Thanks to NBA owners and players unable to decide the proper way to consummate their relationship (I think the owners want to do it from behind with the lights off with no protection, while the players prefer the traditional missionary as they’ve always done, complete with both sides being orally communicative), our Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Saturday professional sporting schedule looks to be barren until 2012 at best. Therefore, it can’t be understated just how big of a blessing it is to have Thursday Night Football back in our lives. Its become the methadone to our NFL Sunday heroin binge. Early season NBA basketball games aren’t perfect, but think of how just last year there were enough storylines from October-January games that kept professional sports fans from committing suicide, or watching the NHL (same thing):
- October 26: Opening night the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics face off for the debut of the “Big Three” era. Heat lost 88-80 in the most watched NBA game ever to air on cable tv.
- October 27 to December 27: The Dallas Mavericks are 24-5 (best in NBA) before losing their second leading scorer forward Caron Butler for the season, leading many to write off the eventual champs season.
- October-December: Last season’s repeat champs, the LA Lakers, provided enough early season headlines between Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum missing time to injury, Pau Gasol playing exceptionally well in their absence, Ron Artest beginning to ham it up for cameras (as many expected), and newlywed Lamar Odom fresh off a great FIBA World Championships performance, starting out on what would be a Sixth Man of the Year season, his most consistent as a pro.
- October-January: Trade rumors involving Carmelo Anthony going to New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. Would the Russian Mob get him to NJ? Would the pants wearing wife get her wish of living in New YOOOOOORK? Would the Lakers be willing to send Andrew Bynum to Denver for a shot at becoming the Miami Heat of the West?
- October-December: Blake Griffin dunking on everyone within a ten foot vicinity of his team’s basket, sewing up the Rookie-of-the-Year award by November.
- October to December: The Knicks! Amar’e Stoudamire being a legitimate MVP candidate by simply getting New York to play barely-above-.500 basketball (18-14).
Having all that to digest between Sundays makes time go by effortlessly. Fast-forward to 2011, and when we’re not watching the NFL, we’re either mired in the Penn State/Sandusky mess, or debating whether Tim Tebow’s throwing motion will help the Denver Broncos miss the playoffs by three games or less. I watched the most pathetic “First Take” debate this morning (just marinate on the gravity of that statement for a minute, then continue reading) where Skip Bayless, Chris Broussard, and Hugh Douglass were debating whether Aaron Rodgers was playing better than Tom Brady this season. Bayless was saying how he prefered Brady (who hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008) to Rodgers (reigning Super Bowl MVP, and odds on favorite to win regular season MVP) because he hasn’t seen Rodgers lead his team to a come from behind victory. Rodgers being undefeated, building 20 point 1st quarter leads while re-writing NFL record books isn’t enough to sway Bayless over favoring a quarterback who is 5-3 and has been effectively limited by the New Yor Giants, Buffalo Bills, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When it comes to Bayless making irrational, contrived statements about athletes, I prefer when he does it about Lebron James. That’s his wheel house. Alas, we’re without the NBA for the foreseeable future, so I turn your attention again to Thursday Night Football. Not counting the season opener featuring the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, this will be week 2 of TNF for 2011. It airs on the NFL Network, limiting its availability to non-satellite/non-bar patron NFL fans. Also, the matchups are typically bland, as well as the presentation. Since TNF became a regular thing in 2006, the games themselves haven’t been all that great (10.85 point margin of victory) but its mid-week NFL, and the games won’t have to do much to match the Monday Night Football games from this season. Last week’s Chargers-Raiders game was good. This week’s Jets-Broncos matchup will be good too. The quarterback play for each of the four teams mentioned (Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, and Tim Tebow) hasn’t been great this season, but they are better than watching the two best teams in the ACC, MAC, or Big East play on a Thursday (which, by the way, is rarely the case).
And while we’re here, as nostalgic as it may seem for NCAA basketball to fill the massive void left by the NBA, it can’t happen. Call it another byproduct of NBA success, but the current brand of NCAA basketball isn’t what it used to be, and I for one won’t be checking back in until March. UCLA is picked to win the Pac-12, but can’t come within single-digits of Loyola Marymount or Middle Tennessee State? Yeah… No…
Week 11 Picks
New York Jets (-7) at Denver Broncos
Here’s the part where I come full circle and agree wholeheartedly with Skip Bayless saying the Broncos can/will beat Rex Ryan and the New York Jets tonight. Tebow is now 3-1 as the Broncos starting QB this year, and while many pundits and experts continue to pu-pu his accuracy and 2-8 performance as indication he can’t succeed as a QB, all I worry about are wins and TDs. His record takes care of the former, his point production (9 total touchdowns in 4 1/2 total games played) the latter.
Darrelle Revis claims the Broncos offense is boring under Tebow, which is a good thing. The Jets are a middle of the pack team against the rush (15th overall), have a short week, coming off a tough loss, and will travel cross-country to play at a high altitude against the second best run team in the NFL. Give me the Broncos. Broncos win
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-7)
I’m not sure if I said this before in this space, but the Ravens are a Super Bowl caliber team who will lose to the occasional cupcake. Therefore, losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Seattle. The real question concerns whether or not you (or the Ravens for that matter) buy into what the Bengals are doing. For all their early season success, the Bengals have only beat one team with a winning record, and that was the 5-4 Tennessee Titans. The Bengals showed a lot of heart and composure last week in their 24-17 loss to the Steelers, but still they lost.
We may be in a weird paradox where if the Ravens show up on Sunday, play well and defeat the Bengals, it means the Bengals are legit. However, if the Bengals win, it means they aren’t that good, but the Ravens slept walk through another weaker opponent. Personally, I don’t think the Bengals are that good, but I do believe the Ravens will win. Then again, I’m not that smart. Ravens win
Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions (-7.5)
Matthew Stafford is not an accurate passer. Matthew Stafford is not an accurate passer. Matthew Stafford is not an accurate passer. The Lions will beat the Panthers, but Matthew Stafford is not an accurate passer. Lions win
Dallas Cowboys (-8) at Washington Redskins
Last time these two teams met, it seemed Dallas’ NFC East relevance was on the line. The 18-16 win by the Cowboys had some (meaning myself) pegging Tony Romo as an early season MVP favorite. This was barely twoo weeks after the meltdown in the season opening loss to the Jets, and as it would turn out, a week before the come-from-ahead loss to the Lions (by the way, Matthew Stafford is NOT and accurate passer). When the Cowboys were 2-3 following the loss to the Patriots, many had begun writing their obituary.
However, the Cowboys have his the easy part of their schedule, beating St. Louis (2-7), losing to Philly (3-6), beating Seattle (3-7), beating Buffalo (5-4, but losers of 4 of their last 6). Next up: at Washington (3-6), home against Miami (2-7),and at Arizona (3-6). The Cowboys should be 8-4 heading into their Week 14 matchup against the New York Giants (whom the schedule gods must hate, because they face New Orleans, Green Bay, NYJ, and the Cowboys twice over the next six weeks).
Ready for more Romo MVP talk? Cowboys win
Other Picks to Lose Money On
San Francisco 49ers (-10) over Arizona Cardinals
Atlanta Falcon (-7) over Tennessee Titans
St. Louis Rams (-2) over Seattle Seahawks
Minnesota Vikings over Oakland Raiders (-1)
NY Giants (-5) over Philadelphia Eagles
San Diego Chargers over Chicago Bears (-4)
New England Patrios (-15) over Kansas City Chiefs