During my little two month vacation I took from this column (more on that around week 6) I had re-watched the excellent Robert Redford film "Quiz Show". It was about the 50's game show "21" where two contestants answered trivia questions in a battle of wits for $20,000. Loser goes home; winner gets to come back the following week for a chance to win more money. Think "Who wants to be a millionaire", but with less money and twice the contestants. The problem with "21" was that they rigged it. The producers were giving the answers to the contestant they wanted to win. Basically it was like every reality show is today. "Quiz Show" follows Charles Van Doren, the most famous of all the contestants. Van Doren was getting thousands of fan letters a day and at one point found himself on the cover of Time magazine. When he finally lost, NBC was waiting to give him a $50,000 contract to be a special consultant on the Today show (his loss was probably rigged considering NBC had the host of the Today show on set to give him the contract in front of the national audience). For a handsome teacher from Columbia, life was pretty good. That was, until, another contestant (Herb Stemple) came forth and let the world know the show was a fake. Van Doren was fired from NBC (because they couldn't be associated with cheaters), disgraced in front of a nation, and dismissed from Columbia University. He would never teach again. For those who have seen the movie, here is the actual clip of Herb Stemple losing to Van Doren.
When I watched that above clip, it led me to another clip of Michael Larson on Press Your Luck. Press Your Luck was that show in the 80's with a giant video screen and those little cartoon Whammies. A square would bounce around the screen that had money, vacations and Whammies. The contestant hits his big red button whenever he feels the square will land on a prize and, if it does, they win that prize. If it lands on a Whammie, they lose everything. Michael Larson spent 6 months memorizing the pattern in which the square would bounce around the screen, went on the show and won over $100,000 (in 1984!). He found a way to cheat the system and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Not too long after that, Michael Larson heard that there was a radio promotion where if someone could bring in two 1 dollar bills with identical serial numbers, they would win $30,000. Not content with the $100,000 he had just won; Larson went to his bank and withdrew everything he had left in one dollar bills. Everything. For the next couple months, Larson and his girlfriend sat around looking at one dollar bills seeing if any of the numbers matched. Pretty soon word got out that there was an idiot in town with paper sacks filled with cash strewn around his living room and, lo and behold, one day around Christmas he and his girlfriend came home to discover that they had been robbed of everything.
Of course, these two stories have everything to do with the Seattle Seahawks (obviously). Tarvaris Jackson has been the worst QB I have seen over the last 5 years (I'm including Pop Warner). In four preseason games with the Seahawks, he has looked even worse than I remember him being. He is just terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Of all the QB's available during the offseason (and there were quite a few), Peter Carroll only wanted him. On the first day teams were allowed to sign player, the Seahawks said they'd do whatever it takes to get him (followed by 31 other teams saying "um, ok, take him"). He has been outplayed by both Whitehurst AND Portis so far, but no matter, Carroll named Jackson the starter. Hell, he named him the starter before the first preseason game even happened. Garrard was just released by Jacksonville, freeing up a vastly better QB free for the taking. Carroll says he is not interested in signing him. He has made it very clear. Pete Carroll wants to tank this season and go for the number one pick in next year's draft.
Van Doren cheated, and bad things happened to him because of it. Larson didn't necessarily cheat, but he tried to manipulate the system. Bad things happened to him. Trying to lose every game in an NFL season isn't exactly cheating, but it is definitely trying to manipulate the season. Watching "Quiz Show", I couldn't help but think of the Seahawks. Making Seahawk fans endure the train wreck that is Tarvaris Jackson for an entire NFL season has to be bad for one's karma. Hopefully Pete will wise up and start a real quarterback by week 2.
Onto the picks...
Saints at Packers
The NFL season kicks off with a battle between the last two Super Bowl champions. Did you know that the Packers put 10 guys on injured reserve last year? I didn't. Green Bay is going to be very good again, especially with a full slate of players. New Orleans also improved by swapping Reggie Bush for Darren Sproles (another player the Hawks should have gone after). Hey, speaking of the Saints, how did they ever lose to Seattle in the playoffs last year? Oh yeah.
Falcons at Bears
I am one of those Julio Jones believers. Having him and White for a still-improving-but-already-r eally-good Matt Ryan is going to make a big difference. As a matter of fact, I expect Atlanta to win their division this year. As for Chicago, my whole opening was about the worst QB I have ever seen, and not once did I mention Jay Cutler. You are welcome.
Bengals at Browns
Kudos to Cincinati owner Mike Brown for not giving into Carson Palmer's trade demand. I love it when owners tell their superstar "You don't want to play, fine. But I'm not releasing you from your contract." It happens like once or twice a decade. That said, the Bengals are going to suck. They probably would suck with or without Carson Palmer. Cleveland I like this year. Sure they'll have to deal with Hillis suffering the Madden curse. But I like McCoy, I love Josh Cribbs and they get a bye in week one.
Bills at Chiefs
During my Vegas trip in July, me and my buddy Juice went down to the sports book to watch a game we had bet on. Other than us, there was a group from Chicago sitting at the bar (they were quickly dubbed "The Chicago 5"). We asked what they were drinking (Sailor Jerry's rum), decided to have a few ourselves and within 10 minutes the 7 of us were carrying on like old friends. Pretty soon the bartender joined in as well. Within a hour, we were buying each other drinks, throwing out jokes back and forth, and plowing through Sailor Jerry's like it Marshawn Lynch plowing through the Saints (here you go, again). They were rooting for our team to win, I promised to put them in this column and Sailor Jerry's had a huge spike in sales. A win for everyone involved. That's why I love Vegas. Thousands of people converge onto one city for a few days, interacts with each other like they're long lost buddies, and then goes their separate ways like nothing ever happened. I talk about all of this here because despite the Chiefs having a pretty good offense and the Bills improving from last year, this game still bores me.
Eagles at Rams
Philly made a big splash in the offseason by signing ESPN to a 2 year contract. It is exciting for everyone because Sportscenter didn't know how to fill that 10 minute gap where they weren't talking about the Yankees or Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Rams seem to be everybody's sleeper pick, but the schedule only shows them facing Tarvaris Jackson twice so I don't know...
Lions at Bucs
The other sleeper pick everyone is loving seems to be Detroit. I love Suh, the guy is a monster, but Detroit has not won in my lifetime. And I'm starting to get pretty old. That said, I kind of like them too. Stafford is getting good, Calvin Johnson is amazing, and, again, Suh...what a beast! The Bucs are also coming around. They drafted Mason Foster (a steal in the 3rd round), they have Josh Freeman to continue to make plays on offense, and they have the University of Miami scandal happening to remind everyone that Kellen Winslow still plays football. Pretty big season for both squads.
Titans at Jags
If I end up buying Madden this year, the Titans might be the team I use. Jake Locker AND the corpse of Matt Hasselbeck? I'm in. Meanwhile, Jack Del Rio and Jacksonville decided to give Seattle a run for their money by cutting David Garrard and going with Luke McCown. Luke McCown is so bad, not even Luke McCown know who Luke McCown is. Whatever, we have Tarvaris. Enjoy the 2nd overall pick Jacksonville.
Stealers at Ravens
Yeah, I'm calling them the Stealers again this year. Deal with it. They have also won 6 of the last 8 against the Ravens, which sucks. Could this be the year that the Ravens beat up on Big (rap sheet) Ben? Please?
Colts at Texans
Welcome to a year of Kerry Collins Indianapolis! Also, Houston fans, a word of warning. You will probably win this game. Don't get too excited. Every year the Texans win a big game and still end up one game above or below .500. I like your team, I have Arian Foster on one of my fantasy squads, but there are some certainties in life. Every year, Big Ben gets mixed up in something horrible and every year the Texans finish a game or two out of the playoffs.
Panthers at Cardinals
Cam Newton had to take a pay cut to come to Carolina from Auburn, but he's still doing alright. Plus it'll be nice that the money comes straight to him now as opposed to the old way in college where it would just get delivered to his dad in a suitcase. Despite taking the best paid athlete with the first pick, Carolina is still looking at a rebuilding effort this year. On the other side, word on the street is that Kolb doesn't look to good in Arizona himself. I'm sure Fitzgerald is happy he re-upped the contract a few more years.
Vikings at Chargers
The Vikings dumped Tarvaris Jackson for Donovan McNabb, who is 58 years old. Shouldn't that have been warning sign number 1 for the Seahawks? So frustrating...
Seahawks at 49ers
"Hey Elliott good to see you, here to watch the game?"
"Boy, the Hawks finally let go of Hasselbeck, huh?
"Yep. And Tatupu."
"Wait, wasn't he like one of your favorite players?"
"That sucks man, I'm sor...wow! They pass bounced like 7 feet in front of the receiver. Who is your QB?"
"Wasn't he really, really bad in Minnesota? Like so bad that they twice went out and begged Brett Favre to come back?"
"Interception! There wasn't even a receiver near by! Who's calling these plays?"
"We have Minnesota's offensive coordinator from last year"
"Didn't the Vikings suck last year?"
"Next round is on me"
Giants at Redskins
If you are a gambler, stay away from this game. The Giants have half their team injured and Eli Manning completing less than half of his preseason passes. The Redskins have Rex Grossman.
Cowboys at Jets
Just a reminder Cowboy fans, you guys finished 6-10 last season and only started playing well after Kitna became the QB. Also, the offensive line is a mess right now. Just a reminder.
Patriots at Dolphins
I kind of liked an upset pick here until I remembered that Chad Henne was the quarterback. Er....
Raiders at Broncos
A classic Monday night matchup between two teams that combined for 12 wins last season.
Broncos (without Tebow!) 24-20