It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
I recently adopted a new philosophical outlook based around eliminating expectations. The idea is that most of life’s unhappiness stems from unmet expectations. I become aware of a potential future reality (let’s say I’m attempting to take a girl out on a date) and my subconscious runs with it, creating detailed illusions of what the world would look like if my wildest dreams came true. Then, when my hot date flakes at the 11th hour, I am filled with disappointment, anger, and self-doubt.
So I have done my best to live without expectation. Last week, I made my picks with the knowledge that football is a crapshoot, especially Week 1. They were all just picks I wanted to cheer for; I was too thrilled to have football back in my life to let hard analysis dictate my decisions. By making my picks without expectation, I was free from the stress of a losing week. Things happen. I would deal with that disappointing reality when it became a true one.
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
As I sat at table 59 of my local Buffalo Wild Wings watching the one o’clock slate come to a close, this was the thought that kept on creeping into my head. This terrifying thought continued to percolate within the dark depths of my mind all the way through both Monday night games. What had started as an exercise in self-discipline and meditation became my path to 5-0, a feat that I accomplished once last season. Last year that week of perfection came from picks made while drunk and preparing for a trip to Barcelona. Somehow, in the comforts of my own home, I had tapped into the same universal consciousness that I had been allowed access to last year, and came out with winners.
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, but it did.
In the first week of the Hypothetical SuperContest, I went a perfect 5-0. Out of 1,403 total entries in the actual SuperContest, only 21 matched my gambling prowess. To give you a point of comparison, 65 entries went 0-5.
Just know that gambling is much more difficult than I made it look last week. One of the CBS Sports experts went 2-14 against the spread Week 1. Another went 3-13. Only one of the eight experts posted a winning mark against the spread. These men are paid for their opinions on sports and know a lot more than I do. Some time soon this season, my fortunes will turn as well – I won’t be blessed with seemingly infinite interceptions by Tony Romo or the power of Fred Jackson’s stiff arm every week. At some point this season those plays will go against me. But I am aware of this fact, and thus, I am sworn to my duty: Hold off the demons of bad bets as long as possible.
I am dumbfounded and ecstatic with my success, but I can feel the very real pressure that this hypothetical exercise is already in the process of generating. After one week of perfection, I only want more, but I acknowledge that running the slate for the entire season is a highly improbable outcome.
But I have to try. I have to stay hungry.
This week I have done nothing but stay hungry. On Monday, Moms said she was going to try a juice cleanse, and since I’m always looking for more ways to experiment on my body/prove my willpower, I decided to join her. The above picture is what I now call “dinner.” As of tonight, I have not eaten for almost four full days. So far it has been a success; I feel healthier and more positive than I have in a while, and I am confident that there are significantly less toxins flowing through my bloodstream than there were last week.
I am also constantly starving.
But the hunger is important to the process. I think a good amount of my positivity stems from my inability to focus on anything negative besides my hunger. I am a living embodiment of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; I can’t get worried about spiritual fulfillment or sexual intimacy because my body is too concerned that I am dying. I’m not sure that this is the best way to get past an existential crisis or some girl I don’t think is paying enough attention to me, but the hunger has certainly helped.
So that’s what we’re looking for this week. Teams that are hungry to prove themselves. Teams that are starving to prove doubters wrong. Teams that the eight CBSSports experts have unanimously picked against. Here is the Week 2 slate. Home teams get the asterisk.
Steelers (+2.5) over Ravens*
John Harbaugh and his Baltimore Ravens have had to answer a lot of questions in the past three days, and very few of them have had anything to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the record, I think Ray Rice is scum and should never be allowed to play football again, and that Roger Goodell should both resign and never be allowed to utter the words “Protect the Shield” again.
But besides the awfulness, the Ravens and Steelers have a history of close games. In eleven games between the teams since the 2009 regular season, only twice has the victor won by more than three points. Also, while the Steelers didn’t look great last week, I think the Browns might be better than we all believe them to be. I say they come out looking to prove they are capable of being a playoff team this year. They do not want to be remembered as the team that almost lost to the Browns. The Ravens meanwhile, looked pretty stale against the Bengals, and have been distracted by controversy on a short week. A whole cattle call of players and coaches were live on SportsCenter Monday, answering questions they didn’t want to answer. That’s not what a winning week looks like.
Plus, there’s no way I’m betting against the team whose returner essentially curb stomped a dude last week.
Texans (-3) over Raiders*
Ugh. We lost JaDeveon Clowney too soon. Out for 4-6 weeks due to arthroscopic knee surgery, he leaves a hole in my heart and in the defensive front of the Texans. But JJ Watt. Oh my, did you watch JJ Watt play football on Sunday? He filled up the defensive box score: a sack, two tackles for loss, five QB hits, a blocked extra point, and a fumble recovery. This is defensive production the likes of which the NFL may have never seen out of one man.
But JJ Watt is not a man. He is a beast. A hungry, hungry beast that eats quarterbacks and shits sacks.
(For the record, I did not think Oakland looked that bad last week, and I am sort of totally in on Derek Carr. But I was thinking this line would be closer to six than three, and I always take perceived value when I can.)
Packers* (-8.5) over Jets
I hate the Jets. This hatred for the collective team probably stems mostly from my personal disdain for Rex Ryan. I think he is a goon. I don’t know why. I don’t really care.
What I do care about is Aaron Rodgers, QB for both the Packers and my fantasy team. I took Rodgers with the eighth overall pick in the draft, with the likes of Peyton Manning and Arian Foster still available. After an expectedly disappointing Week 1 against Seattle and the Legion of Boom, I think Rodgers and company come out swinging. They should want to kill the Jets, and they are totally capable of doing so.
Chiefs (+13) over Broncos*
Listening to the Behind the Bets podcast with ESPN’s Chad Millman and Bob Scucci from The Orleans in Vegas, I stumbled upon a helpful little tidbit. Scucci, who manages the sportsbook at The Orleans and other properties, revealed that the line for this game before Week 1 was going at close to Chiefs +7. Thanks to Peyton still looking like Peyton and the Chiefs looking very mediocre, that line swung all the way up to +13.
This is when it is important to remember – Vegas is smart. If they thought that this was closer to a touchdown game two weeks ago, they were probably not completely wrong. They simply have to move the line because if they listed the Broncos as only seven point favorites, none of the public bettors would have come in on the Chiefs. By making the number +13, Vegas creates a line large enough to make people think twice before being sure that Denver can cover it.
With that said, Denver made it clear on MNF that they were very capable of scoring ruthlessly and methodically.
But regardless of all that, I am positive that Andy Reid is hungry. Maybe for a sandwich, maybe for a win. But he has the hunger, and that is what I am looking for.
Giants* (+2.5) over Cardinals
Last week, I brought up the CBSSports experts and the fact that last year they were 0-9 when they all agreed on a game. On Sunday, they extended that streak to 0-11, with the Bills beating the Bears and the Panthers defeating the Bucs. On Thursday while working on last week’s column, I am almost certain that one of the experts were on the Panthers (because if they had been unanimous on the Bucs, I would have gone against them), and I have a sneaking suspicion that one expert changed their Panther pick to the Buccaneers at the last second when it became clear that Cam Newton would not be playing.
But the streak held true! And thus, we ride it again this week.
Beyond the CBSSports experts, this game has all the makings of a classic trap game. The Giants just got killed, looking absolutely incompetent against the Lions. The Cardinals looked dominant on defense and serviceable on offense. But the Giants aren’t as bad as they looked, and the Cardinals are traveling from the West Coast after the late Monday night game to play the early game in New York, a fact that seems to have at least a slight affect on a team’s ability to cover.
That’s it for this week. Thank you all for believing in me and the power that you gave me that led to last week’s perfection. What happens this week is unknown, and that is why it is beautiful. I expect nothing from these picks except the eventuality of a result, win or loss. And I cannot fucking wait to stuff myself with Buffalo Wild Wings and never touch juice again.
Football is back and we are a part of it.
Last Week: 5-0