Fab 4 NFL picks
OK, we split last week. Our first NFL week of picks that did not yield entertainment.
Time to get back on the positive side of the entertainment ledger. Pickers gotta pick.
Patriots plus-3 over Kansas City and the under 56. Yes, we'll buy the half and roll the dice. Not sure why the Pats are getting a FG, but we're sure that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady — remember his "We know everyone thinks we suck" rant last week — are going to make sure everyone in the locker room is well aware that the Patriots are viewed as the underdog. What have we said about the NFL, especially down the stretch? Go with what you believe to be fact.
> Fact: Belichick is historically great against quarterbacks under 25. Mahomes is under 25.
> Fact: The Patriots not only are the underdogs, they have — for arguably one of the few times in the last decade — way less pressure than the hosting Chiefs.
> Fact: In rematches, coaching adjustments and alterations are even more important. And if coaching moves is more important, well, we'll side with Belichick over everyone else ever with the possible exception of Bill Walsh or Bill Parcels. (Side note: If you want your son to be an all-time NFL football coach, may we suggest you name him Bill.)
> Fact: Sony Michel is healthy and the Chiefs' run defense is among the worst in the NFL. (The Colts abandoned the run too quickly last week and it was the difference in the game.)
Here's some other things we believe. We believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. We believe that the Pats will not be as passive and scared against the Chiefs offense as the Colts were. Will that mean Tyrek Hill — who had seven catches for 142 yards and three scores in the previous match-up — will get a big play or two? Likely. But he was a monster in October, and the Pats still won the game. We believe the loss of Kareem Hunt, who had 80 rushing yards and 105 passing yards in the previous meeting — will be clear.
And we believe in the Pats. And will continue to believe in them until they give us a reason not to.
Rams plus-3.5 over the Saints and the over 56. We'll start with the facts that we know, and why they may be making you scratch your head.
> Fact: The Saints were No. 2 against the run this year.
> Fact: If coaching matters more in rematches, Sean Payton is no slouch my friend.
> Fact: The Dome will be nuts and loud and crazy.
All true. But not as true as you may think.
Yes, the saints were No. 2 in the NFL against the run, but that was a) with run-stuffing Sheldon Rankins in the middle of that D-Line and he tore his Achilles' last week; and b) that stat over the course of 16 high-scoring games in which the Saints offense forced other teams to take to the air early can be misleading.
Yes, Payton is no slouch, but neither is Sean McVay. And he shows up with a more complete football team on each side.
Yes, the Dome will be loud, but unless the home team sprints to a quick lead, the pressure home teams can feel when home fans who care this passionately get antsy is palatable.
We believe the Rams will find success running it. We believe the Rams will make someone other than Michael Thomas get open. We believe that the defensive front of the Rams will find similar success as they did last week. (Speaking of being motivated when the playoff lights come on, Ndamukong Suh was a dude last week after being mostly invisible during the regular season.)
Yes, I'm scared of Brees and Thomas and Kamara, and that and the controlled elements is why I side with the over here. Yes, the Brees > Jared Goff factor is impossibly high here.
But the Rams are better from top to bottom, and here's betting that Marcus Peters and that secondary — after the way he ran his mouth after the first Saints' win — is going to be motivated to slow down Thomas and Co.
I believe the underdog wins outright in the AFC game. In this one? Not sure, but in a coin flip game with these stakes, 3.5 is a powerful passel of points pals.
Last week: 2-2 against the spread
NFL picks: 16-7 against the spread
Hoops chin scratchers
Try to combine these numbers if you can.
First, there's really good. James Harden is the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to have back-to-back games with 55 or more points.
And as we have noted many times, the company you keep on the lists is almost as telling as the list itself. If you are on a hitting list with Ruth, Williams and Pujols, then it general is an amazing accomplishment. If you are on a golf list with Steve Elkington, JJ Henry, Scott Piercy and Steve Flesch, well who knows right.
Across all sports, if you wanted to be the other dude on a list, it starts with you and Nicklaus in golf. You and the Great Bambino in hitting. You and Jerry Rice in receiving. And you and Wilt Chamberlain in scoring — on and off the court (allegedly).
So kudos, James Harden, you and Wilt the Stilt are the only dudes in NBA history with back-to-back double nickels (or more).
That's boss. (And allow a quick tangent about the overall offensive boss-ness of Mr. Chamberlain. As much as we should be celebrating Harden's back-to-back scoring prowess, in 1961-62 alone, Chamberlain had three streaks of three games with at least 55 points and one streak of five games with at least 55 points, including his 100-point outing in Hershey, Pa. You can get lost in the stats of Chamberlain's 1961-62 season considering the following: He averaged 50.4 points per; He grabbed 25.7 rebounds per; He played every minute of every game, so, with a few overtime contests mixed in, he averaged 48.5 minutes per game; And amazingly, he did not win the MVP, which may be the most amazing stat line of any of them. Yes, Spy, Bill Russell was very good, but who really was the most valuable Hall of Famer of the Celtics 25 or so Hall of Famers in the 1960s? If Russell taking MVP over Chamberlain in 1961-62 tells us anything, it's that the voters have never for MVP awards have always botched the process — a tradition that continues to today.)
Now, for the amazing — and not that cool — part of Harden's back-to-back productivity. And man, this is an NBA stat-heavy chunk of today's show. But try this on for zee: James Harden's last two games — a 57-point night and last night's 58-point performance — now rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the history of the league for the most points scored in a game on which none of them were assisted.
That's right, and we mentioned our lack of fondness of watching The Beard (we'd try to get his Facial Hair-ness as a nickname but that's just me) play last week because of this exact thing.
Dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble, step back 3, or dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble, step back ball fake 3 and draw three free throws is not exactly FAN-tastic in my view. Harden's stat line: 16-of-34 from the floor (5-of-19 from 3) and 21-of-23 from the foul line.
One more NBA and beyond
Hey, it's basketball season, right? Right.
And Friday Boogie Cousins returns to floor, this time for the world champion Golden State Warriors.
Quick side convo on Boogie: First, we love, Love, LOVE his game. Love it. He may be the best back-to-the-basket big in the league, and that's a dying art. But he has also worked doggedly to add the stretch 4/5 aspect to his game. Kudos for that. We love how he competes. Now, and we meant to get back to you sooner, Chas, because your question about asking for examples about Cousins' rep as being a dour teammate has become a common tagline, even since his days in high school.
There's an excellent story on DeMarcus Cousins from the San Francisco Chronicle, which sent a reporter home with Cousins to Mobile for a special event with local kids in which the NBA star gives each of them a goodie bag — shoes, T-shirts and a $200 gift card to Target to go Christmas shopping — and spends the day with them It is worth your time.
A line from that story reads: "Thanks to run-ins with coaches, teammates, opponents, referees, fans and media members over his eight-year career, he's been tagged with the worst of labels: thug, malcontent, locker-room cancer. That stigma, not just his torn left Achilles tendon, is why Cousins — a four-time NBA All-Star in his prime — reverted to what he called his "last resort" last summer and signed a one-year, $5.3 million contract with Golden State."
That leads us to his debut next headline-generating quote: "We're the most hated team in sports." (It's from this interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN.)
Is he right?
And after reading those couple of stories on Cousins, well, here's a couple of things I'll offer.
First, a prediction: The Warriors are about to change gears on folks. Boogie is a beast. That is still the best team in the league and they are now adding the best big in the league. Second, an admission: I will cheer for Boogie.
Until he plays LeBron that is.
This and that
— There simply is too much to get to today, and to tell the truth, we could have two total topic discussions today. (What's the record for 'to' type words in a sentence?) Because how about this story from Scottie Pippen? Yes, that's the former Bulls star and basketball hall of fame saying Zion Williamson needs to shut it down and prepare for the draft. Yep. Here's the quote: "I think he's locked up the biggest shoe deal, I think he's definitely going to be the No. 1 pick, I think he's done enough for college basketball that it's more about him personally," Pippen said on ESPN's "The Jump." "I would shut it down. I would stop playing because I feel he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career." Thoughts?
— While we are in deep with crazy NBA stats, well, here's one more, and it comes from Harden's Rockets. Houston led Brooklyn by six with less than 30 seconds left in regulation last night. The Nets rallied and won in overtime. Houston was 682-0 when leading by six or more with 30 seconds or less before that. ESPN Stats & Info is an amazing thing.
— We have praised the AAC for trying to spin the narrative in their direction and claim to be the next addition and reach Power Six status among sports leagues. The crux of that pitch has been UCF football and UConn women's hoops, and whether they realize it or not, adding UConn women's hoops actually highlights the argument of the AAC not belonging in the Power Five. UConn, after last night's thrashing of Tulane has dominated the AAC so thoroughly that even Nick Saban winces. Last night, UConn star Megan Walker had a career-best 34 points; Tulane scored 33. As you let that sink in, know this: UConn is 105-0 since the AAC's first season in 2014-15. The SEC: It just means more. Well in the AAC, it's just easier to be undefeated.
— Our college hoops picks from last night went 1-1. Auburn covered with ease; Vandy crumbled at the end and surrendered a 10-point second-half lead (at homes) and lost by 1.) Tonight we are on College of Charleston plus-10 at Northeastern and Texas-San Antonio plus-3 at MTSU.
— If I was an advisor to Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, I would have suggested she not apologize for making the "Anybody but the Saints" remark about who Atlanta wants in the Super Bowl. First, the call for so many apologies and or clarifications because someone somewhere got their panties in a wad aggravates the tar out of me. Second, everyone who either grew up in Atlanta or follows the Falcons feels exactly like she does. Third, this is sports right? We are allowed to have some fun and poke at our rivals, right? Fourth, the apology allowed some knuckle head politicos in The Big Sleazy to get in some shots. Here's New Orleans councilman Jay Banks' quote in the New Orleans Advocate: "I'm sorry she feels that way. We would welcome them here. At the end of the day they shouldn't be mad at us that they suck. It's not our fault that they choked." The last part was in reference to the 28-3 Super Bowl lead the Falcons blew a couple of years ago; a score the Saints and their fans have routinely mocked — as they should. It's a rivalry people. If I was in Mayor Lance Bottoms' inner circle I would have begged for her to double down on those comments. Call a news conference, and say, "Let me start by clarifying my Super Bowl comments" Then she could remove her overcoat and reveal a Rams sweatshirt, put on a Chiefs cap and offer, "Just to make sure they know, we're not super excited about the Pats coming to town either."
— Oklahoma landed Jalen Hurts, the headliner in what has become the now annual college-quarterbacks-who-are-not-starting free agency carousel, on Wednesday. You knew that. Well, here's a tip of the visor for wonder boy Lincoln Riley's hypocrisy being called into question since he a) looks to have a high-profile transfer starter in place at QB for the third straight year and b) was trying to block Austin Kendall — a graduate transfer too — from going from Norman to West Virginia. Riley has since relented under the public pressure. Someone cue the Cyndi Lauper, Hey Lincoln, looks like "Your true colors are shining through."
— Guess now would be the time to share two Texas QBs have added their names to the NCAA transfer portal. And yes, we love the phrase "transfer portal."
— In an attempt to go viral, some chowder head jumped off a Carnival cruise ship. In protest of utter stupidity I advise you not to check it out, but if you are interested, here's the link. Sadly, the Canadian knucklehead did not start the video with, "Hold my beer."
— OK, now Michael Strahan is weighing in on the President's menu, saying he wants to give Clemson a meal they deserve, even promising Lobster and Caviar. Don't know about you, but I'd rather have fast-food hamburgers and pizza than caviar. No thanks, Oh Gap-Toothed One. And for Goodness Sakes, what about those with a shellfish allergy. Oh the humanity. How excluding can Strahan be to isolate and make those allergic to shellfish feel so slighted and singled-out. Oh the humanity. (Yes, we're kidding.)
— Side question: Lobster is small does and on occasion can be excellent, but man, more than once or twice a year, it's simply too rich for palette. Thoughts?
OK, let's start with Cousins' declaration.
Are the Warriors the most-hated team in sports? If they are why? We demand excellence, but then we are going to hate the teams that achieve it?
Hey, I get hating the Yankees or the Cowboys. There were surely stretches of excellence for each of those, but there have been generations of arrogance that far over-extend those runs of dominance. I also understand the ever-growing (and ever-obnoxious) bandwagons that have surrounded the recent winnings of the Red Sox and the Cubs. Lovable losers from insufferable winners can be a harsh look.
Hey some of us hate our rival college team regardless, good or bad, successful or struggling.
But the angst against the Warriors is real, but are they the most hated? Discuss.
Transfer portal, more "Star Trek" or Star Wars? Discuss.
As for today, well, it's Jan. 17, so let's explore.
It's Ben Franklin Day. Great American, than Benny Franklin. Today is Customer Service Day, which should be in that "shouldn't every day be" category. It's National Bootleggers Day.
Some days there are not many well-known folks who celebrate a birthday. This is not one of them.
Michelle Obama is 55 today. Muhammad Ali would have been 77 today. Jim Carrey is 57 and Steve Harvey is 62. Betty White is 97. D-Wade is 37 today. The afore mentioned Ben Franklin would have been 313 today. Kid Rock is 48 and James Earl Jones is 88. Al Capone would have been 120.
Wow, I did not know this but on this day in 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that private use of home VCRs to tap TV shows for later viewing does not violate federal copyright laws. Buckets, that is a monster ruling that was super close considering all the ramifications.
On this day in 1976, Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs" hit No. 1.
In honor of Benny Franklin, who would be on the U.S. history Rushmore of non-Presidents.
Go, and remember the mail bag.