Current Slack Lines standings:
The Improper
’s Nick Altschuller: 19-12-1
Rory “Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna” Duyon: 19-13
Matt “Cops ’n’” Roberts: 18-14
Parlor Sports/Trina’s Beau Sturm: 17-15
Green St. Grill’s Greg Reeves: 15-17
Silvertone’s Cedric Adams: 13-19

We had unprecedented success this past week. Both Beau and Matt went 4-0, and would you look at that: Now we have four guys with above .500 records. Overall, we’re winning 53 percent of our picks, which is shockingly not abysmal, and to be honest, I think that’s the best we could have hoped for.

We’re certainly better at picking games than all the old players on the Sunday morning pre-game shows. These men actually know something about football, AND they’re not even betting with a spread. I don’t think I’ve seen Mike Ditka ever pick a game correctly. The guy probably had Patriots (+10) in Super Bowl XX.

No more time for dawdling. We’ve got a newfound reputation to ruin.

On to the picks!

Greg on: Denver @ WKRP in Cincinnati (+3.5)
[Editor’s Note: Way to do date yourself, Bill Simmons, Jr.]

Denver is going to win because of one reason: They have a Manning. If you look at a lot of the top teams: the Giants have Eli Manning; the Broncos have Peyton Manning and even Houston has Daniel Manning. All are divisional leaders, and all are favorites this week.

But for real, Peyton is clicking on all cylinders and is 7-0 against the Bengals in his career. Demaryius Thomas is going into beast mode as the season goes on, and McGahee is quietly having another solid year. To add insult to injury, Marvin Lewis has a .250 winning percentage against Denver. Look for Von Miller to plant Dalton on his back as Denver wins and covers the spread. Greg’s Pick: Broncos
Locks:

Bears (-3.5) The Titans screwed me last week, so I hate them. The Bears D is the highest-scoring defense around, so they can AND WILL make up for however Cutler decides to screw up.
Buccaneers (+1.5) The Bucs young talent will shine, and Doug Martin will run all over Oakland.
Hotlanta (-4) Too many injuries for the ‘girls. The culture in Dallas will prevent them from ever really being a contender again. Atlanta is undefeated and gets no respect. Look for Roddy white to get back on track and get me some fantasy points.


Matt on: Arizona @ Green Bay (-11)
Who would have thought that an NFL team would need a semi-functioning offense to succeed? It’s a hard lesson the Cardinals are learning, and the problem starts at the QB position. Most agree that Andy Reid is a boob of a head coach, but all could agree that the one thing he has proven most proficient at is selling off his useless quarterbacks to the rubes of the league (AJ Feely, anyone?). Kevin Kolb is the most recent detritus jettisoned from the Eagles, and in exchange they received functioning NFL corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Kolb, in the meantime, has gone on to lose the starting job to a graduate of Fordham University, which, to put it gently, is not a football factory. Someone please light a candle for Larry Fitzgeraldʼs dead career.

Last week I was rewarded by taking the points with Jacksonville (+15) over Green Bay. This week I really wanted to do it again and bet Arizona, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Even if the Green Bay offense falters (which it won’t), I can’t see the Cardinals scoring. The only thing that’s even making me pause is the potential for a Patrick Peterson Special Teams Backdoor Cover Special (TM). The Cardinals defense isn’t what it was earlier in the season, and the Pack will light them up. Blowout city, baby! Matt’s Pick: Packers
Lock City, Baby!:

Chargers (-7.5): The Chefs are in full-on “Blow for Geno” and “Shat for Matt” mode (Smith and Barkley, respectively, for all you college football neophytes). *winks at Beau
[Editor’s Note: I can confirm that this pick was in before last night’s game, and that Beau knows nothing about college football.]
Eagles (+3) A midweek press conference where the HC says “Michael is still our starting quarterback” isn’t a good sign. That said, the Saints D may be the worst in NFL history.
Browns (+3.5) It’s about time the people rose up and overthrew the oppressor! Attica! Perennial also-rans take a huge step and win a grudge match against their waning rivals.


Nick on: Miami @ Indianapolis (+2)
Andrew Luck seems a rather likable fellow, which is too bad, because I really enjoy hating the Colts. Sadly, they’ve been making an effort to be less infuriating. First it was Peyton Manning displaying an annoyingly charming sense of humor. Then it was the creation of owner Jim Irsay’s Twitter account. Here’s one tweet from today:

...I would guess she's in New York,with lots of money,in the bank...although I could be wrong.....

He writes that with no context! Who’s in New York, Jim? And why is she in the bank? You’ve made “with lots of money” a nonessential phrase, you delightful/grammatical dum-dum. Aaaargh, I want to hate him, but I also really want to hang out with the guy because he’s an eccentric billionaire who bought the original manuscript to On the Road and collects classic rock guitars. You only get a few eccentric billionaires in your life. Gotta hold on to this one.

And now his stupid team is getting two points at home against a Dolphins squad probably starting back-up QB/Soul-patch enthusiast Matt Moore. To be honest, I almost WANT them to them lose by one. Nick’s Pick: Colts
Locks of Seagulls:

Ravens (-3.5) When I first looked at this week’s spreads, I spent a full minute thinking “Baltimore” meant the Colts. That team moved to Indianapolis in 1983. I’ve had PLENTY of time to get that right. I think I need a CT scan.
Lions (-4) Detroit is due for an offensive explosion. On top of that, they average 23 points a game, and Jacksonville averages 14.7. Plus, Maurice Jones-Drew is still out for the foreseeable future. This is my Krypton Lock of the Week.
Bills (+10) Fred Jackson has enough life in him to keep this respectable. And maybe returning to Houston will be the one thing capable of motivating Mario Williams.


Cedric on: Pittsburgh @ NY Giants (-3)
This battle of top-tier teams will be the hardest-hitting game this weekend—at least the game involving professionals. (’Bama vs. LSU game will be the hardest-hitting game for those not collecting checks.) 

The offensive and defensive lines will decide this one. Expect Bradshaw to rush for 100+ and Ben to be pressured all game long, leading to a couple of interceptions. The Giants seem to be in postseason form already. Cedric’s Pick: Giants, winning 27-14 (Sorry, Beau.)
Locks:

Bears (-3.5) Defense wins games and covers spreads. I must remember that mantra!
Broncos (-3.5) Peyton does not lose to Cincy under any circumstances.
Falcons (-4) Jerry will be livid after this blowout. Romo must go!

Rory on: Dallas @ Atlanta (-4)
Hold the phone. First, as a Pats fan, I have to say that I’m excited about the move to acquire Aqib Talib and help the miserable secondary at the deadline. Some people are only looking at the negative side, with Talib having to serve one more game of a four-game suspension. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. With a bye week and then one week to sit and watch, this gives him two full weeks to learn the Patriots system. Yup, that’s two full weeks to learn how to get burned and then run into the receiver while trying to recover without looking back for the ball. Hey-ooo!

But back to the lecture at hand. Tony Romo is a mess. Since a big win over the G-Men on opening night he’s thrown six touchdowns with 12 picks while going 2-4 in that span. The only thing that’s going in his favor is that he’s playing on the road. Romo has just a pair of touchdowns and 10 interceptions in three home games this season.

I’ve discovered that more often than not, when a point spread looks too good to be true, it usually is. In this case, with the most complete team in the NFL giving only four points at home against a Cowboys team that is unraveling before our eyes, it sure seems like one of those spreads. Normally, in a too-good-to-be-true scenario, I’m able to talk myself into going with the not-so-obvious pick, because let’s be honest, Vegas knows what they’re doing.

By the way, what would happen if these teams ever met in the playoffs? Romo vs. Ryan in January? One of them would HAVE to win, right? What would the odds be on Earth getting struck by an asteroid or slipping into a black hole before the game ended?

I can’t talk myself into the Cowboys this time. Atlanta wins going away. Rory’s Pick: Falcons
Locks:

Giants (-3) It scares me how much better the NFC is than the AFC this year. (The AFC is 12-20 against the NFC.)
Bears (-3.5) Since I only get to pick three locks, as a rule I almost never pick against home dogs, but the Bears are AT LEAST a touchdown better than the Titans.
Vikings (+4.5) It shouldn’t be that hard to win by more than four points, right? Well, the Seahawks haven’t done it in their last 10 games (4 wins).


Beau on: Philly @ Nawlins (-3)
First things first: Greg, my team is better than your team, and I’m willing to wager on it to prove so. Take that!

I love getting these games! These two teams are the headliners in the great NFL imbroglio. The storyline is classic: 

Philly co-stars the tragic Wilford Brimley look-alike who’s coaching for his job and the convict trying to make good. The Saints are equally sad. They star the good guy trying to will his team to wins every week despite a JV defense and no leadership (other than him). The wagons are circling, Drew…

The Saints have what is being called one of the worst defenses of all time. They've given up more than 400 yards in seven straight games. Yet, they're throwing for more yards than anyone in the league. This reminds me of the tact of my alma mater, West Virginia University, who also don't care to fret about defense en lui of filling the sky with footballs. (It’s not working out so good for WVU.)

The Eagles fired their D coordinator, but the D wasn't that bad. In fact, it was in the top half of the league in most categories. Offensive turnovers are what’s killing the Eagles. I've got some advice for poor ol' Andy: tell conVick to hold on to the ball with both hands and run. Run like Forrest Gump. Don't even look down field. RUN! No matter how often the 6-foot-tall southpaw tries to be a classic passer, he’s not. What is he? A guy who can run a 4.3 40.

This game could end 3-2 or 65-48. I love football!

New Orleans gives up 400 yards again, but they win the turnover battle to cover. Beau’s Pick: Saints
Locks of the Week:

Steelers (+3) Pittsburgh is getting points this week? Seriously?  Come on, easiest pick of the year. Blitzburgh!! BOOM!
Buccaneers (+1.5) My boy Josh Freeman (Kansas State Standout) takes down the Raiders.
Lions (-4) Detroit over the Jags on the road
And how the hell is Oregon only -8.5 at USC? I know that I’m something like 1-9 picking college football, but I just can’t resist this game. The Ducks, BIG.

Until next week.

Email Nick at nick@improper.com