I can’t stop thinking about that game.
This is a football column, yes, and one that nominally has to do with making picks against the spread, either for (legal!) monetary reasons or just for sheer fun … and we’ll get to that.
But first, Game 7.
If you spend even a little bit of time each week consuming sports, maybe you’ve experienced that moment where you wonder why, really, you have chosen to spend your time caring about the result of a game in which a ball is hit with a bat, or thrown through a ring, or kicked into a net. The result is ultimately meaningless, more often than not your team disappoints you, and there are countless other ways you might more productively or more intelligently or at the very least more healthily spend your time.
Maybe you’ve especially felt that way during the election – as I admittedly have. The election, for better and for worse, has given us both the entertainment that sports provides and that feeling of greater importance, of stakes, that sports necessarily lacks. It’s hard, I think, to really care about the Thursday night, or Sunday night, or Monday night football games right now.
And then something like Game 7 happens, something so thrillingly incomprehensible and so damn fun, and all of a sudden you remember why it is you have chosen to spend your free time glued to the TV late into the night.
Here’s Roger Angell, the legendary New Yorker sportswriter, on this feeling exactly but in slightly more eloquent words:
“It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look – I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring – caring deeply and passionately, really caring – which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives.
And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete – the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the hap hazardous flight of a distant ball – seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”
Angell wrote that about the 1975 World Series. It couldn’t possibly feel more relevant today.
Anyway, I went 6-6 last week in my picks against the spread. Below are my picks for Week 9.
LAST WEEK: 6-6
Atlanta Falcons (-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET)
Tampa Bay remains winless at home, so I’ll take the Falcons here.
The pick: Falcons -2
Jacksonville Jaguars (+7.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Gus Bradley’s record as the head coach of the Jaguars is now 14-41. Why on earth would I bet on him last week?
The pick: Chiefs -7.5
Detroit Lions (+5.5) at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
I can’t figure out Norv Turner’s resignation. Two consecutive losses is not ideal, but the Vikings are a playoff team. Unless they aren’t, and the problems are worse than we know. Are we about to witness a free-fall?
The pick: Lions +5.5
Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5) at New York Giants (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
The Giants have won two in a row to move back above .500 and yet I’ve lost just about all confidence in them. The offense is terrible.
The pick: Eagles +2.5
Dallas Cowboys (-7) at Cleveland Browns (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Nothing to see here…
The pick: Cowboys -7
New York Jets (+3.5) at Miami Dolphins (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Ryan Tannehill, a battle of extremely volatile and frustrating quarterbacks. For whatever reason, I think the Jets will win this.
The pick: Jets +3.5
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET)
The Steelers are the much better team, regardless of whether Ben Roethlisberger starts.
The pick: Steelers +2.5
New Orleans Saints (-3.5) at San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
This is so obviously a “trap” game in which the Niners will win outright that I’m confident the Saints will win big. In other words, I’m now overthinking my own overthinking. This is fun!
The pick: Saints -3.5
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET)
The pick: Panthers -3
Indianapolis Colts (+7.5) at Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Andrew Luck and the Colts keep it close in a shootout.
The pick: Colts +7.5
Tennessee Titans (+5) at San Diego Chargers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Roll with the better quarterback.
The pick: Chargers -5
Denver Broncos (PK) at Oakland Raiders (Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Game of the week! Screw it, I’m taking the Raiders. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
The pick: Raiders
Buffalo Bills (+7) at Seattle Seahawks (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET)
This has all the makings of an ugly, low-scoring defensive slog. That means a lot of field goals, and a close Seahawks win.
The pick: Bills +7
Now check out this week’s power rankings…
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