NFL Picks Week 15: Like flipping a quarter, but with words

The unbearable unbearableness of being a Denver Bronco

Scott Feschuk Last week: 7-9 Season: 103-81-8

Scott Reid Last week: 8-8 Season: 90-94-8


San Francisco (plus 9) at San Diego, Thursday night

Feschuk: Who can think about football at a time like this? SCARLETT JOHANSSON HAS DUMPED RYAN REYNOLDS! Naturally, I assume it’s because she’s been made aware of the things I’ve been writing about her in my Dream Journal. Our romantic strolls. Evenings spent cuddling beside the fire. That incident with the whipped cream and pork chops. Clearly, if Scarlett was interested only in surface beauty, she’d have stayed with the Sexiest Man Alive no matter what. So this must mean she’s looking for someone old, overweight and prone to sudden outbreaks of psoriasis and napping. Goddammit Reid, I don’t stand a chance against you. Pick: San Diego.

Reid: Sound analysis, Padawan. Obviously, she’s looking for a switch from the muscular but grapeless Ryan Reynolds. As the artful self portrait I sent Scar just this moment makes clear, I’m everything he’s not.

BTW, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is unrelated to tonight’s matchup. If I can have imaginary rebound sex with Scarlett Johansson, surely the 49ers can scratch out a real-life longshot win against the Chargers. Pick: San Francisco.



K.C. (plus 1.5) at St. Louis

Reid: KC needs three things to happen this week to keep their slim hopes of snagging the AFC West alive: The Niners to take down San Diego. St. Louis to crater. And Brodie Croyle to board a plane bound for Nevercomebackville. Obviously, Cassell starting is crucial to KC’s interests. But I would argue that Croyle not starting is even more crucial. He’s 0-10 as a starter. Gets sacked every time he stands up straight and is less welcome than David Hasselhoff’s new reality TV series. I see they’ve got something called a Tyler Palko there. He completed two of three passes last week. Sold! If not him, the WNBA is between seasons. Get one of them big strong lesbians. Pick: St. Louis.

Feschuk: For yours truly, Monday morning was a time for hard questions. For instance, why on earth did I pick the Chiefs when Matt Cassel wasn’t playing? Also: where did that sexy lady at the bar go with my bank card? And why did I believe her when she claimed she wanted me to say my PIN out loud because “numbers make me horny?” If I were actually betting money on football, I’d avoid this game the way we’re all going to avoid the Kelsey Grammer sex tape. Pick: K.C.


Atlanta (minus 6) at Seattle

Feschuk: Only Can’t Miss NFL Picks has the exclusive transcript of Terry Bradshaw’s most recent conversation with his brain…

Terry Bradshaw’s Brain [sounds just like Michael Caine for some reason]: Good afternoon, Terrance. I daresay it has been quite a long while since we conversed.

Terry: Hi Brian!

/struggles to remove foil lid on pudding

Brain: It’s pronounced Brain. Brain.

Terry: Good for you. How you doin’ anyhoo??!

Brain: Well, I’d be deceiving us both if I replied with feigned geniality to your query. Frankly, I’ve grown rather lonely.

Terry: You and you both!

/gnaws at pudding lid

Brain [sighs]: Yes, well, down to business, I suppose. I have a few developments of note. For instance, when you placed your hands on that hot plate last Tuesday, that hurt. Try to remember not to do it again.

/Terry looks down

Terry: Oh my God! Look how badly the back of my hands are burned!

Brain: Those are Curt Menefee’s hands.

Terry: Oh my God! I stole Curt’s hands! How’s Curt making wee-wee with no hands??!

/Brain tries to propel self forward into skull to trigger concussion or amnesia.

Brain: No, no. You’re sitting next to Mr. Menefee and you are looking at his hands instead of your own. Adjust your gaze ever so slightly downward and –

/ Terry uses tip of tongue to try and pierce foil lid

Brain: What other information do I have for you? It was Howie Long who stole your sippy cup. Underwear goes on the inside. And then there was –

Terry [eyes narrowing]: Who’s making that noise in my skull box? Is that you, Santy Claus? Leave me a choo-choo, Santa, you ol’ dawg you!

Brain: And then there was that time on Wednesday when you spent 90 minutes trying to figure out where your feet had gone. I have the answer.

/ Nose covered in pudding, Terry hums the theme to Sesame Street.

Brain: They were in your shoes. Pick: Atlanta.

Reid: Speaking of brains, this is a game that you’ll want to think through closely – evaluating all the angles and weighing every possible factor. Allow me to demonstrate.  Initially, you look at this game and think: Easy sleezy – Atlanta wins with their eyes closed. BUT consider the complexities. At 4-2, Seattle can actually play some ball when it’s at home. Combine that with the fact that Stephen Hawking could complete a pass against the Falcons’ secondary and you’ve got the ingredients for a surprise upset. Now – and it’s always important to really see-saw these things back and forth – there are also many things to equally recommend Atlanta and here’s the most important: Seattle is a bunch of pussies. They play like pussies. They whine like pussies. And they’re coached by a pussy with a Farrah Fawcett feathered do, the official hairstyle of pussies since 1976. Run it all through the Batcomputer and the answer is undeniable: The pussies are going down. Pick: Atlanta.



Houston (plus 1.5) at Tennessee

Reid: These two teams boast defences about as stiff as Brett Favre’s sweet and low. Although both teams did manage to stage late-game rallies last week to only lose by a small margin. It doesn’t ease the humiliation but it keeps the coaching suicides to a manageable rate. Jeff Fisher has been coaching the Titans since they played way back against the Bedrock Miners. Is it possible his players have just plain quit listening? I’ve not seen anyone give up this suddenly since Olivia Newton-John got the 411 about John Travolta. Pick: Houston.

Feschuk: In last week’s Tennessee-Indianapolis game, the ref gave a penalty for “disconcerting signals.” I’m telling you: For a violent and manly sport, the NFL’s got some pretty pansy affectations in its rule book. Oooooh, that rapscallion made gestures and stuff! THIS MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO STAND! And imagine if a receiver made disconcerting signals while AT THE SAME TIME going to the ground in celebration? Ed Hochuli’s biceps may well explode from all the flag throwing. In other news, embattled coach Jeff Fisher has been getting calls from fans demanding a more aggressive offensive strategy and personnel changes in the secondary. He also received a call from the 1980s, asking for its moustache back. Pick: Houston.


Arizona (plus 2.5) at Carolina

Feschuk: The mere mention of this game makes baby Jesus cry, so instead let’s look to the future. Coming to a Sports Centre update near you in January, 2011: “Derek Anderson, released at the end of the 2010 season by the Arizona Cardinals, is poised to sign an incentive-laden contract elsewhere. Sources say Anderson could receive up to 30% off most Slurpees if he makes assistant manager. Meanwhile in Carolina, the Panthers continue to try to come to terms with Andrew Luck in advance of the 2011 draft – but Luck refuses to answer the phone. Or the door, even though when John Fox leaned into the bushes to peer through the window, he could totally see Luck crouching behind his sofa.” Pick: Carolina.

Reid: Fortunately, I’m the kind of Christmas shopper who leaves all the really important gifts til the last minute. This guarantees that I encounter long lineups, jammed parking lots and retail staff – hired that morning from the half-way house – who look at me with hash-lidded eyes and say “Black Cops: Call of Duty? Dude, I don’t think they can make a game with just black people in it. That’s racist.” All of which still sounds preferable to suffering through the crotchrot of a game this will be.  Pick: Arizona.



Philadelphia (plus 2.5) at New York Giants

Reid: Two things I think we can agree about DeSean Jackson. First, he’s got wicked awesome skills. Second, he’s a tit. Dude has already celebrated his way to blowing one TD in the NFL. Would have served him right if he’d notched number two last week. Meanwhile, Coach Andy Reid directed his anger at the ref.

Also this week, Michael Vick was quoted as saying he’d love to get another dog. Right. Letting Vick have another dog would be like letting Charlie Sheen have another hooker. Pick: Philadelphia.

Feschuk: A quick word of advice for Eli Manning as he prepares to face the Eagles’ defence: If you can stay calm while all around you is chaos, then you have probably suffered a concussion. Pick: Philadelphia.



Jacksonville (plus 5) at Indianapolis

Feschuk: The Colts have so many injuries that their roster resembles the final season of Happy Days, where it was basically The Fonz and 52 other people that no one had ever heard of. Sure, Richie and Ralph are gone but, look, Ted McGinley! And Fonzie’s a teacher or whatever! This comparison actually holds when you extend it to coach Jim Caldwell, who has all the wit and charisma of Henry Winkler’s comb. Jacksonville clinches the division with a victory here. Plus they ensure that Indy will fail to record 10 wins or more for the first time since Lindsay Lohan was considered precocious. Pick: Jacksonville.

Reid: My favourite three things about the last, grasping seasons of Happy Days… First, the way they just gave up pretending it was any era other than the 1970s. Arnold’s has a plush taupe makeover. Potsie does his hair in a Dorothy Hamill and Mr. C wears the same sweeping bellbottoms that Lamont Sanford had on way over on NBC. Second, the way they kept pathetically teasing Richie, Lori-Beth and the twins – as though we might keep suffering through Ted McGinley and Crystal Bernard just to catch a glimpse. And finally, the sad return of Pat Morita in the final few episodes as even Al bolted for the (briefly) greener pastures of Joanie Loves Chachi. All of which serves to remind that some things outlive their prime. Like Indy. Pick: Jacksonville.



Washington (plus 6) at Dallas

Reid: Why would anyone ever bet on the Washington Redskins? I did last week and it instantly became number 22 on the list of 39 things between December 6 and 13 that prove I’m a total arsepick (we always stop counting at 39 – sort of arsepick mercy rules). I don’t like the Cowboys. I don’t believe in the Cowboys. I dream of a world where the only remaining Cowboys are gay and sing.

But I can’t put my faith in these Redskins once more this year. Pick: Dallas.

Feschuk: One of my favourite headlines of the week – right up there with “Dane Cook’s mouth vanishes mysteriously,” which, sadly, appeared only in the pages of my imagination – is this one from the venerable Washington Post: “Redskins’ offense still has work to do.” Really? You think?? Clearly the Post put Woodward and Bernstein on the football beat and they came back with this exclusive that will SHOCK THE WORLD. Only the keenest journalist minds – or anyone who’s watched even five minutes of a Redskins’ season in which they’ve scored 140 fewer points than Philadelphia – could possibly have put together the clues, hints and secret information required to discern that the offense still has work to do. Over to you, Pulitzers. Pick: Dallas.


Buffalo (plus 5.5) at Miami

Feschuk: What with all the concussions and the injuries and the fact that the top of James Harrison’s helmet is caked with blood, teeth and human spleens, football isn’t sitting well with some folks. I keep coming across articles in which people go on about the primitive nature of the sport. Yes, football is a brutal pastime, medieval in many ways, urbane in few. Perhaps its ever-growing popularity says something about the state of our modern world and our affinity for baser pursuits. Perhaps its hallowed status will, decades from now, define our era as bloodthirsty and loutish. Then again, Greece is considered the cradle of western civilization – yet the men who lived there wrestled one another in the nude to win a tree branch. By comparison, it feels like football is progress. Pick: Buffalo.

Reid: In a blatant confession that I have nuthin and am running out of time to get this column filed, I’m going to re-run the picture you posted last week of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

And, as you’ve noted already: How could you possibly not love that beard? He’s a squeaky clean Harvard smarty trying to look all down and dirty. Of course, the Harper government will insist that he shaves if the Bills ever do move to Toronto permanently. Jason Kenney will suspect he’s got three entire Tamil families concealed in there. Pick: Buffalo.



Detroit (plus 6) at Tampa Bay

Reid: There are no words to describe the sheer ball-numbing boringness of last week’s Green Bay-Detroit matchup. When the number of beers you drink during four quarters outnumbers the total score of the entire game, you know you’ve stumbled into a real snorefest. To be fair, Drew Stanton did everything he could to blow this game. He threw interceptions. He missed receivers. He sang Phil Collins songs to curse himself and others. Nothing worked. He still found a way to win. This week will be a little different. Josh Freeman has yet to lead his team to success against a winning ball club. Lucky for him and his completely perfect hairdo, he’s not going to meet one this week. Pick: Tampa Bay.

Feschuk: It’s got to be hard to motivate your team when you’re 3-10. So here’s a helpful script for Lions coach Jim Schwartz to follow:  “Men, we’re in a rough spot. We’ve disappointed our fans. And now we’re six-point underdogs to a team whose uniforms make them look like Arctic Orange shakes. But the naysayers who are counting us out – they forgot one thing, men. They overlooked one small fact: We actually have to play the game! Seriously, I checked – we have to play the game. Tough news, but I like the way you guys started thinking outside the box there. Now, when we get out on that field, maybe we’ll fall behind by a few points. And if that happens, I want you men to remember that old saying: Winners never quit and … well, frankly it’s hard to see how this applies to us. I bet there are other sayings out there that do, though. I bet lots of sayings apply to us. Good ones, too. Now get out there and try to remember what I’ve been telling you all week long: ‘Your quarterback’s name is Drew.’” Pick: Tampa Bay.


New York Jets (plus 6) at Pittsburgh

Feschuk: Did you hear they’re making a sitcom based on the life of ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd? This is actually true. I wonder who’s going to play the role of my fist smashing into the radio every time he talks? Anyway, I was listening to his show the other day and someone was on there saying that Mark Sanchez would be more effective as a quarterback if the Jets could devise a “more coherent protection scheme” for him. What would qualify as sufficiently “coherent” to protect a quarterback who needs nine minutes to find his check-down receiver: A moat? Pick: Pittsburgh.

Reid: After dropping two straight divisional games, openly questioning his quarterback’s play and falling backwards onto a Yeti’s toilet…

… Rex Ryan is in danger of becoming a big fat joke. Could it be that after guaranteeing a Super Bowl appearance all season long, the Jets won’t even make the playoffs?  Yes. Yes, it could. Dont expect them to win this week or next. Which leaves them hoping to overcome Buffalo – a team that would love to play spoiler in the last week of the year. Pick: Pittsburgh.



New Orleans (plus 2) at Baltimore

Reid: Both teams actually need to win this game to keep pace against division rivals. Which seems particularly nuts in the case of New Orleans, who already have 10 wins. If they were in the NFC West, they’d be able to sleep in late on game day. Actually, if they were in the NFC West they could sleep in and fail to field anyone over six feet tall without fear of penalty. For most of the year, people have been down on the Saints and talking up Baltimore. But if you ask me, pound for pound, New Orleans is a better team. I expect them to win straight up by a good-sized margin. In fact, I’m starting to think they’re going to be the NFC’s Super Bowl rep for the second consecutive year. Pick: New Orleans.

Feschuk: Well, that seals it. I was going to pick the Saints in this one but given your record of forecasting Super Bowl participants (2007, St. Louis – final record 3-13; 2008, Seattle – final record 4-12) you’ve clearly just doomed New Orleans with a jinx worse than appearing on a cover of Madden that appears on a cover of Sports Illustrated that’s been cursed by a 400-year-old warlock who also has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated (ie. Phil Jackson). Pick: Baltimore.


 Cleveland (plus 2) at Cincinnati

Feschuk: I want to offer a word in praise of the Cincinnati Bengals. These guys have overachieved this year when it comes to underachieving. Time and time again, they’ve succumbed to adversity in all of its forms. And that’s important. If everyone triumphed over adversity, our world would be bereft of teary-eyed pre-game features about people and teams who are confronted with obstacles and succeed in squaring adversity in the nut-sack. But for those stories to matter, we need people who are willing to be owned by adversity – eager to surrender to hardship, utterly determined to give in, to give up, to give 60 to 65 per cent each and every Sunday. The 2010 Cincinnati Bengals: Heroes? Heroes. Pick: Cleveland.

Reid: My favourite quote this week came courtesy of TO who complained after the game, “I can’t throw the ball to myself.” Which sounds both like a shot at the listing Carson Palmer and quite logical. But is this thought possibly worth a second take? Why not try having TO throw to himself? “Owens drops back deep and unleashes a long bomb, it’s got some stellar arc on it. That sucker’s a moon ball. Headed for the far corner of the end zone, he’s got a man. Actually, he’s got himself. He’s racing. He’s leaping. The balls right in his hands. Touchd… oh no, he dropped it! No catch. The Bengals will forced to punt as we see Owens trot over to the sideline and really take a strip off of Owens. He’s really letting his quarterback have a piece of his mind. Seems he didn’t like the way that play set up…” Pick: Cleveland.



Denver (plus 6.5) at Oakland

Reid: Oh, whatever. Oakland will win for Christ’s sake. Denver’s so pathetic they’re talking about hiring Jim Fassel as a head coach. What? Bobby Petrino has a migrane? More importantly, a couple weeks ago I posted this photo of my close friend Scarlett Johansson sporting the cardigan I hand-knit for her.

When news came that she’d broken up with overrated husband Ryan Reynolds, I immediately sprang into action and knit her a brand new invisible shawl that she can feel free to wear around my house.

Pick: Oakland.

Feschuk: I see in the papers that Kyle Orton is playing the “let’s finish the season on a positive note” card. That kind of Up With People gimmickry might work on very small children and Tim Tebow, but no one else is going to buy in. I’m sure that in his head Brady Quinn is already planning the details of his off-season fantasy quarterback camp – spend a week with Brady and learn how to hold a clipboard and wear a headset like a pro! Pick: Oakland.


Green Bay (plus 10.5) at New England, Sunday night

Feschuk: I was going to throw a couple kind words Greg Jennings’ way, but I figured he’d just drop them. In other news, I hate to say I told you so but here’s what I wrote just two weeks ago: “…if the Packers hope to make it into the playoffs and advance to the Super Bowl, shouldn’t they think about getting, you know, a running back? You definitely want to take your franchise quarterback and give him few enough weapons that he feels compelled to expose himself to an increased risk of painful injury… What could possibly go wrong?” Since it is now beyond dispute that I possess the ability to glimpse beyond the shadowy fabric of time itself, I would like to reveal to you the three finalists for the Palme d’Or at the 2011 Cannes film festival:

Despair and Isolation – Several orphans struggle to comprehend the human condition in a cruel world where the only constants are heartbreak and suffering.

Isolation, Despair and Also Anguish – Several slightly thinner orphans struggle to comprehend the human condition while wheezing in a slightly crueler world where the only constants are heartbreak, suffering and their leprosy (the social kind and the skin kind).

Despair, Anguish, Further Anguish and a Shaky Handheld Camera – Several orphans struggle to comprehend the human condition but without going outside because the film’s budget is only $9. Pick: New England.

Reid: Aaron Rodgers will not play this weekend having suffered two concussions within weeks of one another and on account of the fact that he now has no sense of smell. Doctors say he should be fine to play later this season when the games mean nothing and he can risk turning the rest of his cerebal cortex into a shattered beer bottle. That New England will win this game is so obviously clear that it makes me wonder if I might not be missing something. Something like the real reason Ryan Reynolds’ marriage broke up?

“Lively” ain’t the half of it. Pick: New England.


Chicago (minus 3) at Minnesota, Monday night

Reid: After 297 consecutive starts, Brett Favre stood on the sideline last week for the first time since 1992. Tarvaris Jackson, a bit more modestly, will see his most recent streak end at exactly…one game. He’ll be back on the sideline for the first time since December 5th. Who will start? Creaky old Favre? Third string quarterback Joe Webb (of Dragnet fame) would be an interesting choice. He’s played a total of one series in the NFL but, on the upside, he is able to operate his body. Did we mention this game will be played outside at the University of Minnesota? Pick: Chicago.

Feschuk: Quite a debut for Tarvaris Jackson last week. I really admired how he would drop back in the pocket, look left, look right, look terrified and then scamper about the backfield in manic slapstick desperation. Had the Giants been dressed as British bobbies, Jackson would have been immediately sued for copyright infringement by the estate of Benny Hill. Which brings me to one last pertinent piece of information…

Pick: Chicago.

At MostlyCivil’s suggestion (see comments below), we present the following musical accompaniment for this week’s picks:

It works best if you imagine Tarvaris Jackson chasing Scarlett Johansson while being chased by seven New York Giants.

Can’t Miss NFL Picks and Other Lies is written by Scott Reid and Scott Feschuk, who run the strategic communications and speechwriting firm Feschuk.Reid.

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