It's 888 Miles to Chicago...

The holidays are here?  Holy Deep-frying Turkeys Batman, the holidays are upon us!  Time just flies when the NFL is on or something like that.  With Thanksgiving here that just means one thing…ok, 2 things…lots of food, and the playoff race is heating up!

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that really boil down to the traditions that it has become.  Christmas, and Easter for all the commercialization has a deeper meaning behind it.  New Years and 4th of July are clear celebrations of a date in time.  But Thanksgiving?  Ask anyone what Thanksgiving is about…and they’ll all say “you eat a lot of food, and…uh…give thanks.”

Yep, that about sums it up for me.

Yes, the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of landing in the new world, befriending the Native Americans, and giving thanks for being alive.  But the holiday itself shares none of those things.

Part of this attitude on my part comes from a lack of tradition.  This holiday is one that revolves around the regular event…the same family together at the same place, eating the same food, playing the same game of touch football, watching the same teams on the TV, etc.  And when you lose part of that, well…the holiday breaks down a bit.

Growing up, Thanksgiving meant heading to Grandma’s.  All of my Dad’s family would be there, it would be the 1 time a year we would see most of them.  All the kids would play in the basement, getting into all kinds of mischief…and then we would stuff ourselves, and head home.

Then Grandma moved away, and suddenly, Thanksgiving didn’t have a tradition.  Every year we did something a little different.  Sometimes going some where, other times hosting it.  The mystique was lost.

Moving out and marriage brought more of the same.  Not having settled down for good yet, we haven’t been able to make our own traditions…and so Thanksgiving is just a day to eat a lot of food.  The belly will be full, but there will still be something missing…the mind still longs for a basement to run around in, and the familiar smells of Grandma’s cooking.

Aside from all that…it’s still one of my favorite holidays.  The combination of lots of food, friends and family, and football…all make for a great day.

Let’s get to the picks…and think about food for a bit…while we still can…

Green Bay at Detroit

For every kid, the first “cooking” you do is with the Microwave.  For some, that’s all the cooking you’ll ever do, but that’s beside the point.  It’s the “safe” kitchen appliance…as long as you don’t put anything metal in it…and the likelihood a kid will burn themselves is quite low.

My mom showed us kids how to use the microwave, and how to make several normal microwave foods.  Simple things like heating up water for Hot Cocoa, making popcorn, and heating up soup.  Once she taught us the basics, we had free reign on it.

Well, at age 10, I was a microwave gourmet…at least in my mind.  Everyday brought a new, inventive microwave dish.  One such dish was called “Salami Cups”.  This amazing advancement in the culinary arts took the following steps:

Take out a slice of Salami from the fridge.

Run cold water over it for 10 seconds.

Place on plate, and microwave for 30 seconds.

When done, salami should be in a bowl shape.

Fill salami cup with Cottage cheese.

That was it.  To this day, I’m not sure if the water did anything at all, or if the salami just naturally curls like that in the microwave.  In the end, it doesn’t matter…it’s just cottage cheese and salami…the microwave is not needed.

For all the hoopla about Mike Martz’s offensive scheme…it basically breaks down this way…

Send every eligible receiver out in a pattern.

Get the ball out quickly.

Run to keep them off balance.

In the end, it’s just salami and cottage cheese.  And the way to defeat this offense is press the WRs, knocking them off their routes, and get pressure on the QB…same as any system.

The Packers love Salami, and Wisconsin invented cottage cheese.  Green Bay gets the win, even without Madden gushing over Favre, and handing out Turduckens.  The Lions start slowly sliding back towards the rest of the NFC…

NY Jets at Dallas

Food with a little kick is always a welcome taste for my palate.  Good Thai, Cajun, or Indian food with enough spice to get your nose running….mmmm….love it.  Not into the “this is so hot, I can’t feel my mouth” heat, but love the “okay, need another glass of water for this one” heat.

Shortly after my wife and I got married, we were living in an apartment, and both working.  One of the best ways to make a meal was using the crock-pot.  Throw some stuff in the thing, turn it on, and when you get home…yum!  We would trade off who got the setup duties.  Well, it was my turn and I decided to make “Chipotle Chicken”.

The recipe called for “1 or 2 cans of Chipotle peppers.  Having never cooked with Chipotle peppers, I decided to err on the side of caution, and just use 1 can.  I threw all the ingredients in, set the pot to cooking, and headed to work.

Upon my arrival home, the house smells of Southwest goodness.  It’s one of the great things with a crock-pot, the whole house fills with delicious aromas.  I dropped all my gear, and lifted the lid of the pot to give it a good stir.  It smelled perfect.

My wife came in, and we sat down to eat.  We served up some of the chicken into tortillas, and sat down.  Within seconds we were both crying…the chicken was almost indelibly hot.

“What did you do wrong?” Was the first thing out of my wife’s mouth.

“Nothing, I followed the recipe to a T, look.” As I shoved the recipe into her hands, “I put 1 can on Chipotle peppers in.”

“Josh, it says ‘1 or 2 canned Chipotle peppers’”

“Right, that’s what I said. 1 can.”

“Not, 1 can…1 pepper!”

Whoops…a perfectly good meal ruined by too many peppers.

In the end, the Boys have too many peppers for the Jets.  Yes, the Jets beating the Steelers was a great win for Jets fans…but the Boys won’t fall into that trap…they just have too many peppers.

With an overwhelming wave of heat, the Boys beat the Jets into submission.  Water and corn chips won’t save this one, as Jets fans will walk away with tears in their eyes and a runny nose after this one.

Indianapolis at Atlanta

This is one of those games that looked a lot better when they were making the schedule. 

Manning vs Vick. 

Pocket Passer vs Scambler.

The marketing power alone would blind most normal men.

But alas…it is instead…

“Super Bowl Champ, and playoff bound” vs “Is it draft time yet?”

Even with all the injuries, the Colts are too much team for the Falcons.  It might not be pretty, but Indy gets the win, and all of 18 people see it on the NFL Network.  But hey, they have Rich Eisen.

Seattle at St. Louis

When I met my wife, she was living in a house with 5 other women.  It was a social service intern program, and the community housing was part of the deal.  Our 3rd date was a 4th of July bbq at the community house.  As the only male present, all actual barbequing responsibilities were assigned to me. 

Now, since this time, I have become quite a grill expert…but at the time, I was still in the frame of mind of “grilling?  That’s what my dad dues.”  Did I have a choice?  No.  You don’t tell a girl you’ve just started seeing, and really dig, that “Um, yeah, I’m not a man…I can’t grill”.  And you especially don’t say that in front of all her friends.

On top of all that, the only grills they had were 2 Smokey Joes…small, charcoal grills for the uninformed.  Propane is one thing; anyone can cook on propane…but getting a charcoal grill setup well, takes a little practice.  So I went out, and did my thing…and to make a long story short…. 

It was the slowest cooking grill of all time.  Cooking the food with a hand warmer would have been quicker.  And the kicker was the majority of the food that was being cooked?  Veggie Burgers.  Still took forever and a day to cook them.  Ah well, she still married me…

Seattle is the only male at a community house full of women.  They’re the griller by default.  Might not be the best at it, might take them awhile to get things done, but there’s no one else.  Is that meant in a mean way?  Nah, just stating fact.  This Hawks team isn’t all that great…but they are the best of a lousy bunch, and have a really easy schedule.  So they’ll win the division, and get to the playoffs. 

Hawks get another easy game, against a Rams team that is getting better…but is still not good.  Seattle adds to their division lead…and the Rams sink back to the bottom.  But don’t worry Rams fans, the Niners are worse.

Buffalo at Jacksonville

There are 3 simple points to make here… 

Will the Bills still be shell shocked from the Pats game?

Jack Del Rio looks like a frickin’ genius for making the Garrard for Leftwich call right now…especially with Leftwich struggling to start over…excuse me…Joey Harrington? 

The Jags are a team that you forget just how good they are.  They happen to play in the same division as the Colts and Titans…and so people tend to forget just how well rounded a team this is.

Hopefully, the win over the Chargers clues people in a little more to this team. 

The Bills aren’t shell shocked, they just happen to run into another good team.  Jags get the home win.  And the Bills playoff dreams start to fade…but cheer up Buffalo fans, you’ve got a solid young core…and well…the Pats can’t be good forever, can they?

New Orleans at Carolina

Back in Seattle, land of the Latte, one of our Saturday morning traditions was heading to our favorite local coffee house, and getting Lattes and breakfast sandwiches.  When my daughter came into the picture, she wanted in on the fun, and so I would get her a steamed milk and a sandwich. 

She would refer to the steamed milk as her “mocha”.  Yes, at the age of 18 months, my daughter would talk about wanting a mocha.  She was a true Seattle child…and fit right into the whole scene.  But…

We got several strange glances, and “why I never” looks from a passersby that would over hear a little toddler asking for a mocha, and her parents saying “That sounds good, lets go get one.” 

But even though she called it a mocha, it was just steamed milk.

As much as I want to believe the Saints are a mocha…errr…playoff team…with each loss, they show themselves for the steamed milk that they are.  But then again, if you asked for a “Latte” in Italy, all you’d get is steamed milk…so maybe the Saints would be a playoff team in Italy…wait…does that make sense? 

Playoff team or not, the Saints are a more complete team than the Panthers.  With the revolving door at QB, no running game, and a defense that isn’t playing up to their potential…Carolina is just not a very good team right now.  New Orleans is a better one.  Saints get the win.  And we all start wondering if they are a mocha or not….anyone up for some coffee?

Washington at Tampa Bay

Taking a break from the food analogies for a moment… 

Have you ever picked up a piece of furniture from Ikea…it’s going to be the perfect addition to your room…you open the box, and start laying out all the pieces.  After making sure the Ikea gods didn’t gobble one of the pieces, you set about reading over the instructions…

After a few hours, you feel confident that you sort of know where the different pieces go…and so you start assembling… 

You get near the end, everything seems to be in order…and it’s time to put it all together…and something just isn’t quite right.  You twist, you pull…you kick, you scream…in frustration you look at the directions again, only to realize that a piece is on backward.  You switch that around, and bam, everything fits perfectly.

The Skins are at the “some piece just isn’t quite fitting” stage of their development.  Don’t know what it is…haven’t watched enough games…but the team seems just on the verge of taking the next step…something just isn’t quite right.  Maybe Campbell just need to mature some more…maybe they are missing that one key player…or maybe there is something with their scheme that just needs to be tweaked…but they are so close…you can almost taste it… 

After playing the Cowboys close, and just barely coming up short…the Skins steal a win in Tampa.  The old saying goes, don’t back a wounded tiger into a corner…cause he might bleed on you…or something like that…um…hmmm.  Yeah, let’s just go with that.

Minnesota at NY Giants

For one week, the Hamburger Helper tasted great without the ground beef… 

For one week.

Chester Taylor looked like AP-lite…and all was right for one game. 

Unfortunately, the Giants are better than the Raiders…and the Vikings aren’t at home.  Oh yeah, and the pass rush is going to make Mr. Jackson look really bad.

Giants get a win, and suddenly their schedule isn’t looking as bad.  There are still several tough games, but getting this win takes them to 8, and with 5 games left, they should easily hit 10 wins.  Meanwhile, Childress starts gauging the housing market to see when would be a good time to sell. 

Tennessee at Cincinnati

As all kids do at some point, my sister and I loved to play mad scientist in the kitchen.  We would mix random things together; making a most foul smelling concoction….whatever we could find that was a food item was fair game…

Random sauces, long forgotten on the refrigerator door… 

Containers that hadn’t seen the front of the cabinet in years….

Hot sauce, hot oil, hot anything… 

Just continue to mix it in a bowl…stirring the witch’s brew (did someone say witch’s brew?) until it was a nice liquidy consistency.  And then with the addition of a little Quik Mix…the mess would assume the appearance of Chocolate milk…

At least to the unsuspecting eyes of our younger brothers… 

Let me take a moment to absolve my sister here…being the older brother, it was always my idea to get human test subjects for our elixirs.  She begrudgingly went along, because…well, what else are you going to do with something you slaved over for hours?  Not that this should be a shock to anyone…big brothers are inherently evil…at least when they are bored.

After a little coaxing, and a few half hearted promises that “yes, it is just chocolate milk this time” my brothers would take a sip…which would be followed by them spiting it out and me laughing way too hard.  There is a strong chance that this led directly to one of my brothers being a “I’ll eat anything” guy and the other brother never really trusting me.  Nah, couldn’t be… 

The Bengals keep telling us and their fans to drink the concoction they have put together…their defense has been horrid for a few years now, and still they wanted us to believe they were a contender.  Yeah, Palmer-Johnson –TJ makes it look like chocolate milk…but in the end, we’re just going to spit this out.

The Titans, fresh off a kick in the teeth from the Broncos, tear through the Bengals soft D.  Tennessee gets a much needed win, while Bengals fans do a spit take….followed by me laughing way too hard. 

Houston at Cleveland

Good to have you back Andre…good to have you back.

Um, Cleveland?  You’re gonna want to cover this Andre Johnson guy….he’s good. 

With the Phil Dawson magical bouncing field goal, last week…it would appear that the Browns are the “team that can do no wrong” this year.  A great thing to be, but it makes them a little funky to pick…

With Johnson back, the Texans look like they are picking up where they left off when he went down….he’s a game changing WR and they know how to use him.  And because of that, this game seems ripe for a Houston win… 

But then you have to look at the Browns magical season, and wonder what convoluted way can they come up to win this week?  It’s enough to make your head spin.

Cinderella gets left at the ball in this one…Texans steal one from the magical Browns as Andre romps through the Cleveland secondary like a streaker through the quad…no one will touch him, but everyone will see him. 

San Francisco at Arizona

One of those hearty meals we would have as kids was an Italian sausage, peppers and onions mix.  All of them fried up together, and then simmered in some red wine.  My mom would make it all the time, it was a favorite of all us kids.  Both my sister and I learned to make it, and often made it for dinner when my mom was running late.

One particular night, my sister decided she would make dinner.  My mom was running a little late getting home, and so my sis got to work in the kitchen.  When my mom got home, there was a set table, and a hot meal all prepared. 

We sat down, and the bowl of sausages was going around.  When the bowl reached my mom, she looked down at it, a little confused.

“Um, where’d you get the wine for this?” 

“I used the Clear wine.”

“What?  Clear wine?” 

My sister then went to the pantry, and pulled out the “clear wine”.  85 was a very good year for Smirnoff.  It has a wonderful aroma, and is quite pleasing on the palette.  Who knew you could make a clear wine from potatoes?

While red wine is better to cook with, I would suggest vodka if you are a Niners fan.  Trust me, this season is not going to get any better.  The offense has nothing going for it…and defense is tired and disorganized…and the franchise QB looks like a waste of a #1 pick.  Wooohooo!!  Another round bartender…better leave the bottle of clear wine. 

See, a bottle of “clear wine” sounds much more classy than Vodka.

The Cards get the win, and keep the heat on the Hawks for the division title.  If only Denny Green were around…no…wait…if he were still coach, they would of started 1-4.  Hmmm….yeah, the up and down Cards of today are much better than the “we let them off the hook” Cardinals of yester-year.

Oakland at Kansas City

Rarely does a historic rivalry like this cause me to yawn…but this one does.

Both these teams are mediocre. 

They are not good enough to be contenders or exciting…

And they are not bad enough to watch like you would a car accident. 

On top of that, they both play rather boring schemes…and lack any real dynamic players.

The Chiefs get the win in this snoozefest.  If this game is the only one on in your area, and you’re not a fan of either team…ConAir is playing some where…or Trading Places, that’s always on some where.  There is always the outdoors…or you could talk to your wife.  When in doubt, the PS2 is staring at you as well. 

Baltimore at San Diego

One of the great things about living in Seattle, was that my Aunt Patti lived about 20 blocks away.  My daughter loved going over to her house, and Patti loved having her.  Which made it really easy for my wife and I when we wanted to go be a couple. 

Well, one of the first times we left the little one at my Aunt’s was for a Saturday lunch date.  Dropped her off, and of course she was a little freaked out that we would just up and leave…but she got over it.  On our return she was happily playing, and didn’t want to go.  We asked her how her stay had been, and she answered…

“Good.  Patti is drinking wine.” 

Both my wife and I shot a glance at Patti…wondering why she would be drinking at 2 in the afternoon….while watching OUR daughter.  But Patti was just as confused…and we all looked at the little girl for some clarification…

She got up, and toddled over towards Patti…grabbing a bottle of Diet Coke, and handing it to Patti saying, “Here’s your wine.” 

When you don’t know the word “Diet Coke”…use whatever word you do know…although, what does that say about what my wife and I were drinking at the time?

At the start of the season, this game looked like a epic battle…but then again, at the start of the season, we thought both these teams were fine wines. 

Turns out they’re just Diet Coke.  Don’t know about you, but Diet Coke is disgusting.

As we saw last week, a well coached team (Jags) will beat a poorly coached team (Chargers)…so what happens if both teams are poorly coached? 

Go with the team that has more talent, and is at home.

Chargers get the win…although this is going to be an ugly game.  Baltimore will find the offense harder to get going against a team other than the Browns…and Norv will still forget to get the ball to the best player on his team.

Denver at Chicago

Coffee was never part of my morning routine until…

  1. I moved to Seattle, home of the Latte.
  2. My daughter came into the world, causing me to lose a lot of sleep. 

At first, drip was not an option.  Every morning there would be a stop at a coffee shop on the way to work.  In Seattle there is a coffee shop every 3 feet, it’s the law.  You could stop at a different coffee shop every day of your life in Seattle, and still only visit half the coffee shops in the city.

While this habit definitely took advantage of the local businesses…well, it was really expensive.  When you shell out $4 every morning…it adds up quickly.  To stop me from drinking us into the poor house, my wife started making drip coffee for me. 

One particular week, I needed to get up and out to work really early all week.  After showering, and getting dressed, I stared down the coffee maker…um…

Looking inside, there were still grounds in there…so I poured some water in, and started it up. 

The next morning I did the same.

When I got home from work that night, my wife asked, “how much coffee have you been using in the morning?  It’s been really weak.” 

“I don’t know, you’re the one that put the coffee in, I’ve just been adding water.”

And that is how I learned how to make a proper cup of coffee.  It’s a lot harder to do when you’re red with embarrassment, and your wife is talking to you like you’re a 2-year-old. 

The Bears defense is producing the same results that 3 day old coffee grounds do…it tastes like coffee…but it’s just a hint of what a fresh cup would be.

Something is seriously wrong with this defense.  It’s not so much that the Hawks were able to move the ball on them…it’s that receivers were WIDE OPEN…and that Hasselbeck never got hit.  The defense is supposed to be the strength of this team.  They are supposed to put the fear of god into opposing offenses… 

On the other hand, the offense played a lot better.  Last year, putting 20 on the board would have been enough for this defense.  And it should be enough.  Let’s face it, this offense is not built to win shootouts. 

All that being said, the Bears are at home…and the Broncos are coming off a big win…that means….Bears win.  Nope, it doesn’t make much sense, but look the Broncos have been pulling this all season…get a big win, people think they’re rolling…then they fall flat in a winnable game.  At least that’s what I’m pinning my hopes on… 

Philadelphia at New England

Many Christmases ago, my father bought my mother an Electric Frying pan as a present.  Not what you would call a romantic gift…but a practical one.  It made cooking large meals for 4 kids a lot easier….and it got a ton of use.  So much so that the next Christmas…

My father bought my mother an Electric Frying pan.  Not all that romantic, but she did seem to like the first one, and it was worn out.  This one also got a ton of use, so much so that the next Christmas… 

My father bought my mother another Electric frying pan.  Not romantic at all…and now it was starting to eat at my mom.  She started making many little sarcastic comments about her lovely frying pan…my dad, always in tune with the desires of my mom made a note of it, so that the next Christmas…

Frying Pan. 

It took me and my sister pulling him aside and saying “no more frying pans.”  He got the subtle hint.  And that Christmas he got her a nice sweater and some earrings.  Even with out the frying pan, the jokes kept going though…so that the next Christmas…

My father got my mother an Electric frying pan…and we all laughed. 

The Patriots have reached Electric frying pan status.  Every Sunday, you look at the scores…and there they are, blowing someone out.  If they do lose…yeah, we’ll all be relieved….but when they come back and blow the next team out, all we’d be able to do is laugh.

The league should expect to get several more Electric Frying pans before this season is over…this team isn’t going to slow down for awhile. 

Pats win again.  With McNabb’s health in question, the Eagles just won’t have enough fire power, and their defense depends on the blitz to cause panic…Brady doesn’t panic…he just find the open receiver and get him the ball.  This game will be over before the half.

Miami at Pittsburgh

This might be one of the best shots Miami has to win a game…why you ask?  Simple…the Steelers seem to play to the level of their competition right now.  They bring their A game against the tough teams, but against the teams they should beat…well…they sort of bring their C game. 

It’s one of those traits that’s not all bad, but it could mess up their playoff seeding, and that could hurt.  You don’t want your team to have to play both Indy and the Pats in the playoffs….that would be a tall order.

Let it be stated for the record again, Tony K is quite possibly the most annoying analyst in the game right now.  He seems to enjoy just making the same point over and over until either Jaws or Tirico agree with him.  Tony, seriously, shut up.  The sound won’t go any lower on my TV…and you make it really hard for me to listen to Jaws, who actually has something to say. 

Okay, that’s out of the system…

Despite the Steeler way of playing down to the competition, Pittsburgh gets the win over the Phins…for the simple reason that this Miami team simply doesn’t know how to finish a game.  But hey, the John Beck era is here…should last well into December….maybe. 

So who’s hungry?  Man, some salami cups sound good right about now…but all we have to look forward to is a Thanksgiving feast…ah well, we’ll make do.

Everyone have a great holiday, remember to be thankful for all you have, and all those that you share it with.  And Thanksgiving isn’t over until you have to undo the top button on your pants….don’t try to weasel out of that, it’s your duty as an American!

And make sure to toast with Clear Wine at the dinner table.  Happy Thanksgiving.


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