The Play Pen

Slack Lines II, Week 7

Betting advice by morons for morons.

Current Slack Lines standings:
“Diamond” Nick Altschuller: 8-9-1
Rich “Bronze Age” Levine: 8-9-1
Rory “Itchy Sweater” Duyon: 4-12

As the weather this week proved, fall has finally arrived. Everything was gray, cold and wet. My early morning walks to work were like reenactments of The Road. I felt like I should find a little boy and share a precious Coca-Cola with him, then teach him how to blow his brains out should I be eaten alive by roving cannibals. (Yeah, not a feel-good picture.) 

But our slow descent into fall—or as I call it, that time of the year when goddamn everything is pumpkin flavored—also means we’re heading into the heart of football season. Each game means that much more. Each gambling loss is that much more painful. Sure, it’s going to start getting dark by 10:30 am, but the lights at NFL stadiums are shining bright.

So grab yourself some new Autumn Blast Tostitos and Pumpkin Smash salsa, and let’s move on to the picks!

San Diego @ NY Jets (+2)
This marks only the third time in 10 years that the Chargers have started a season 4-1, but before you get too excited (actually, why would you get excited, aren’t you a Pats fan?), let me tell you that San Diego’s record is a little deceiving.

Nay, a lot deceiving. Despite the impressive start, the Chargers have won their four games by a combined 25 points, against teams with a combined 4-17 record. Their only real test? Week 2 at New England, where San Diego—with a healthier roster than they have now—couldn’t hang with the Pats.

And now they head into the new Meadowlands against a Jets team that’s finally moving in the right direction and still in desperate need of a win? Give me the Jets with the points at home. Make it my Lock of the Week (which I’m now making a thing). Rich’s pick: Jets

Denver @ Miami (-1.5)
In order to get some insight into this game, I watched a clip from ESPN First Take. I then cried hot tears of blood. The mouths of Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless are direct portals to the netherworld. They should never be in the same room together. If they were to touch, their combined pomposity would break mankind’s ability for rational thought and bring about an asinine apocalypse that not even Football Jesus could save us from. 

And while everyone is excited for Tim Tebow’s return to Florida, it looks to me like Dolphins QB Matt Moore might be ready for a resurgence of his own. People forget that in 2009, Moore took over Jake Delhomme’s job in Carolina (despite the fact that Delhomme had just signed a five-year, $42.5-million extension), and that he threw eight touchdowns and just one pick in the final five games of the season. In 2010, the Panthers were a trendy pick for the Super Bowl, but then Moore suffered a series of ugly mishaps (concussion, torn labrum, the existence of Jimmy Clausen).

I’m not saying Moore is going make it rain touchdowns on South Beach, but he knows what to do with the ball—which is chuck it at Brandon Marshall as much as possible (13 targets, 109 yards last week). With Brandon Lloyd traded, Tebow’s best receiver is now Eric Decker (2 catches for -2 yards in Tebow’s season debut). Nick’s Pick: Miami

Atlanta @ Detroit (-3.5)
In 2008, the trio of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Michael Smith made their Falcons debut against the Lions. It went pretty well for Atlanta, but then again it went pretty well for the other 15 teams that played the Lions that season, too.

Yup, last week I counted on the Lions and they let me down against the 49ers, and now I’m making 0-16 jokes. See what you made me do? You think I like making fun you in front of the eight people that read this blog?

This game should tell us a lot about these teams, both of which are expected to play in January. Last week’s home loss may have been a good reality check for Detroit. I expect them to come out with guns blazing in this one, even if they’re without Jahvid Best. The Atlanta secondary is 27th against the pass, and Calvin Johnson thinks that’s just swell. Rory's Pick: Lions

Kansas City @ Oakland (-4)
The only thing crazier than Carson Palmer starting at quarterback for the Raiders? With a win, the Chiefs will move to 3-3.

3-3? Wasn’t this one of the worst teams in the league BEFORE Jamaal Charles got injured? Weren’t they 15 minutes away from firing their coach? And now they’re on the doorstep of .500? Is it possible that these guys aren’t that bad. 

I’m not sure, but what I do know is this: Carson Palmer’s starting at quarterback for the Raiders

Al Davis lives! Rich’s pick: Chiefs

Green Bay @ Minnesota (-9)
Despite all their success, the Packers are ranked 31st in the league against the pass. That is atrocious, and if they want to repeat as Super Bowl champs, they’ll need to figure that out before the end of the season. But this week, all they’ll need to figure out is how to crush the Vikings worse than they did last time (a 31-3 drubbing, the Vikings’ worst home loss to the Packers ever).

Rookie Christian Ponder is getting the start for Minnesota, so please allow me to list the last three quarterbacks to make their Vikings debut against the Packers and where those players are now:

Spergon Wynn, 2001: Security guard at Comic-Con.
Tavaris Jackson, 2006: The Seahawks bench, and “Smooth” Charlie Whitehurst’s hit list.
Brooks Bollinger, 2007: Retired, but CLEARLY editing his Wikipedia page.

“Bollinger was able to start for the Vikings in week 10 against the Packers, but after a terrible performance by the Vikings in a 0-34 loss, Bollinger was listed as the 2nd string quarterback”

“Bollinger had only been working with the Cowboys starting line for a week prior to the game. With heavy pressure by the Giants defensive line, his first pass play he threw an interception which contributed to one of the Giants touchdowns. As the Cowboys offensive line performed terribly, Bollinger was sacked a number of times in his next few drives.”

You’re retired, Brooks. Let it go. Nick's Pick: Packers

Pittsburgh @ Arizona (+3.5)
Hypothetically speaking, pretend you’re an NFL GM. How many quarterbacks would you be willing to pay $65 million over six years? Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Rivers, Roethlisberger... MAYBE Vick? I mean, that’s it, right?

This offseason, Arizona signed 27-year-old Kevin Kolb and his 194 career pass attempts to a six-year, $65 million deal. Who on Earth thought that was a good idea? It reminds me of when the Red Sox signed JD Drew to that ridiculous contract five years ago. In the time leading up to that deal I didn’t hear one local fan, media member or expert say they wanted Drew in Boston. The Sox did it anyway and ended up paying him $70 million, or $2 million per back injury.

Five games into the first of Kolb’s six years, he’s 22nd in completion percentage, 28th in passer rating, and he’s got six picks to just five touchdowns. The Cardinals aren’t going to be good anytime soon, but they’re hosting one of the most underwhelming Steelers teams in recent memory. Rashard Mendenhall looks like he’s running in quicksand, and that leaves Roethlisberger to carry them through the air, and he’s looking beat up just six games into the season. Only four more games until that precious bye week! I have to go with the home dog. Rory’s Pick: Cardinals

St. Louis @ Dallas (-12)
This is a special kind of test for Tony Romo. I mean, to this point, we’ve seen him blow games of all shapes and sizes. He’s done it at home, on the road, with interceptions, with fumbles, with botched snaps on field goals. If there’s a way to eff up a game, Romo’s effed its brains out. But this… oh man, this would be something. This would be the greatest achievement of Romo’s bizarre career.

At home, against a winless Rams team that will very likely start 34-year-old AJ Feeley?

I believe in you, Tony. God damn it, I believe in you. Rich’s Pick: Rams

Indianapolis @ New Orleans (-14)
Saints coach Sean Payton injured his leg last week in a sideline collision with tight end Jimmy Graham. During his recovery, Payton will have to do his coaching from the press box—which I gotta think is a pretty sweet deal. Let’s look at the breakdown:

Regular Coaching: Standing for three hours.
Press Box: Butt parked in kick-ass office chair. They probably have a shiatsu setting for all I know.

Regular Coaching: Your every move is broadcast to millions.
Press Box: Adjust that bulge all you want, buddy! There’s a desk in the way! BUT WATCH THAT NOSE PICKING.

Regular Coaching: Jogging the sidelines of the sweltering Superdome.
Press Box: Air-conditioned luxury. What’s that? Oh, sure, I’ll have another Pepsi from the mini fridge, thank you.

But oh knows! How will Payton inspire his troops from way up there? Delegation. Every good team has a crazy assistant coach. Offensive line coaches? Great yellers. Special teams coaches? Hilarious. They may not garner a lot of respect, but they’ve got everyone’s ear. My guess is that Peyton knows the right person to replace his presence on the field. And that person will pick his nose on camera. Rookie mistake! Nick’s Pick: Saints

Baltimore @ Jacksonville (+7.5)
I’ve picked the Ravens once this season as a road favorite, and it completely backfired, so it’s hard for me to get excited about them here. Then again, the alternative is the Jaguars. This is a team that has reached 20 points once all season; a team with six touchdowns in six games; a team starting a rookie quarterback completing less than half of his passes against one of the NFL’s defenses.    

Speaking of Blaine Gabbert and his miserable performance, a few buddies and I decided to do the Grantland Bad Quarterback League, and Gabbert has me firmly in second place. I plan to get some big points out of him this week. I hate picking against home dogs, ESPECIALLY playing in prime time, but aside from the one abomination at Tennessee, the Ravens have won their other four games by 28, 30, 17 and 15. Rory’s Pick: Ravens

Until next week.

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Follow the Slack Lines team on Twitter: @altschuller, @rich_levine and @roryduyon

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