Neither flu nor phlegm nor aches and pains can keep us from the swift completion of our appointed wagers. As both Kevin and I have been stricken with that debilitating, December bug thanks to that last spell of bad weather, we stamp on to deliver more packages… before we both go postal.
Thanks to a perfect week by the Barber, our second this season and our fourth in two seasons, our celebrity guests have officially vaulted themselves into first place, leaving Kevin and I to wallow in our own mucus, literally.
Either he and I need to give up this contest entirely (NEVER!) or get some dumber friends (solid second option).
No way! We enjoy this challenge too much and insist this thing isn’t over yet! Besides, a little humility looks good on us all.
Two more weeks of football to play and as is the case with all but nine NFL teams, hope is still alive.
Now, onto our standings. To all, have a happy and most definitely healthy new year!
$50 on Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Chargers (-6 ½)
Football’s a funny game. All season long, we lauded the Denver Broncos defense as the best in the game. Just about every under in their games hit this season, not only because they weren’t allowing teams to score but because they couldn’t score either. Insert unsavory Russell Wilson jab here. Then, wouldn’t you know it. A banged-up Rams team that had problems scoring all season put up 51 points against them! To say things have officially derailed in Denver would be an understatement. They even fired their coach after that loss. But rest assured, the Rams are still bad… and eliminated. Their opponent this week is the Los Angeles Chargers, making this game essentially a home game for both teams. Note: they play in the same stadium, in front of fans of neither team. The Chargers are very much alive in the playoff hunt and thanks to the slumping Dolphins, the Chargers have some cushion with which to play. Add to the fact that the two teams below them in the standings (Dolphins-Pats) play each other this weekend and all the Chargers need is a W. With nothing to play for and Aaron Donald shelved for the season, the Chargers should be able to do just that. Far be it from me to suggest any Sean McVay-led team lay down but they might not have the manpower to stop a team that’s motivated to make the playoffs and a run once they get there. Chargers cover in SoFi.
$40 on Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
I’ve probably lost more money betting on the Buccaneers this season than I have any other team, which is disturbing because I’ve watched more Buccaneers football than I have any other team. I keep thinking, mistakenly, they’ll snap out of it, only to be as dejected as Tom Brady on Couples/Crypto Night. Back in October was when we first started wondering what was going on with this team. They lost three straight games to the Steelers, Panthers, and Ravens. We’ve been wondering ever since and lamenting the fact that a miserable, underachieving and yes, very injured Buccaneers team will host a home game by virtue of winning their division. They can seal that deal this Sunday with a home win against the Panthers, who beat them 21-3 the week they traded away Christian McCaffrey. It remains the only game this season the Buccaneers haven’t scored a touchdown. The Panthers, after losing both McCaffrey and Baker Mayfield are back to starting Sam Darnold and are against all odds still alive in the playoff hunt. A win in Tampa and the Panthers, as inconceivable as that might seem are in the driver’s seat. They have, however, only won one road game on the season and are going against a Tom Brady-led team with its backs against the wall. That’s when this team performs best. Tampa’s defense has played well when called upon. They’ll need to this weekend as Carolina’s rushing attack has been ruthless. I like the Bucs to exact from revenge for the loss that set their season into a tailspin. As I’ve said, I’ve lost a lot betting on Tampa this season but three points in a legitimate must-win doesn’t sound like much if they have any serious aspirations of doing damage in January. Bucs cover.
$30 on Kansas State Wildcats at Alabama Crimson Tide (-6 ½)
I’m an SEC homer. I’ve been called worse. I got lambasted online for even hinting that Alabama should be in college football’s Final Four. After comparing their resumes, I begrudgingly agreed that TCU had the better season and more importantly, one less loss. That does not, however, mean they’re the better team. We’ll soon find out as they take on the team’s second-best team in the nation, the Michigan Wolverines. But I’m not betting that game here, although I do like Michigan to cover. I’m betting Bama. Kansas State is the reason TCU almost got bounced out of the final four, and most assuredly my final four. K State won the Big 12 championship game and as a result get to test their mettle against a disappointing two-loss Bama team. Junior quarterback Bryce Young will likely play his last game in crimson, which tells me he’ll want to impress. This game is being played in New Orleans where the football program has had their fair share of quality wins. I can’t imagine this not being a very Bama-heavy crowd. With all the quality quarterbacks entering the draft this year, this could the night where Young pleads his case for the top spot. I like him to do so. We’ll find out whether Kansas State belongs on the same field. That night, I’m gambling they won’t as Alabama covers the six-and-a-half.
$20 on South Carolina Gamecocks at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-5)
I really wasn’t all that impressed with South Carolina’s resume this year. Sure, they finished the season in the top 20 and have wins over three ranked opponents but they played Kentucky without Will Levis and Tennessee without Hendon Hooker. If those two guys play, you likely have different outcomes. That leaves South Carolina’s lone impressive win coming against Clemson the last game of the season, which is, to be fair, impressive. But that might be all South Carolina had and I wasn’t even all that impressed with Clemson this season. Clemson was 7-6 against the spread which tells me Vegas thought they were better on paper than in real life, or that opponents got fired up to play them, or whatever you read into those ATS numbers. But I digress. This is about South Carolina and Notre Dame who had a disappointing season in relation to their annual national championship aspirations. I’m not sure what it will take for Notre Dame to ever fulfill those aspirations, but most agree it involves lowering their admissions standards. Either way, this game is being played in Jacksonville, a short drive from South Carolina which would lead one to believe the Gamecocks will have some semblance of a home field advantage, but with as many Irish Catholics as there are out there, does anyone ever have a home field advantage over Notre Dame? Based on their entire body of work, I think Notre Dame had the more impressive resume and for no other reason alone, I’m taking them to cover the three.
$10 on Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (+1)
I’m going to take a gamble with my last pick. I’m going to ride the hot hand. You know how I know Joe Burrow is hot? He nearly singlehandedly knocked me out of my fantasy playoffs. His Bengals have won seven straight games and are peaking at just the right time, reminding all those shouting “Bills” and “Chiefs” that there is another AFC team worthy of mention. And it’s the team that represented the AFC in last year’s Super Bowl. Burrow went into Foxboro last week and decimated New England’s defense. They had no answer. Here’s a list of all the quarterbacks drafted at the top spot since Peyton Manning: Tim Couch, Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, and Kyler Murray. In only his third season, how many of those quarterbacks is he already better than? For the record, if you said all of them, I wouldn’t be offended. Burrow gets up for these big games and while phrases like “statement games” might be overrated in NFL locker rooms, this is a big one. Bengals are hot and they won’t want to lose to the Bills who they’ve heard all season long are Super Bowl favorites. I do see a shoot-out unless we get another wild snowstorm. Either way, this is going to be a great game, with two great teams that feature two young quarterbacks that should be going after each other for years to come. Because the Bengals are hotter, I’ll take them at home plus the point.
THE WIFE HATES SPORTS PICKS WEEK SEVENTEEN
$50: San Francisco 49ers (-9) at Las Vegas Raiders
I originally had this game lower on my confidence list, but bumped it to the top last minute. There is chaos in Vegas right now, and that’s not because the SportsChump is finally picking winners. Derek Carr has been benched, leaving Jarrett Stidham to get the start. McDaniels had a hand in drafting Stidham while in New England, so it makes sense to see what they have in him. But what about throwing the kid into the deep end, facing the league’s hottest team and top ranked defense that allows 290.3 ypg and 15.3 ppg? Expect the Niners to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Stidham. Then expect the usual suspects on offense to pile up enough points for another big win. Niners cover on the road.
$40: New York Jets (-1.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Both teams have been in a bit of a downward spiral. Injuries have been a big reason why. On Seattle’s side, both Tyler Lockett and Kenneth Walker are questionable and expected to give it a go, although each is said to not likely be 100%. With the playoffs still a possibility, Seattle is going for it. The Jets will get QB Mike White back from injury, and he was a spark plug to the offense, much like Taylor Heinicke was for a while in Washington. This should also bring Elijah Moore back into the picture for the Jets offense. In his three starts, White wasn’t perfect, but he did throw for 952 yards. Defensively, the Jets rank 11th against the run, while Seattle is 31st. Everything plays into New York’s hands. Jets cover on the road.
$30: Mississippi State Bulldogs (-1.5) vs Illinois Fighting Illini – ReliaQuest Bowl
These days, with most bowl games, it comes down to who is playing. Which players opted out and who has already entered the transfer portal? With this game, however, there’s an extra element. The College Football world was rocked by the shocking recent passing of HC Mike Leach. His last stay was with these Bulldogs and you can’t tell me that this team will not be ready to go, in honor of its late coach. As for the game, Illinois relies heavily on its run game. Four backs are likely out, two due to injury, one in the portal, and one opting out. The opt out, Chase Brown, is the biggest hit. That leaves Reggie Love III to anchor the run game, with two others questionable due to injury. Take away that much depth in your key element, and that’s another advantage for the Bulldogs. Miss you, Coach. Mississippi State covers.
$20: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-3)
This is one of the more entertaining rivalries in football. So many close games! This year has been a bit of a role reversal, with the Vikings already clinching and the Packers fighting for a playoff spot. As mediocre as Aaron Rodgers has been this year, it’s hard to imagine him laying an egg in this big game. Obviously, it’ll need to be a more complete performance by the Packers, but they have played better as of late. As for the rivalry, the teams are an event split (3-3-1) over the last seven games at Lambeau. Dating back to 2010, however, the Packers are 8-3-2 facing the Vikings at Lambeau. Yes, that’s two ties. I’m going with the career of Rodgers, not the season. Packers cover at home.
$10: Utah Utes vs Penn State Nittany Lions (+2) – Rose Bowl
Every ounce of my being told me to avoid my alma mater, the Nittany Lions. Even when considering the pick, I was all in on Utah, considering James Franklin’s history against top ten teams. Yet, here I am – the unofficial glutton for punishment. In the opt out department, Penn State’s biggest losses are top WR Parker Washington and star CB Joey Porter Jr. Utah has three players opting out and three in the transfer portal, with the biggest loss being star TE Dalton Kincaid. Both teams will want to establish the run and each has solid run defenses (Penn State ranks 14th and Utah 15th). Both pass defenses statistically are strong, but Penn State ranks 6th in the nation in yards per attempt (5.9). The Nittany Lions have allowed just 10 TD’s through the air in 12 games. In my mind, the game comes down to Sean Clifford limiting his mistakes. My gut says he and the Nittany Lions find a way. Give me Penn State and the points.
CELEBRITY GUEST WEEK SEVENTEEN: SWOOPES (Last season’s record: 4-1, +$110)