Ahead of the Curve
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The Art of the Pick

Most oblong oracles will argue, picking game-winners is an exact science, that is, until they have a bad Sunday. And through the first five of NFL'13 the "day of rest" has been downright demonic to the predictions of many a football mystic.

Every season has its share of upsets, new contenders and unexpected flops but 2013 has been especially topsy turvy. Just take a gander at the standings: Saints are reborn, perennial nolo contenderes Browns, Titans, Jets, Chiefs, Lions and Dolphins are showing spunk, pre-season darlings SF, GB, DC and BAL are dishwater dull while Giants, Vikings, Falcons and Steelers all barely have a pulse.

There is one thing that'll stop the bleeding: the good ol' gimme picks. That'd be the lop-sided match-ups (2-3 a slate) that afford the clairvoyant some padding in the final tally to soften the blow when most their picks have gone South like a duck in December.

My prognostication doesn't afford such cushion. I fill my basket with only the cherriest picks on the branch, at least, that's my hunch. On occasion I will bite into a sour selectee (NYG @ KC), but typically, my game grabs turn out sweet & delectable (DEN @ DAL).

It's the High Life when our picks pan out, but even the savviest soothsayer will starve if he lives off his guess-work. It's empty calories when feeding too heavily off forecasted finals and then when you do feast on winners, nobody seems to care but you & Gramps.

Do I rationalize 'cause too many of my picks in 2013 are in the toilet? Sure I do. But a little rational thought never hurt anybody and is today in short supply (See; Capitol Bldg).

If you must predict NFL games and you don't work for fellas named Paulie, Vito or Chrissy, best heed the words of that great actuarial philosopher from the silver screen, "Needlenose Ned" (Groundhog Day): "It's all just one big crap-shoot, any-who."

Can Romo Carry "Clutch Cargo?"

It's common tactic in argumentation: set up a strawman scenario for the easy knock-down. Tony Romo's been surrounded by scarecrows all this week, following his impressive, if not imperfect performance at home against Denver last Sunday.

The strawman here goes like this: 'Romo did not lose that game with his late INT; It's 60 minutes, a team sport and plenty a' blame to go around; Tony's errant throw was no more a singular cause for Cowboys' loss than Brett Favre's final flub vs Saints in the 2010 NFC title.'

All very true, and all beside the point.

Question this week on Romo should've been, 'Did Tony win this game for Dallas by performing in the clutch? Answer, no he did not, again.

Tony's a skilled QB, puts up good digits with regularity and is a fine leader on the field. But after eight years at the helm in Big D he still hasn't shown a consistent flair for performing in critical situations. And Favre, top ten all-time in clutch department wouldn't be a stretch.

And the Romo question is lost on Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones. JJ's all about the money now (stadium), has been (no pun intended) for near 10 years and the Cowboys still rake it in.

Three's Company?

Choice is good. The Supreme Court has said as much, time & time again. But there's such a thing as too much choice, as the Christian Right will say, time & time again.

On Monday, the Minnesota Vikings gave themselves a heap a' choice at the quarterback spot, signing cast-off QB Josh Freeman, formerly of the Tampa Bay Bucs and a 2010 Pro Bowler selectee (R1-17 ('09)), to a 1-year, $3M contract (Schefter / ESPN / 10-7).

Vikes were already pretty well stocked at QB, with 3rd-year starter Christian Ponder (out / ribs), back-up Matt Cassel, who led Norsemen to their first win of '13 in W4 by besting the winless Steelers (London) and 2nd-yr. clipboard guy McLeod Bethel-Thompson (Sac St) (cut 10-8).

"The More the Merrier ('43)" was a nice film (Coburn / Arthur / McCrae), but where starter QBs are concerned, two's pushin' it, three's a veritable Cecil B. DeMille cast of crowd.

Josh had plenty of suitors and playing for Schiano is a challenge, but it's an odd time for Minnesota to be auditioning, with veteran Cassel's nice play in a road win versus Pitt (that's why they got him) and Ponder still having possibilities.

Whomever gets the nod, he'd better pan out or coach Leslie Frazier could follow the 'odd man out'...the same door.

Clowney Goes Manziel

ESPN producers can shoulder their share of blame for the Jadeveon Clowney mess at South Carolina. Had they not gone ga-ga over JC's Johnny-on-the-spot slam-tackle last season and run the clip 10,000 times, the All-American defender might not've grown such a big head, gone pouty when Heisman hope faded early and pined for the NFL life.

Steve Spurrier's recent flip-flop on Clowney's injury issue (testy to laudatory) is prudent in the business of recruitment. But the other side to this coin: any player running afoul of Steve, a proven player's coach, is throwing red-flags that savvy GMs won't dismiss.

Cherry Picks Week 6: Glory Days

Detroit Lions (3-2) @ Cleveland Browns (3-2): 10-13 / Fox 1:00 EST

Graham, Groza, Layne, Brown, Schmidt were big dogs in 50s biggest rivalry. It's been a long time but both teams are building. Even if Calvin sits, higher-grade Lions adjust, win in Forest City.

Oakland Raiders (2-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (5-0): CBS 1:00

I was a kid when I watched the Davidson vs Taylor bout (NBC '70?). Otis got the split decision but it quickly turned team-tussle. Raiders got fight, less sense (Flynn); Chiefs still learning (3d% 33) but better balance, talent & win.

Green Bay Packers (2-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (3-2): Fox 1:00

When Ravens were in Ohio, Brown-Collier vs Lombardi was big (60s). It's big again but both jittery. Joe feeling heat (14S), it shows (5/8), run sputters (Rice / PB (2.9)) and flags fly (304Y). Lions always boost GB but Hair's out, TOP poor and Ravens' D (19S / 208T) wins it.

New Orleans Saints (5-0) @ New England Patriots (4-1): Fox 4:30 (GOTW)

Rivalry here might be the North / South thing, though, most the rosters probably hail from California? Saints getting As but biggest test yet and Pats peeved (See: GB post-Cincy). Too bad Tebow snubs TE, with Gronk hope running out. Mayo ankled but D covers, presses Brees (14S) and New England mystique holds for the W.

Indianapolis Colts (4-1) @ San Diego Chargers (2-3): 10-14 / ESPN 8:45 EST

Memories of Bert Jones & Dan Fouts airing it out in the 70s. AFC was loaded, then came 49ers (Walsh). Colts climbing (3d% 50) but RF Trent's 3.0 ypc & OL (12S). Rivers is rollin' (74 C%), has fine run duo & WR corps, nifty 3d% (47+) and TKs high (215). Upset Alert: Bolts win.

Steven Keys

NFL Hunch Line

Photo Credit: "Cherries" / Hispalois / 7-2-12 / wc.cca

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