Browns GM George Kokinis was fired this week, and I think I speak for all serious football fans when I say: Who? This guy kept a lower profile than the fifth Jonas brother (ie. me).
The most intriguing element of the story is the revelation that the Browns are reviewing the guy’s phone records to build a case for firing him for cause and not having to pay out his contract. It’s fun to speculate: Whose phone advice could Kokinis have been following for his team to be so awful? The Psychic Friends Network? The nice operator on the Craftmatic Adjustable Bed hotline? Al Davis?
And now, on to this week’s prognostic futility…
Scott Feschuk Last week: 8-5 Season: 62-53-1
Scott Reid Last week: 8-5 Season: 67-48-1
K.C. (plus 6.5) at Jacksonville
Feschuk: I’ve long wondered what the going price of a gay slur is these days and now I know: $315,000. Thanks, Larry Johnson. What exactly is the deal with the 2009 NFL season? In the past, the league’s terrible teams have managed to go about their business of being god-awful without also being as dysfunctional as a Sheen family Christmas (“Kids, let’s gather ’round and help Daddy trim the hooker”). But this year’s bad teams make the plot of Flash Forward look cohesive. They’re all falling apart out there. When it comes to Johnson’s flameout, I blame Twitter. No grown man should ever have to suffer the indignity of telling his friends that he just “tweeted,” except as a polite euphemism for having weakly farted. Pick: Jacksonville.
Reid: Every time I get the urge to tweet I just think of cold weather and the feeling goes right away. This game holds all the interest of a NCIS/NCIS: Los Angeles crossover episode. Kansas City will lose. Jacksonville will still be crummy. And LL Cool J will stand around wondering who he pissed off to get stuck acting next to Chris O’Donnell. The Jaguars lost 41-0 to Seattle only three weeks ago. If this were at Arrowhead, they’d lose this game too. But it’s not. Pick: Jacksonville.
Baltimore (minus 3) at Cincinnati
Reid: Baltimore faced a must-win last week in Denver against an undefeated team that not even Scott Baio could score on. And they dominated the game in every dimension, controlling the Broncos the way Joanie loves Chachi. Now for the real test: the Cincinnati Bengals. What’s startling about the preceding sentence is that it’s not a joke. Cincinnati has actually earned its way into top contender status. Carson Palmer is playing great. Ochocinco is making big plays and is near the top of the league in TD receptions. Even the defence is holding its own. And they’re beating winners – Pittsburgh, Green Bay, even Baltimore once already. And yet, the Bengals are the Yeti of the NFL – despite all the evidence, doubters persist. Personally, I believe climate change will force the Yeti to change their diet, migrate South and take our jobs. And I am not prepared to give away this game and points on the basis of a single Ravens performance. Pick: Cincinnati.
Feschuk: The real shame of Liberals losing government in 2006 is that the country will never get to see your draft policy on Yeti employment insurance and skills development. It was a forward-looking document that would have transformed Canada into an undisputed world leader in devouring helpless villagers. I’m telling you: this thing would have rendered Godzilla obsolete as a macro-economic competitive advantage. Your move, Pacific Rim. And what, I ask you, has Harper done to advance the Yeti advantage? Apart from inviting one into his cabinet, nothing.
Little-known fact: He has to shave every hour.
Washington (plus 10) at Atlanta
Feschuk: Another tough week for Jim Zorn. Half the NFL was obsessing over the ineptitude of the Browns’ organization. The other half was obsessing over the ineptitude of the Raiders’ organization. Whole days went by without anyone obsessing over the ineptitude of Jim Zorn’s coaching. Clearly, Zorn is going to have to step up his game by stepping down his coaching to an even lower level. My suggestion? Punt on second down. Mangini would have to eat one of his two quarterbacks to outdo that. (Headline from Week 11 in the NFL: Brady Quinn still missing.) Pick: Atlanta.
Reid: The Redskins won’t fire Jim Zorn because they don’t want to keep paying his salary. So instead, they’ve been stripping him of his responsibilities as head coach in an obvious effort to humiliate him into resigning. At this rate, by Week 13, he’ll need to find a weak-looking crossing guard just to get a whistle. What Snyder and Co. didn’t count on is the fact that Zorn has a rare humiliation immunity. This guy could win the Calaveras County Shit-Sandwich Eating Contest without so much as breaking a sweat. Which, in many ways, makes him the perfect Redskins coach. I expect he’ll stay right where he is for a good many years. Pick: Atlanta.
Houston (plus 9) at Indianapolis
Reid: I’m not saying Peyton Manning is perfect but recently a circle asked to draw a picture of him, freehand. (Geometry jokes always get the chicks.) Houston is gradually improving but of its wins this season only Cincy and SF are even remotely good teams. Still, it’s a divisional face-off. Schaub has been playing great. Indy looked human last week – and probably should have been beat. I am predicting upset. This is the game where Indy’s unbeaten streak comes to an end. Pick: Houston.
Feschuk: And I’m predicting Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson are going to get back together. Sadly, there’s no amount of wishful predictin’ that can transform the impossible into the possible (You had a piece of the magic man and you blew it, Loni). The Texans’ defence looked good last week but that was against Buffalo, which is so impotent on offence that T.O. has taken to naming each of the yards he gains (“Let’s go in my room and I’ll braid your hair, Yard Six. Or should I say: Darlene.”) Going from facing the Bills to facing the Colts is like going from arm-wrestling Kate Bosworth to being hunted for sport by Ted Nugent. Pick: Indy.
Green Bay (minus 10) at Tampa Bay
Feschuk: Congratulations Tampa Bay! You’re now the only winless team left in the National Football League. But as Uncle Ben so eloquently put it: with great spazitude comes great responsibility. (I’m talking about the Uncle Ben on the rice box, not the Spider-Man one.) Both Cleveland and Oakland have byes this week so it falls to the Bucs to be three times as lousy. I’m not good at math: What’s three times infinity? Meanwhile, for the Packers, this game spells relief better than R-O-L-A-I-D-S or B-A-C-K-A-L-L-E-Y-M-A-S-S-A-G-E: Favre’s return is behind them and all that lies in front of them are the vast open spaces of the untamed and ungood Tampa secondary. Pick: Green Bay.
Reid: There’s a Puerto Rican video called Sexy Robotica. I mention that not because it is remotely relevant to this game but because it occurs to me that there must be a lot of Latin pop-culture developments that I’ve missed over the past, oh, 41 years. Maybe the second half of this game would be a good time to get caught up. Certainly, it would be a better use of time than watching Aaron Rodgers shred the Bucs’ secondary. Te Amo. Pick: Green Bay.
Arizona (plus 3) at Chicago
Reid: If Kurt Warner had thrown one more interception last week, he would have had to pay royalties to Jake Delhomme. On the other hand, Cutler couldn’t come up with a passing TD against the Browns – a team so bad that it can’t even fire its GM without controversy and cops. Nothing about last week’s performance suggests that Arizona is a good bet to win this game. But betting on Chicago to overcome a team with a winning record is like betting on Kate Hudson to pick a nobody as her next boyfriend. Pick: Arizona.
Feschuk: I’ll say this much: If Kate Hudson wanted Jay Cutler as her boyfriend, there is nothing that could stop her. Certainly the Bears’ O-line couldn’t do it. Those guys offer up about as much protection as a condom opened by Wolverine. Pick: Arizona.
Carolina (plus 13.5) at New Orleans
Feschuk: When the season started this looked like a marquee matchup between two playoff contenders. Now it looks as lopsided as a charisma contest between Stephen Harper and a toaster. (In retrospect, it was never a fair fight: That toaster is made of chrome, the most charming of all the metals.) The Panthers tried a radical new game plan last week that involved them not turning the ball over every 30 seconds and it worked. They crushed the Cardinals on the strength of Jake Delhomme’s arm (to be specific, the arm that kept handing the ball to the running backs instead of ever throwing it). But this week, Carolina will fall behind to the mighty Saints, which means Delhomme will have to throw, which means Delhomme will throw interceptions. This is not a theory – this is a fact. It’s a sure as salmon returning to the stream of their birth or Matthew McConaughey returning to the chest waxer. Pick: New Orleans.
Reid: It’s been quite a season for Carolina. Jake Delhomme is seeing the field about as well as Mary Ingalls. And John Fox is rumoured to still be alive – although the complete absence of season-long coaching adjustments renders that a dubious claim. New Orleans has had two bad games in a row – and by bad, we mean they only outscored their opponents by a combined 21 points. The Saints could score in their sleep – and somewhere after the 65th time Delhomme hands the ball off, they just might have to. Pick: New Orleans.
Miami (plus 10) at New England
Reid: The wildcat looked more like a domesticated pussy last week (insert joke about the word pussy here). They couldn’t get anything started and the Jets showed that a superior defence can shut it down. But here’s the thing: New England’s defence isn’t superior anymore. It’s gotten so old that it usually skips half of each game to watch the Weather channel and mutter about the high price of heating fuel. I see little in New England’s season to this point that suggests it deserves this spread against an improving Dolphins team. Although it is crazy how much the cost of natural gas has gone up. Pick: Miami.
Feschuk: You gotta love the confidence of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. After beating the Jets last week, he said the AFC East championship goes through Miami because the Fins are 3-0 in division games. Cool, great, whatever you say Tony – now, about those four losses you’ve got. Belichick has had an extra week to plot schemes to combat the wildcat. Plus he probably brought back a whole box of Curly Wurly chocolate bars from London, and those things are delicious. Pick: New England.
San Diego (plus 5) at New York Giants
Feschuk: Wow, New York: Your season is fading worse than Kirstie Alley on the second flight of stairs. The Giants have lost three in a row and, come on, how much longer before the real Tom Coughlin emerges? The guy has concealed his true nature for a couple years now but one more loss and the neck veins are going to start pulsing, the eyes are going to start bulging and Ang Lee and Edward Norton are going to start making two equally terrible movies about him. Don’t make Tom Coughlin angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. (Frankly, most people don’t even like him when he’s pretending to be nice, but you get my point.) Pick: San Diego.
Reid: When Norv Turner approaches his weekly gameplan does he think, “If my players can just keep it close, I’ll win this by outcoaching the other guy.” Or does he think, “Wow, that new James Cameron flick sure looks neato.” My money is on the big blue aliens. This game will be close because the two teams are well matched – right down to their recent habit of finding ways to lose. On balance, I think the Giants will win because Turner coaches the team playing the Giants. But I’ll still take the points. Pick: San Diego.
Detroit (plus 10) at Seattle
Reid: There can be little doubt: Detroit stinks like Absorbine Jr. It couldn’t even beat St. Louis, for Pete’s sake. That’s like being a controlled substance and not getting Pete Doherty to ingest you. Seattle remains the world’s most frustrating bet. They show up less reliably than Beetle Bailey. Still, how do you overlook Detroit’s overlookedness? Pick: Seattle.
Feschuk: How degenerate a gambler would you have to be to lay real money on this game? First of all, it would pretty much compel you to watch the game, which the UN has defined as a crime against eyeballs. Plus, you’d have wagered finite financial resources on one sorry excuse for a football team being slightly less sorry than the other sorry excuse for a football team. If you’re going to do that, why not just bet on which Kardashian sister is going to weigh 300 pounds first? (P.S. I’ve got two bills on Khloe.) Pick: Detroit.
Dallas (plus 3) at Philadelphia
Feschuk: For the big Vikings-Packers game last week, Fox unveiled the Favre Cam – a camera pointed at Brett Favre for the duration of the game and available online for your perusal and/or masturbatory image needs (John Madden only). Question: Will you all sign my petition demanding a Phillips Cam? The sport of football desperately needs a camera that follows Wade Phillips from kickoff to final gun, capturing every perplexed gaze, every groin scratch and every time he notices the headset he’s wearing and squeals with delight: “I’m Judy the Time-Life operator!” Think of the good such a camera could do: future generations of clueless NFL coaches would never again have to wonder at what juncture of the game to pull a sandwich out of their pocket, give it a sniff and put it back for later. Pick: Philadelphia.
Reid: I’ll thank you to not use the words “John Madden” and “masturbate” in the same sentence again. In fact, I may need you to scrub the inside of my imagination with bleach to remove the image. As for the Cowboys, they’ll lose to the Eagles and they’ll lose soundly. Philly is the class of this division. They’ve got a better defense. A better coach. And a better quarterback. Keep that camera on Phillips. We can watch to see which moves faster: the Cowboys offence or the gravy stain on Phillips’ belly. Pick: Philadelphia.
Tennessee (plus 4) at San Francisco
Reid: Across San Francisco, billboards feature Niners’ head coach Mike Singletary standing alongside motivational quotes like, “I’m not a ‘moral victory’ kind of guy.” It’s a great campaign but, much like you, it’s full of fertilizer. These days, ‘moral victories’ are exactly the business the Niners are in. They had a shot to win last week and lost. Just like they did the week before. If they want to avoid becoming the NDP of the NFL, they’ve got to beat the Titans this week. It’s a must. And I have a plan to get it done: Tape Chris Johnson’s legs together. It may sound juvenile. Or juvevcheaty. But ask yourself this: when was the last time a running back gained 100 yards with his legs 3M’ed together? Put that on a billboard, Singletary. Pick: San Francisco.
Feschuk: You’re hilarious. What would it take for you to not pick the 49ers? Seriously, who would they have to be favoured against for you to not take them? The 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers? The 1985 Chicago Bears? The 1977 Harlem Globetrotters? Pick: Tennessee.
Pittsburgh (minus 3) at Denver
Reid: The Steelers are going to get very Mark Hamill on Denver’s ass this Monday. Pick: Pittsburgh
Feschuk: What – they’re going to recite their dialogue with a wooden cadence and display all the thespian acumen of Bantha dung? And then Ben Roethlisberger is going to complain to the refs that the Millennium Falcon in a hunk of junk and that he’d rather be going to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters? I’ve heard better game plans. Pick: Denver.