'd love to be the only winner in the office come tomorrow.

Terrell Owens can suck a big fatty. The whole world is watching his every move, just waiting for the moment he blows up again. The thing is, that won't stop him. He will blow up again because he has so little control over himself. At least Randy Moss knows when to lay low.

What's up with that NFL on FOX robot in the lower corner, just warming up while they parade out the sponsors? Is anyone's football viewing experience enhanced by this? Is anyone left unperplexed by this? Am I the only one that notices this?

My oh my did Jake Plummer suck yesterday. I was able to watch some of his second half with Broncos fans, and they were ALL calling for his head. The Cutler era will commence before week eight, I give you my word.

Props to me, for drafting Reggie Bush way too high and riding him (and others) to a fantasy football victory yesterday. He's solid. Now if only he can put in a couple touchdowns a week.

Ok, let's get this whole Manning thing over with. First of all, there's been a lot of speculation over whether losing Edgerrin James would hurt the Colts' running game. And they had the perfect response to that line of questioning: "Yes, it will hurt our running game, but screw you, we don't need to run." There were times last night when the Giants were in their dime formation (rushing only three) and Peyton was still picking apart the secondary. Take that, pundits. And while we're talking about Peyton, does he even bother calling plays in the huddle anymore? He audibles on every single play anyway. Does he just call formations and keep his teammates guessing every bit as much as opposing defenses? I did enjoy seeing how the Giants would call defensive audibles right over the top of Peyton's calls. Plan on seeing a LOT more of this in the future. And that DirecTV commercial with the three Mannings, it kinda made me puke. But at the end when someone (I forget who) drops the eggs and they audible on the pancakes, I half expected Mike Vanderjagt to walk through the kitchen so Peyton could throw him under another bus.

If you're a gambling type, take the under on tonight's Redskins/Vikings game. The Skins didn't score a point on their first team offense all preseason, and the Vikings didn't give up a touchdown on their first team defense all preseason. It won't be pretty, but when the dust settles I expect the Vikes to have a big road win.

Finally, who else has Twins fever?! This is historic! Down by double digits in the AL Central less than a month ago, the Twins are now only 2 games back of Detroit! And they'll be getting Liriano back soon. This is one scary, scary team. Look out Yankees. Especially you, A-Fraud.


College football quick rundown.

Some thoughts from Week 2:

1. The Notre Dame Hype Machine may cause nausea at an unprecedented pace, but I will always enjoy watching Irish home games as long as they have those plain diagonal lines in the endzones. Something just feels right about that.

2. Notre Dame's more-demeaning-than-a-legend-like-Jeo-Pa-deserves beatdown of Penn State will likely launch them back to #2 in the polls. Which is fitting, because in my mind golden boy quarterback Brady Quinn will always be number two.

3. Beyond Ohio State and Michigan, is there anyone in the Big Ten worth watching? Purdue needed overtime to beat Miami of Ohio, Iowa needed double overtime to edge Big East bottom-feeders Syracuse, and Illinois didn't even show up in a drubbing to Rutgers. The Big Ten is the new Big Twelve.

4. At this rate, how high would they have to set the over/under on the Nov. 2 West Virginia/Louisville game for me to take the under? About 350.

5. I don't want to come off as a bleeding-heart humanitarian here, but when I heard that an Ohio State benefactor contributed $225,000 to bring the marching band down to Austin for the big game, I just about puked. I would almost feel better if they had just spent it on hookers and blow.

6. Colt McCoy is twelve years old. I swear he is. Beyond the "oh that has to be ripped of from Varsity Blues" name, he doesn't have a lot going for him. Did you see that interception he threw in the third quarter? From the Madden-cam replay, I don't know how he didn't see the linebacker camping right there. Right effing there. I'm still saying to myself, "I can't believe he threw it."

7. Air Force had a chance to make a statement win, albeit against an overrated Tennessee team. But then Fisher DeBerry happened. How am I ever supposed to take that guy seriously?

8. Kansas edged perennial powerhouse UL-Monroe to the tune of 21-19. Congratulations, Paul. You must be very proud.

9. I bought Now I Can Die in Peace on Friday. I love it. My man-crush on Bill Simmons makes my innocent infatuation on Chuck Klosterman look like the way the hot girls treated me in high school. Still laughing.


Week one.

Ok, turns out the Steelers had more moxie than I gave them credit for. They still won't win the Super Bowl again. And I still am staunchly asserting my Culpepper Upswing Hypothesis. He was tired last night and pretty much pooped out in the fourth quarter. The good news is that Ronnie Brown put in two touchdowns for me, I came out with 23 fantasy points on the night. The bad news is the Steelers defense was sitting on my bench. D'oh!

Well I suppose, in the shadow of my first pick of the season going horribly wrong, it's time for my uber-shallow week one picks, since Football Prophets won't be posting them anytime soon.

Tampa Bay over Baltimore
Tampa's always tough on D, and I like Cadillac Williams. Baltimore may have a decent quarterback if nobody breathes on him the wrong way, but their other skill positions need some work.

Carolina over Atlanta
The Panthers owned the Falcons last year, and I see no reason for it to change, with DeAngelo Williams adding to an already strong Carolina rushing attack and Keyshawn Johnson stepping in opposite Steve Smith. As long as Atlanta's best receiver keeps playing quarterback, they'll be on a drawn-out downward spiral. Mike Vick is most definitely not the answer.

Denver over St. Louis
I declared this a couple days ago, but let me redeclare: I am not a fan of the Broncos this year. Their fans are annoying in ways that Packers fans could never attain, they come out of the woodwork during the good stretches. They try talking trash to Steelers fans and it all sounds stupid because of the lead-pipe-to-the-knees beatdown they took AT HOME last January. That said, it'll be a couple weeks before St. Louis gels and comes out firing. This is gonna be entertaining at least.

New England over Buffalo
I want to say as little about the Patriots as possible this season, in an effort to balance the scales. Buffalo stinks on ice.

Houston over Philadelphia
Really? Yup. The Texans have a couple hotsteppin' young running backs (I know, ironic right?) and I have less and less confidence in 1. Philly's D, and 2. Donovan McNabb, with each passing day. They have to impress me before I pick them to win, even at Houston.

New Orleans over Cleveland
Reggie Bush is this year's Cadillac Williams. He'll come out scorching, then trail off through the season. New Orleans always puts in a heartfelt effort week one. This year is no different. And as much as I want to see Cleveland succeed, um... They're Cleveland. It ain't happening.

Seattle over Detroit
This isn't so much a vote of confidence for Seattle as a vote of no confidence for Detroit. (Hopefully this won't be the only time "vote of no confidence" is heard around Lions-land this year. I'm looking at you, Matt Millen.) The Seahawks better live it up while they can, it won't be long before a defensive tackle breaks through Steve Hutchinson's replacement and it's Tonya Harding for Sean Alexander's knee. I can already see the headlines. "Alexander sidelined as expected." "Madden strikes again." "Remember when Seattle was good?"

Tennessee over New York Jets
The less said about this stinkfest, the better. I just hope LenDale White breaks out huge this season.

Cincinatti over Kansas City
Sorry Paul. With Willie Roaf retired, the Bengals hold the edge on offense. And if their ball-hawking ways continue (and it looked so in the preseason), the Bengals hold the edge on defense.

Chicago over Green Bay
Ain't even close. Give up hope, Packers fans.

Dallas over Jacksonville
The Cowboys are officially my favorite circus this year. Putting Bledsoe and Owens up against a stingy Jacksonville defense is tasty simply for the sideline outburst potential. I can already taste the fines.

Arizona over San Francisco
I don't know if Arizona is such the sleeper pick that everyone thinks they are, but they're better than San Francisco. I'd really love to see Alex Smith take some gigantic steps forward this year though.

New York Giants over Indianapolis
I can't really explain why I'm picking this way. Probably just New York's home field advantage. I could go either way really, since it's not late enough in the season for either Manning to shoot their toes off yet.

Minnesota over Washington
Call this a homer pick if you must, but the Vikes got a defense that will punch you in the face. A low-scoring affair, but a strong start for the ugliest uniforms in football.

San Diego over Oakland


Great sports columnists.

It takes a lot of restraint for me not to turn this into a sports blog with entries akin to Bill Simmons or Dan Shanoff. The truth is that I would love nothing more than to be a nationally recognized sports writer. Come on Page 2, let me have my own column already. I've been blogging for over two months, I've paid my dues!

Well I've decided to stop my self-imposed moratorium on daily sports ranting. The NFL season has arrived, and so I no longer care if my three confirmed readers want anything else. Sports column.

So tomorrow night is the big opening act on NBC between defending Super Bowl champs Pittsburgh Steelers and sexy not-even-close-to-a-sleeper pick Miami Dolphins. I have to admit, I'm on the Dolphins bandwagon, and I'll tell you why. Daunte Culpepper is due. I've watched his career closely since he was drafted by the Vikings in 1999 or 2000 or whenever that was. There is a definite trend to be found. Two steps forward, one step back. He breaks out, adjusts, has a mediocre year, adjusts more, has a bad year, adjusts again, and breaks out once more. The last time he busted loose would go down as the finest year a quarterback has ever had were it not for Peyton Manning's gaudy, concurrent numbers.

We all know Daunte was a disaster last year, most of all myself. But he's ready to bust out again. And he has Chris Chambers to chuck it to, who I would definitely rank above Randy Moss any day of the lunar calendar. Daunte is at his best when he's in a system he likes, with a talented receiver to catch it, and a running game to keep the defense honest. System? Maybe. Nick Saban is definitely up to something down there in Miami. Receiver? Check. Running game? Check. I'm proud to say I've got both Ronnie Brown and Chris Chambers on my fantasy team. Championship!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are like Blur. They've been around for a while, solidly doing their business but never lighting things up. Then it all comes together for one magical moment when a chundering, balls-to-the-wall hit comes along and the whole world takes notice. But then while they're all waiting for the follow-up, the band quietly goes in a new direction and everybody's glad to let them go. Last year was one shining day in the sun for Pittsburgh. It won't be repeated. Willie Parker just signed a big contract extension. Of course that means he's in for an injury or simply a disappointing year. Ben Roethlisberger isn't the fantastic quarterback everyone thinks he is. He's just smart enough not to make mistakes. They don't have the gadget plays since Antwaan Randle-El left, Hines Ward is overrated and nursing an injury, the defense ain't getting any younger, and opposing offenses will soon learn how to counteract the Polamalu Effect. It's parity, and Pittsburgh is on the downswing this year.

So who do I like in tomorrow night's contest? Duh, Miami. They're going to at least get off to a big start so they can build the bandwagon to enormous proportions. I'm eager for football's return to NBC too, it reminds me of the good old days. Here's hoping that my boss won't remember that she hasn't drafted a defense for her fantasy football team yet. Happy times!