Sometimes it’s hard to keep going. In the throes of what I can say with confidence is my worst gambling season since I was initiated into this fraternity of degenerates, it’s difficult to figure out why exactly I am doing this. I write a gambling column out of a love of the game and a love of the gamble, but in a season this brutal, it is challenge enough to continue loving the process, and even more challenging to write about it. My failures have not only been greater than ever before, but also more public. I am shitting my pants on stage while the spotlight is on me. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I am at the very least, publicly failing at picking football games. And that sucks.
So I look myself in the mirror and ask, with sincerity, “Why are you doing this?”
Not simply gambling, not simply writing, but living, existing, breathing. What’s the reason? Why are you here if you are just going to keep making awful picks, Tyler?
And then I remembered Week 1, when I went 5-0 and felt that anything was possible. I wish you all could’ve seen me that week. My friend Ray and I were at Buffalo Wild Wings for the early games watching ten games simultaneously. I am in a league with friends where I pick every game against the spread, and as we asked for our check at BWW, it looked as though I was going to be 7-3. Those losses were all close too. The Raiders (+4.5) lost to the Jets by 5. The Saints only needed to win by a field goal in overtime to cover against the Falcons (that the Falcons won this game is almost incomprehensible in Week 10). And as Ray and I left our booth at BWW, the Eagles (-10.5) had just scored to take a 27-17 lead over the Jaguars after being down 17-0 in the first half. The Eagles were kicking off, and I walked outside with satisfaction, knowing that I had made some good picks, gotten lucky in some places, and had a full season of betting on football to look forward to. 7-3 was quite a start.
Ray and I got in the car and tuned in to hear the last minutes of the Eagles game on the radio. I told Ray how even though my picks killed, I was still bummed that I was going to drop two games in Week 1 by half a point. “Hey man, pick 6.” He replied. I laughed and shrugged it off. Seconds later, the Jaguars were fumbling and the Eagles defense took it to the house. Final score 34-17. Eagles cover. Tyler is 8-2.
I yelled in that car. Loud.
Listening to a game on the radio is arguably the most exciting way to experience a football game. It is the theatre of the mind. If you know football pretty well and are blessed with a talented commentating crew, you can envision what the field looks like in your head and watch the play in your imagination in real time. Then, when something happens that you can’t imagine, your brain kind of breaks. I was listening to that game, watching it inside my imagination, and thinking “there’s no way the Eagles are covering this game.” Just then, the announcer breaks through the static, “Eagles recover the fumble! He’s on the move!” but all I was hearing was “THE EAGLES ARE GOING TO COVER! THE EAGLES ARE GOING TO COVER!” I was trying to see the play but the synapses of my brain were firing off 404 errors. Eagles score a meaningless touchdown to get a backdoor cover with seconds left? Sorry Tyler, things like that do not happen. File not found.
I see my reflection in the mirror. This is why I do this. This is why I love to gamble. For those moments that you think you know everything, you think you have mapped out every possibly outcome in your head, and the universe and the Gods of football conspire to defy you. I know this is the second time that I have referenced this anecdote this season, but that should only serve to show you how few positive memories I have had gambling this season. I need to keep this light alive and close to my heart. It is my only weapon against the darkness.
I went 2-3 last week. Still disappointing, but an improvement from the Week before. This week we are going to ask teams same question I asked myself looking in that mirror. Why are you doing this? Why are you playing this crazy game of football? What do you have to gain? I will try to be less existential/overdramatic about it, but I’m not making any promises.
Here’s the Week 10 slate. Home teams get the asterisk.
Another big week for bye weeks: Indy, Minny, New England, Washington, San Diego, and JJ and the Watts are all taking their paid vacation this week, giving us a limited slate to choose from. But that doesn’t matter. We are here to examine which teams still have a raison d’etre for this 2014 season, and which teams gave up weeks ago.
Bills* (+2) over Chiefs
The Bills are coming out of their bye week 5-3, two wins behind the Patriots in the AFC East. I highly doubt they will catch the Pats, meaning that if they are going to dream of the playoffs this year, that dream probably involves earning a wild card spot. I am guessing that going 10-6 is what it will take to earn one of those spots this year, and the Bills have a tough slate ahead in the second half. Forecasting their season, I can give them wins over the Jets and Raiders, but that leaves them still needing to go 3-3 against the Chiefs, Browns, Broncos, Dolphins, Patriots, and Packers. I want to believe in the Bills, and I want them to believe in themselves and their ability to make the playoffs. I’m hoping over their bye week they took a look in the mirror as well and decided that this was the year. If it is, they need to win this game.
Saints* (-5) over Niners
Just three weeks ago, the Saints were 2-4 and confounding all of the experts that thought they might contend for the Super Bowl this year. Thankfully, they are in the NFC South, which they currently sit atop even despite only being 4-4. After two straight wins, the Saints are about to start a three-game home stand, all against teams who have very real dreams of the postseason. If you have paid just a modicum of attention to the NFL in the past seven years, you probably know how dope Drew Brees is capable of playing at home in the dome. During this stretch of games, the Saints have the chance to establish themselves as the league power that many thought they would be during preseason predictions. And while the rest of their division seems uninterested in contending for anything, the Panthers have been frisky before and could rattle off a few wins at any point. For the Saints, this would be a good time to put a bit of distance between them and the competition.
Meanwhile, the Niners are third in the NFC West, three games out of the lead, with an overall record of 4-4. They still have to play Seattle twice, and play host to both the Cardinals and the Chargers in the last two weeks of the season. One could make the argument that this is a must win game for them, and I think I would be making that argument if I got the impression that any member of the 49ers was currently enjoying playing football. But it seems as if none of them are. When CBS is posting articles titled, “Even if the 49ers win the Super Bowl, Jim Harbaugh won’t return” it’s hard to imagine things are hunky-dory in the locker room. That sounds like a team uninterested in playing more football than they have to this season.
Cowboys (-6.5) over Jaguars
The Cowboys are coming off back-to-back losses after starting the season 6-1 and rising to the top of every idiot’s Power Rankings going into Week 8. Now they stand at 6-3, a half game behind the Eagles for poll position in the NFC East. They are flying to London to play this week before heading into their bye in Week 11. Once they come back from their week of rest, the Cowboys will have to finish the season with a six game stretch that includes four divisional games, two against the Eagles, a trip to Chicago in December (never a good time), and welcoming Andrew Luck and the Colts to Dallas.
This is the last gimme game that the Cowboys have on their schedule. While the Cowboys will no doubt have an open shot at the divisional title if they can beat Philadelphia twice, they are also well aware that the NFC Wild Card scene currently looks like it is going to be pretty crowded moving forward. This is a game that the Cowboys need to win convincingly if they are going to be considered a potential playoff team.
Conversely, the Jaguars are not making the playoffs. If anything, their players might feel compelled to fight hard this game to give London a show, as there have been rumors in the past that the city across the pond would someday become their home. But as the cries for a football team in Los Angeles grow louder and louder by the week, it is hard to imagine that the Jaguars are not on the LA radar as well. If I am a Jaguar this week, and I know that my job could be moved to London or LA in the next two years, I’m hoping hard for LA. It rains a lot in London, and the road trips would just be the worst. If I am a Jaguar this week, I am rolling over and letting myself get destroyed. I want to lose so bad that London collectively says “Nah, you guys can keep the Jaguars. We’ll stick to soccer.”
Also, Tony Romo was upgraded to probably last I checked, so hopefully Brandon Weeden stay on the bench this week, right where he belongs. If we’re extra lucky, maybe they will forget him on the flight home.
Packers* (-7) over Bears
The Packers are home, well rested from a bye week, and one game behind the Lions for the division lead. The Bears are last in the division and should be looking for another quarterback. Spell it out with me: R-E-L-A-X.
Seattle* (-9.5) over Giants
It feels good to be home. Seattle hasn’t looked great lately. They haven’t covered convincingly in what feels like forever. But this week feels like a perfect storm. They are at home against a struggling Giants team and have the opportunity to trounce them and remind the league that they won the Super Bowl last year.
As for the Giants, they are a crap football team that has the opportunity to get trounced here and become a footnote in the documentary that is eventually made about the Seahawks four straight Super Bowl victories.
Come on RUSSELL. Will you HUSTLE and BUSTLE for me one more time? For old time’s sake? Remember what we had and let’s just enjoy it. JJ Watt is on bye this week, there’s no way he’ll find out. I’d love to just see you and talk through things, but only if you cover. Can’t wait to talk to you later. XOXOX.
Last Week: 2-3