The way broadcasters and columnists talk about “identity,” it’s an Onion headline waiting to happen: “BREAKING NEWS: Local Sports Team Reeling, in Search of Identity.” Since I’m getting sick of reading and hearing this, this week’s picks are going to be a little different. Along with my usual mediocre betting line picks, I will give each of the 32 NFL (NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE) teams an “identity,” so they no longer have to “reel,” or “search.” Though, as the cliche goes, winning teams have an identity, so I might as well not make any picks once they have these identities to reference, since all 32 teams will win.
I guess it won’t work that way, but I’ll do it anyway.
This song will help you with your alto sax goals in 2011 and beyond.
(Note: All point spreads listed here are the lines at the time bets were made. Be sure to consult your very legitimate and legal sports book [cough] before making a bet of your own; lines move constantly due to the action on particular games. Also, gambling is illegal in many states. And watch out for those offshore betting sites, lest you end up like an online poker professional. Okay? Okay. Onward and upward.)
Week 14 Record: 7-9
My Record So Far: 104-97-7
Thursday Night Game (12/15 8:25PM ET)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons (-11)
The Jags spanked the Buccaneers in a battle of Florida teams that no one cares about to lift their record to 4-9 and third place in the AFC South. They’ve waived their starting quarterback (David Garrard), fired their head coach, and been sold their team to a Pakistani dude with a sweet mustache. They’ll also probably move soon to a hipper, better place. Therefore, the Jags’ identity is: The New Jersey Nets.
The Falcons came back to beat the Carolina Panthers and keep their playoff hopes alive at 8-5, second in the NFC South and right in the middle of the wild card race. The Falcons are pretty good but unmemorable and I often forget about them until they’re in front of me on TV, at which point I am not offended by watching them nor really excited, either. Therefore, the Falcons’ identity: reruns of Frasier.
My Pick: Jaguars (+11)
Saturday Night Game (12/17 8:25PM ET)
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6.5)
The Cowboys have lost the past two weeks by completely choking the game away and leaving it in the hands of a rookie kicker when they should have closed it out earlier in the fourth. Their lack of ability to execute in the fourth, their huge amount of obscenely wasted talent, and their lame, front-running fans make their identity fairly obvious: the Cowboys are LeBron James.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a bad team who overachieved this year, so that even though they’re legitimately terrible and everyone should have expected them to be, they’re seen as an underwhelming disappointment. Last week they got spanked by the Jaguars, which is thoroughly embarrassing. The identity of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is, wait for it . . . the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
My Pick: Cowboys (-6.5)
Sunday Early Games (12/18 1PM ET)
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (+1)
The Miami Dolphins are a not-too-bad team stuck in a tough division, and their record of 4-9 doesn’t really reflect how competitive they tend to be. They’re not going to go anywhere, though, so their purpose seems to be revealing the flaws of playoff teams during the regular season; then those playoff teams can fix the flaws before the games really matter. The Miami Dolphin identity is that of a tomato-can boxer who goes the distance against the cream of the crop.
The 5-8 Buffalo Bills are a bad team that begin the year surprising people enough to convince people they were a good team, until everyone realized they were a bad team again. Their identity: NYC’s shitty dance-punk buzz band the Rapture. The Bills’ early-season win over the Patriots was their shining moment, their “House of Jealous Lovers” if you will.
My Pick: Dolphins (-1)
Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears (-4)
The Seahawks beat the Rams and now sit at 6-7 and sort of in the wild card hunt, even though their starting quarterback is Tarvaris Jackson. If I were a young African-American man, would my name be Tarvaris Petersen? Maybe. Does this have anything to do with anything? No. Am I going to fall back on the fact that the Seahawks play in Seattle when coming up with their identity? That’s guaranteed. The Seahawks are, for no particular reason, the movie Singles.
The Bears seemed like contenders and are now decimated by injury, and just lost due to a comedy of errors ending to the Denver Broncos to fall to 7-6. 7-6 and decimated by injuries? The Bears are obviously Manute Bol.
My Pick: Seahawks (+4)
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5)
The Tennessee Titans lost last week to fall to 7-6, and are the ultimate in neither here nor there teams and franchises. Therefore, the Tennessee Titans are: a pool of brackish water.
Every once in a while, a band will go on tour without one of its members, and it won’t necessarily seem like seeing them would be such a bad idea, and in some cases, that’s true. In other cases, the missing member is the only really important one, the one that wrote all the songs and sings them. Peyton Manning is John Fogerty, and the Indianpolis Colts are Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
My Pick: Titans (-6.5)
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (+13.5)
The Green Bay Packers are really good, will probably go undefeated, and seem pretty likable, unlike the last team that had a chance to go 19-0, the Poo England Natriots. Really good, really likable, seemingly with no problems at all? The Green Bay Packers are in-his-prime Derek Jeter.
The Kansas City Chiefs, like the Bears, have also lost their starting quarterback to injury and gone downhill fast, so fast in their case that head coach Todd Haley has been fired and replaced by Coach Romeo. Since they do not have a quarterback or a real head coach, it appears this is a question of not enough Chiefs, in opposition to the normal use of the saying. Their identity: Too Many Indians.
My Pick: Packers (-13.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at St. Louis Rams (+6)
The Bengals are a young team maybe a couple of years away from being really good, suffering for having to face veteran geographical rivals still retaining powerhouse status. Therefore, they are the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Rams are terrible, and would probably lose to the Hap/Manningless Colts if they played. I had high hopes for them going in, but they have been nothing but a disappointment to me, therefore, the Rams are: my life.
My Pick: Bengals (-6)
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (+7)
The New Orleans Saints are really good and beloved in their hometown, but nobody really thinks they’re going to take over nationwide outside of their home venue (in the playoffs). The New Orleans Saints are, by that token, the Rebirth Brass Band.
The Minnesota Vikings are hereafter ruined by their association with Brett Favre. They are Jenn Sterger.
My Pick: Saints (-7)
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-6.5)
The Washington Redskins are a once-proud franchise held hostage by an idiot owner who overpays for free agents and it doesn’t work out. The Washington Redskins are the early-2000s New York Knicks, and their failed overweight Donovan McNabb experiment was their Eddy Curry fiasco.
The New York Giants are a team that I feel like is better than their record, and I’m often disappointed with how they perform, but I still want to root for them. Their defense isn’t very good, but their quarterback, a Manning, is having a great year. You know what? The Giants are the Colts.
My Pick: Giants (-6.5)
Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans (-6)
The Panthers show moments of offensive brilliance, are fun to watch, and have no idea how to end a game. When you’re watching them, it’s always best to turn it off before the ending, when it gets ugly and stops making sense, but I always make the mistake of sticking with it to the very end, and it’s always disappointing, no matter how much I enjoyed the first three quarters. The Carolina Panthers are a season of FX’s biker soap opera Sons of Anarchy.
The Houston Texans won last week on a last-minute come from behind drive by third-string rookie QB TJ (WB Yeats) Yates. Because I have to beat a dead horse into the ground, their identity is that of a falcon who is still able to hear the falconer. This may change come playoff time, but for right now, things are not falling apart.
My Pick: Texans (-6)
Sunday Late Games (12/18 4:05/4:15PM ET)
Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders (+1)
The Lions came in with all the preseason hype, and went from dirty and awesome to dirty and lame. Their violent play was, at the outset, refreshing in a pamper-the-QB league, but got old, especially when it started costing them wins. The Lions are Tyler, the Creator’s profanity-laden, at times awesome but ultimately disappointing album Goblin.
The Raiders have an at-times good defense and lose games where Carson Palmer throws multiple interceptions. The Raiders, since acquiring Palmer, have become the Cincinnati Bengals.
My Pick: Lions (-1)
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+6)
The New England Patriots, 10-3 after barely beating the Washington Redskins, are Scarlett Johansson. Bear with me here. They’re an attractive glamour franchise that hasn’t done anything worthwhile of note in years, yet everyone still bows at their feet. They haven’t won a playoff game since losing in the Super Bowl to the Giants, and much as having a great offense doesn’t mean you’re a great team, having grayte bewbs doesn’t necessarily make you much of an actress. At least Belichick and Brady haven’t yet made a horrid Tom Waits covers album with members of the TV on the Radio.
The Denver Broncos have a stellar defensive front led by Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, an incredible long-range kicker in Matt Prater, and a tough running game perched on the back of comeback player Willis McGahee—aah who am I kidding TEBOW!
My Pick: Broncos (+6)
New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
The New York Jets are 8-5 after demolishing the Chiefs and will probably make the playoffs once again, where they’ll be trouble for whoever has to play them because for some reason they can always turn it on in the early playoff rounds. They will not make it to the Super Bowl, though, so once again they will be both playoff overachievers and disappointments at the same time. Therefore, the New York Jets are the San Jose Sharks.
The Eagles are not the Dream Team. They are the 2004 men’s basketball team that lost to Argentina.
My Pick: Jets (+3)
Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
Last week, the Browns lost a terrible, horrible, very bad game to their division rival Steelers 14-3, and record-wise they sit fourth in the AFC North at 4-9. They are a completely hopeless franchise featuring a Texas QB named Fasthorse McGillicuddy and their most marketable player (up until this year when whining about his contract and not playing through sickness turned him into a laughingstock) has been a white running back. They are not very good, and they disappear, so, in a slight play on their QB’s name, the Browns’ identity is “Cold McRib.”
Like the Seahawks, the Arizona Cardinals have a no-name starting quarterback (with the overpaid-for Kevin Kolb in and out with injuries) but are benefiting from playing in a crappy division to reach a record of 6-7 and a hint of playoff hope. Watching them often results in a thought of “This isn’t as bad as I thought it’d be,” and therefore the Arizona Cardinals are a latter-day Rolling Stones album.
My Pick: Cardinals (-6.5)
Sunday Night Game (12/18 8:25PM ET)
Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers (+2.5)
The 10-3 Ravens are the best team in the AFC, having earned that place with a season sweep of their division rival Steelers. They tend to play down to bad competition, though, and lose to teams they should beat easily while winning against their tougher opponents. Their identity is that of a mercurial, top-flight tennis prodigy.
The Chargers are a perennial disappointment and this year they’ve gotten the being disappointing out of the way earlier than usual, pretty much eliminating themselves from playoff contention with a losing streak that included a Romo-like end-game fumble to lose to the Chiefs and an overtime loss to the Tebow Tebows. They might just win enough games to keep awful head coach Norv Turner in place, which would be an even further disappointment to Fan Diego. As this gimmick is really running its course and I have nothing clever to say about the Chargers, I will declare their identity to be an unfulfilling romantic relationship that drags on way too long.
My Pick: Ravens (-2.5)
Monday Night Football (12/19 8:35PM ET)
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers (-1)
The Steelers, after beating the Browns on Thursday, sit at 10-3, and will make the playoffs either as the division leader in the AFC North or as a wild card. The Steelers are always there and most people hate them, so their identity is “Rush Hour Traffic.”
The 49ers have already clinched their division, but they’re probably a year or two away from being real contenders, as shown in their losses to the Cardinals and to the Ravens in the Harbaugh Bowl. They are also competent but boring to watch, and old school football assholes really like their smash-mouth style, because hey, people don’t make teams like that anymore. Because of this, I liken them to a mediocre classic rock band that no one should be excited about, but inexplicably some people are. Let’s go with Bachmann Turner Overdrive. Sick of my jokes? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
My Pick: Steelers (+1)
My record last week was 7-9, bringing me even closer to the thoroughly mediocre .500 mark. My failure to succeed on a high level must have something to do with not having yet found my own identity. Maybe this week I’ll find myself. Tune in next week to find out.