Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper
’s Nick Altschuller: 22-13-1
Rory “What Would Jesus” Duyon: 21-15
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 21-15
Matt “Cradle” Roberts: 20-16
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 19-17
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 16-20

Man, physical therapy is BORING. Every day I have to do 45 minutes of tedious stretching and isometric exercises. I just stand there and push my fist or elbow in the wall like I passionately regret my choice in wallpaper. Every night it’s like I’m reenacting the training scenes from Kill Bill, but instead of hitting me with a cane, my girlfriend is just annoyed when I leave Thera-Bands tied to the doorknobs. THEN she hits me with a cane.

On the upside, staring at the wall for such a prolonged period of time gives me a chance to think about the upcoming NFL games. Normally that would spell doom for my choices, but good lord, the Slack Lines team is ON FIRE right now. Check it:

Beau followed up his 4-0 Week 8 with a 4-0 Week 9.
Over the past three weeks, Roberts, Greg and I are all 9-3.
Over the past three weeks, every Slack Liner has a winning record, and as a group, we’ve gone 50-22.

That’s crazy. And bound to change. You don’t write out stats like that and not expect a giant pile of fail to arrive on your doorstep. Blaze of glory ahead.

On to the picks!

Matt on: Buffalo @ New England (-11)
I will be in attendance at said game, attempting to engage traveling Bills Mafia members during pregame for friendly banter/cocktails, via the Twitter machine (@TheBillsMafia). A recent Grantland article about the Bills and their supporters painted a pretty bleak picture of current fandom in Buffalo. One group was pre-pre-gaming at a local bar before the Week 4 matchup with the Patriots, watching a replay of last year’s Week 3 Bills win over the New England. One younger fan summed that game up as the greatest moment in his life. Dire times in Buffalo, indeed.

Having a bad football team is nothing longtime Pats fans are unfamiliar with, but the last decade of success has gone a ways to softening us as a group. The vacant red seats and gaping holes in the stadium design of Gillette contribute to the church-like atmosphere at home games, at least by NFL standards. Long gone are the days when my uncle and I used to see people get carried INTO the stadium.

Contrary to what hacky sports writers would have you believe *cough—Shaughnessey*, no sports fans would trade the winning for the losing, but I definitely miss the danger of the old days. Matt’s Pick: Patriots
Ironclad Locks of the Week

Seahawks (-6) The Jets O won’t be able to cope with the rabid ‘Hawks D and crowd.
Falcons (-2.5) No way New Orleans can slow down the vertical passing game. Expect a huge game for Julio, Roddy and Tony.
Bears (-1) In the battle of the league’s best defenses, one point isn’t enough to give.

Rory on: Atlanta @ New Orleans (+2.5)
The Atlanta Falcons have been a team on a mission—eight games, eight wins, no problems. On the other sideline is a team that has spent 2012 in complete and utter turmoil. From bounty-gate to an 0-4 start, and now all the talk about Sean Payton maybe going to the Cowboys, not much has gone the Saints’ way...until just recently. They have three wins in their last four games and a chance to make a big statement this Sunday afternoon.

(And hey, if the Payton thing doesn’t work out, bring back Ditka! Can’t go any worse than the first time around, right?)

The Saints have won 10 of their last 12 meetings with Atlanta, and the Falcons are going to stumble at some point. And Jonathan Vilma’s return has transformed the Saints defense from horrendous to terrible. (Terrible is a tiny step up from horrendous, right?) 

Call it a hunch, but the Saints have the home crowd, they’re playing their best football of the year, and this is one of those rivalries where anything can happen. Sign me up for the home dog. Rory’s Pick: Saints
Locks:
Buccaneers (-3) I’ve gone against Doug Martin in each of my fantasy leagues the past two weeks. Let’s see if he can perform at somebody else’s expense.
Lions (-2.5) Somebody from Michigan has to win this week...by the way, I’m quitting my job so I can get an Obama Phone.
Bengals (+4) Eli Manning has ripped my heart from my chest TWICE. Last week, when I need him to do it to somebody else, he fell flat on his face. Thanks, buddy.

Beau on: Denver @ Carolina (+3.5)
I enjoy the game of football as much as anyone, you know. I will stop and watch a Pop Warner game on my way to work and think stuff like, “If that number 23 grows, pfffheww, he’s gonna be a BEAST!” 

I really like football.

However, for as much love as I have for the game, I have equal hate for Cam Newton. I suppose it’s a perfect sporting counter balance: heaven and hell; good and evil; Biggie and Tupac. It’s because of this dislike that I cannot be unbiased. Hey, it took me a long time to come around on Peyton Manning, but come on…those Buick commercials? How can you not like that guy?
[Editor’s Note: Exhibit A: Those Papa John’s commercials.]

Both defenses rank around the middle of the NFL pack. Carolina can run the ball with surprising efficiency, and Denver can flat out sling the rock. I mean, Manning has made Eric Decker look good. 

But the turnover bug has bitten both teams. At the same time, though both teams have mediocre defenses, they’re opportunistic. So, turnovers will determine the winner. Since Cam Newton is such a complete dirtbag, he will screw this up. I see a scenario in which he fumbles the ball on the potential game-winning drive, then blame the fans for the loss, thus forcing ownership to fire the fans. Beau’s Pick: Broncos
Locks of the week:

Raiders (+7.5) keep it close in Baltimore.
Texans (+1) beat Chicago bad.
Buccaneers (-3) win big at home over the Chargers. (When will Norv Turner get fired?)
BC covers versus Notre Dame


Cedric on: Dallas @ Philadelphia (+1.5)
Here’s the Super Bowl of unfulfilled promises.

Neither team will make the playoffs, so where do we start? For Dallas, owner Jerry Jones needs to heed his own advice and fire himself as general manager. Coach Jason Garrett’s questionable game-time decisions (especially during the two-minute drill) need to be corrected. And Tony Romo’s big-game miscues are legendary and proof of his lack of toughness. 

On the other side, we have Mike Vick, who’s being hit like a piñata every time he drops back to pass. Of course, he fumbles the ball, but it’s not his fault that four out of five of his starting offensive linemen are missing. Coach Andy Reid has never lost five straight games, ever; but his players are playing like they don’t care, and replacing Vick is not an option. Whoever is under center for the Eagles will be under duress all game. Better to have a QB who can run for his life. 

If this game were 7-on-7, Philly would win. As it stands, Dallas wins and covers. Cedric’s Pick: Cowboys
Locks:
Steelers (-12.5) I would take Alabama over KC.
Giants (-4) The NFC is just better than the AFC.
Seattle (-6) Pete Carroll can coach defense, and Rex Ryan has no offense.


Greg on: Houston @ Chicago (-1)
Here’s a matchup where each team has the possible Defensive Players of the Year (JJ Watt and Charles Tillman). The Bears have a lot of momentum, a very opportunistic defensive and most importantly, a Jay Cutler.

Sorry, he’s playing AIGHT, but Cutler’s a punk. Brandon Marshall is a difference maker, but you never know with Smokin’ Jay. He might hit Marshall with a long bomb or an offensive lineman in the face.

Both these teams are good on both sides of the ball, but the pressure JJ Watt creates will help Cutler revert back to the old Jay, and he’ll implode, again. Greg’s Pick: Texans
Locks:

Iggles (+1.5) I love the fact that either way, the Eagles or Cowboys lose. What’s the over/under that one of these teams will be calling Bill Cowher next week?
Broncos (-3.5) Peyton is playing better than Brady. Cam is a bum, and I hope he falls down a lot.
The New York Football Giants (+4) Eli has been horrible lately; Nicks has been transparent, but Sundays are reserved for salsa dancing. Victor Cruz is in a contract year and wants to make some dough. He and his mom are taking over for McNabb and company in the Chunky soup ads, and he’ll make enough plays for the Giants. Plus, the GMen are the best road team in the NFL. Total homer pick.


Nick on: Kansas City @ Pittsburgh (-12.5)
I’m sold on Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer. Through Week 6, Pittsburgh was 31st in the league in rushing. Week 7 rolls around, and they feed the big man 17 carries, and he gets 122 yards. Week 8, 17 for 107. He was out last week, but Isaac Redman cleaned up. Now with Dwyer back healthy, a) the Chiefs are in trouble, and b) Dwyer needs a nickname.

In the town of the Bus, why not the Minivan, or the Short Bus?

(By the way, I rode the short bus to school. It was speedy and efficient and had no negative connotations. I lived in a small neighborhood! WHY WASTE THE GAS!?)

The line makes me nervous, but I see a blowout coming. I’ve just never bet against so many points before. It’s like I’m going all in at the poker table, but one of those fancy poker tables where the chips are giant rectangles instead of little plastic circles. (Right angles = CLASS.) I feel like during this game I’m going to dab at my eye with an expensive handkerchief as I imposingly cry blood.

Bond reference! I’ll see you guys at Skyfall. Nick’s Pick: Steelers
Lock and Awe:

Ravens (-7.5) I think Baltimore is ready to become part of the playoff discussion again.
Pats v. Bills (Over 52) These teams combined for 80 in Week 4. And Sunday is supposed to be sunny and 60 degrees. Great scoring weather, says science.
BC (+19) I’ve never won a BC bet in my life. Beau is 1-9 this year with college football. This all but guarantees Notre Dame by 50.

Until next week.

Email Nick at nick@improper.com