Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper
’s Nick Altschuller: 25-14-1
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 24-16
Rory “Love, Love Me” Duyon: 24-16
Matt “What About” Rob-erts: 21-19
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 21-19
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 18-22

Lot of quarterback concussions last week, with Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Smokin’ Jay Cutler all looking shaky.

I think one of the biggest disadvantages a team faces when their QB gets his walnut cracked—besides the fact that their starter can’t play—is that their franchise guy, a player lots of coaches and teammates rely on while preparing for the next contest, is going to be kind of a dum-dum for a few days.

In college, my friend was snowboarding and landed on his head attempting a backflip. On takeoff, he was a reliable lab partner. After the wipeout, he couldn’t crayon his way through the maze on a kids menu. Once he got back from the hospital, he spent the entire night asking us to explain what happened. We’d tell him. Then he’d forget and ask again. It was infuriating. It took all my willpower not to hit him with a folding chair.

I’m just saying, there are effects of the NFL concussion issue that are we’re not considering.

On to the picks!

Nick on: Green Bay @ Detroit (+3.5)
The Packers are on a roll, winning four straight. Now they find themselves only one game behind the Bears for first place in their division, and with Chicago playing without Cutler in San Francisco, now looks like a great time to pull even and then pull away for good.

On the other side, Detroit’s playoff hopes are alive, but in their final six games they play the Texans, Colts, Cardinals, Falcons, Bears and the Packers for a second time. They’re 4-5 now, so getting to the postseason will be a Herculean task. And we all know how the labors of Hercules went: He killed the Nemean lion; clubbed the Lernaen hydra; stabbed the Ceryneian hind; then he got to the Erymanthian boar, looked down at his to-do list and was like, “Jesus—I mean Zeus, there’s eight more of these things? Screw this, I’m out.” And then he went home and cleaned out his DVR. Full disclosure: mythology = not my strong suit. Nick’ Pick: Packers
MTV’s
Rock ’n’ Lock All-Stars:
Saints (-5)  Their D is improving, and this is a game they have to win.
Ravens @ Pittsburgh (Under 40)  I don’t see Leftwich getting anything done.
49ers (-5)  Because ma’lady is a Bears fan, and I like to make my evenings as awkward as possible.


Greg on: New Orleans @ Oaktown (+5)
Remember Hue Jackson? Yeah, neither do I.

Here’s a matchup of two teams with two quarterbacks playing well. We all know that the Saints offense can score points in a hurry, so will Raiders coach Dennis Allen be able to throw out some different personal and blitz packages to slow down Drew Brees? The answer is a big no.

Oakland comes in missing their top two running backs, and safety Tyvon Branch and ex-Patriot Richard Seymour haven’t practiced all week. Darren Sproles should be back for the Saints to give his offense another weapon. Jimmy Graham is coming off Player of the Week honors, and look for him to be right back there next week. Greg’s Pick: Saints
Locks:

Green Bay (-3.5)  Green Bay is playing great right now. They get Jordy back this week, and Detroit is regressing. Suh is a thug; Megatron only has two TDs this year, and Stafford is overrated. Look for the Packers to roll and take over this division.
Bengals (-3.5)  If the Chiefs were smart, they’d take a page from the old Patriots playbook: Cheat. If they could start taping the other teams’ practices, they might have a shot. Too bad it’s too late for that. Dalton and AJ Green will just be too lethal.
Broncos (-8)  The Broncos might be the best team in the AFC, possibly the NFL. Norv Turner is a hipster who should go back to being an offensive coordinator. Manning to Thomas; get ready to hear some more of that.


Beau on: Andrew Luck @ The House that Brady Built (-9)
I’m back home in West Virginia getting ready to go to the Oklahoma/WVU game this Saturday. Football is in the air. I walked in the house late last night to my mom cooking us soup and my dad watching Ray Lewis’ A Football Life and declaring that he’s “not a complete scumbag” but that “he’s still a complete ass on the football field.” I love being home…

As a gambler, nine points is a lot of points to bet against. This game seems to be set up for the Pats though:
It’s at home in the cold of November.
The defense got a much-needed new toy (although a slightly broken toy in my opinion) in Aqib Talib.
Mostly, rookie QB’s don’t do so well with Big Bad Bill game-planning for them.

As we have all seen though, this is not your average rookie QB. Last year’s Colts were one of the worst teams that have ever played in the NFL. This kid has turned them into a playoff contender with little more than a slew of rookie pass-catchers and a team rallying around one tough SOB head-coach.

I’m gonna take New England, but I hope I’m wrong. Go Colts! Beau’s Pick: Patriots
[Quick side-note: My man-crush on Luck has nothing to do with his father being the Rhode Scholarship-winning QB for the West Virginia Mountaineers and the current athletic director.]
My Dad’s Locks of the Week:

“Baltimore will spank the f@#k’n Steelers with that Cookie Monster-looking backup quarterback.”
“I’m not even gonna call Cleveland beating Dallas an upset.”
“The Saints are playing good, prideful football. They can beat anybody right now.”
Beau’s College Sacrifice: Oklahoma (-11) over WVU and the under (74.5)


Matt on: San Diego @ Denver (-8)
Working Title: Peyton Manning, American Hero

I don’t like to use the word hero lightly, but Peyton Manning is the greatest hero in American history. The NHL labor talks could take a lesson from the brand of hard-charging negotiation tactics employed by this irrepressible scamp in his bid to secure us Americans 1 million free pizzas. All it took was a couple knowing glances and a face-to-face bro-stare (trademark Steve Young), and the legendarily iron-willed Papa John couldn’t say no to Peyton’s demands. Credit is also due to Mr. Shatner and his devil-may-care attitude, leaving caution to the corporate corncobs at big pizza and providing the nation with a concept everyone can rally around: free ‘za. His contributions are especially important in this time of global crisis, given the current economy.

The fortunes of both these teams turned at the exact same point this season, halftime of their Week 6 matchup. The Chargers were in control, leading 24-0 at the half. From there the Broncos got their act together, scored 35 straight points, and won 35-24. Since that game, the rise of the Broncos has been as ascendant as the fall of the Chargers has been precipitous (10-cent word alert!). I expect this game to more closely resemble the second half of the previous meeting. Denver wins going away. Matt’s Pick: Broncos
Locks of the Week:

Tampa Bay (-1.5)  The Bucs have shown a lot more will and sticktoitiveness than the Panthers in recent weeks.
Cincinnati (-3.5)  Any team playing the Chiefs should be seven-point favorites automatically.
New Orleans (-5)  The Sean Payton hangover is wearing off; Oakland stinks.


Rory on: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (+3)
This game is sponsored by NAPGCM, the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that multiple players on the defensive side for the Steelers and Ravens are headed for Canton when their careers are over, which for some of them should have been in 2009. (Seriously, watching Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in 2012 is like watching Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in 1992.)

These teams combined to hold opponents to single digits 17 times in 2010-2011. In 2012, the Ravens have done it once (woo-hoo, the Chiefs!), and the Steelers haven’t done it.

On the bright side, they both know how to move the chains, though I still contend that Joe Flacco is a bum. And the Steelers offense was in good shape until Mr. Roethlisberger hurt his shoulder and his ability to corner defenseless women. 

The Steelers are in trouble with Byron Leftwich under center, though I will give him kudos for one of the manliest displays of playing hurt I ever saw. Unfortunately, that happened in 2002, and Leftwich hasn’t been taking regular snaps since 2006.

Being the rivalry game that it is, it’s tough to go against the Steelers getting more than a field goal at home—I bet you can count the number of times that’s happened in the last 20 years on one hand—but they’re just too banged up. 

My good friend Chris Harvey is calling for about a six-point loss, and as he’s the only Stillers fan I’ve ever liked, that’s good enough for me. (No offense, Beau. Technically we haven’t met. Come down to Stamford; I’ll buy you a beer, and we can change that. Or maybe we both end up bloodied and bruised in the back of a cruiser. Call it 50-50.)

Last thing before I wrap up: I’ve read Beau’s take on a number of the Steelers’ rivals this season. (Sorry, dude. You’re 11-1 in your last three weeks, so the gloves are comin’ off...so, maybe 60-40 in favor of the cruiser scenario.) They’re scumbags and a team with a superiority complex. Must be nice to be a Steelers fan knowing that your team has nothing but upstanding citizens from their offensive coordinator, who defines the term “stand up guy,” to a wide receiver whose antics would have made Gordon Bombay proud. (Bombay before the Hans intervention in the first Might Ducks.) Yup, the Steelers are the class of the NFL. Ask any one of their fans, they’ll tell you! Rory’s Pick: Ravens
Rock Chalk JayLocks
:
Colts (+9)  The Patriots are surrendering 24.5 points per game at home, and if you factor out the first Buffalo game, they’ve been outscored 61-37 in the 4th quarter this season. How the hell are they going to win by double digits?
Rams (-3.5)  Five Slack Lines writers who wish to remain anonymous bashed Nick Altschuller this week, saying that he’s an awful editor and wears ugly shoes. (Roberts put his name on that last part.)
[Editor’s note: Not going to lie, the shoes part stung.]
Saints (-5)  I’d take the over in this game, but I’m a little more confident in the Saints winning by more than a TD.


Cedric on: Chicago @ San Francisco (-5)
If I was playing with real money, I’d skip this game until I knew who was playing Monday night. But I can’t, so here we go! 

As of late Thursday night both starting quarterbacks are out with concussions. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh just had a “minor” heart procedure and was sent home from practice by the team’s doctors. Don’t like him as a coach, but he’s one tough SOB. With backup quarterbacks in this game, expect very little scoring from either offense. Neither Forte or Gore will have success running the ball, as both teams will put eight men in the box and dare the other quarterback to throw on them. So in a game of field goals, I believe the Bears defense will force a turnover and score the only touchdown of the game. Cedric’s Pick: Bears
Locks: 
Jacksonville (+15.5)  Just a points grab here. Can any team in the NFL be that bad?
Green Bay (-3.5)  Not Thanksgiving yet, so let the Packers treat the Lions as the turkeys they truly are.
Cardinals (+10)  Don’t believe the hype; Atlanta’s defense isn’t that good.

Until next week.

Email Nick at nick@improper.com