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"Unusual Suspects" The Fix is In!

Overall Record 107-55 Last Week 11-4

After going 11-4 on last week's picks, the dust is finally settling down and we are starting to see a little clearer of who will be and who will not be. Not that this week will be any easier in trying to predict outcomes, at least I don't have to pick Philly, or Cincinnati, agonizing through sleepless nights as I try to play the game on a imaginary basis in what it is I see happening as possible outcomes. Then again you can accuse me of being obsessive compulsive about my approaches, and it won't be the first time that has happened, but I must contest that this is a work in progress so that I can predict the future. It takes practice, one in which logic; reasoning and full cognizant abilities have to be honed like a fine precision tool in order to be a good prognosticator. I will let you be the judge of that, but in the mean time, progress is always a good thing!

This weeks upcoming match-ups will be hard to ignore story lines that is worth it's weight in gold. Several implications are on the line for several teams that could either seal their fate, or render them to irrelevancy come playoff time.

Saints @ Falcons

Atlanta continues on the road of self-destruction, and an argument can be made whether or not this team is tanking in order to improve its draft status in 2014. How else can you explain this teams woeful play in 2013 compared to a team who had gone 13-3 in 2012 and won a playoff game? It is hard to imagine that "Matty Ice" now melted ice, is not able to will his team to win at least 5 or 6 games? To add insult to injury, asking Gonzalez not to retire to take one more crack at a championship run is a sucker punch akin to a romance ended through a text message.

The Saints on the other hand, are playing good football, despite escaping a narrow margin of victory decided by a bogus officiating call that was blatantly obvious that the home team bias or favoritism was at work here, a bad call nevertheless. More on this later, however not much will change, and I expect the Saints to roll on.

Steelers @ Cleveland

Hard to ignore the storied rivalry between these two teams, neither the standings nor the playoff aspirations of these two teams will matter, when these opposing forces meet, it is a matter of bragging rights of the rust belt cities. This time, Steelers will have to do a better job on the road in order to pull off a win. While Most would think that Cleveland is a bad team, I would argue on the contrary. Much like Buffalo, Cleveland is almost identical in terms of having some good pieces in place with a bright future, but lack a true franchise QB to make it complete. Although I would say the jury is still out in Buffalo with EJ Manuel until after the 2014 season, (at least Bills fans have hope he will become more and that this year is just rookie growing pains) Cleveland on the other hand is still searching for a consistent play caller that could elevate them to relevancy again. Now, it has come to this, only one game that matters to Cleveland fans, and it takes place this Sunday against the Steelers. That one crazed lunatic obsessive fan resembling a character in the Movie "Buffalo 66," has a gambling addiction, and is betting the farm that the Browns prevail in order to break even from all the previous losses sustained, will be bringing out his best voodoo in trying to will his Browns to win .

Buccaneers @ Lions

After a botched attempt of a fake field goal, Schwartz gets the dubious distinction award for the week for not getting the 3 points. Also if you consider Calvin Johnson's numbers in the first half against Pittsburgh last week, was just sick (179 yards) until of course when the Steelers started to double teaming him with an extra safety is when he disappeared altogether. Duh! So why Stafford tried to continue to force the ball to him has got to be as bone headed as Al Gore claiming he invented the internet. The fact that the Lions did not take advantage of the other opportunities that this may have created is beyond any sort of reasoning at an attempt to answer that question. Lions still control their destiny, and being back with the pride after two straight games on the road should cure all ills. Tampa Bay, showed signs of improvement in a convincing win over crashed birds into a windowpane, but will not survive going into the den to come out to tell about the experience. Lions

Vikings @ Packers

Another rivalry whose history between the two is considered legendary, of course not withstanding the longest standing rivalry between the Bears and The Packers, this is close in comparison. What makes this one interesting is Minnesota's uncanny ability to win in Wisconsin, which should not be ignored when deciding who to choose. On the flip side, the Greenbay Packers starting quarter back, Scott Tolzien has shown that he is capable of throwing the ball, but can't protect it, and again will be the starter against the Vikings. At 5-5, The Packers are still very much alive in the Play-off hunt and desperately need a win to keep those hopes alive. The Vikings on the other hand, at 2-8, virtually have to get to 8-8 to even have a chance. and the chances of that happening are as remote as Megan Fox's acting abilities to be considered Oscar worthy. Packers

Chargers @ The Chiefs

After getting their first loss of the season, it is time for the Chiefs to get back to Earth and simplify their priorities. What is a troubling sign for the Chiefs, is the fact they have only produced 3 offensive touchdowns in the last 10 quarters. Sure it was a tall order expecting them to pull out a win against a Manning led team in the Mile High city, then again so is expecting an Irishmen admitting he has a drinking problem. San Diego, went from possible contender to Marylou with a bad case of STD's. ("Which stands for: Stop tackling dumb Asses) Kansas City

The Bears @ The Rams

The Bears made the right decision in going with the Backup Josh McCown, and has proven that he is capable of pulling out some wins with so far a 2 and 0 record. The defense also has played fairly well and with the team standing tied in the division the Bears still have a chance to make a run at it but will need help due to their two losses to the Lions. The Rams on the other hand are showing signs of competitive spirit after their win in Indy with historical feats, thanks to a Tavon Austin showing. Not sure what to make of this team, if that performance in Indy was a fluke, or a sign that even though they are all but eliminated for this season, that all they are playing for is to put others on notice going into 2014. The Bears

Panther's @ Dolphins

Now that the Dolphins finally gutted out a win, and pull to five hundred, they may be showing signs of life of keeping their playoff hopes alive amidst their swirling continuing controversy that is only worthy of super market tabloid checkouts. But with all stories that the media has all but exhausted, in which we are starting to hear less of and more on what they trying to do to address their deficiencies on the offensive line, then we begin to see a team that is slowly overcoming their adversities. The problem is, that adversity has just gotten bigger with the Carolina Panthers coming to town. Winners of 6 straight, with the last two defeating elite teams, the Panthers are now a team on a mission to be considered legit contenders. Cam tastic Neutron Newton, now emerging as the specimen that the freak of nature intended him to be, especially when you considered his Monday night play of dodging four defenders to pick up the first down, was something to behold and is the reason why I watch football, to be able to witness moments like that was absolutely spectacular! Cam Newton may finally be reaching the level of maturity that everybody suspected he would eventually reach, and with the play of the defense, a formidable front, and then it would be hard to argue a case going against them. The caveat that sticks out to me is that the Panther's have never beaten the Miami Dolphins in all the four ever match-ups they've had, however that was prior to 2010, when the Panther's did not yet have Cam Newton, or Luke Kuechly. Carolina

Jets @ Ravens

The Jets alternating wins and losses through ten games this season is a first for a team since the 1970 merger. So I guess logic would dictate in picking the Jets to win this week if we are to assume that the same trend continues, at least for this game right? Not so fast! The Ravens, even as their season so far can be describe as someone who is blabbering in a accent resembling close proximity to New York, appearing on promo adds on the local cable channels, screaming great deals on sports subscription packages, is sometimes in an indirect way meant to divert from the angst that most Ravens fans are feeling these days, even if it is more annoying. When every word being shouted becomes white noise, or garbled indecipherable meanings and just another commercial, then you can pretty much get the idea that tuning out the Ravens so far this season has had the same effect. But with a three-way tie in the AFC North, at 4-6 then it is not inconceivable that the Ravens can put a string of wins together in order to squeak into the playoff picture, and get Raven fans in the mood to watch again. Ravens

Jaguars @ Texans

Something tells me that Kubiak is in his last days as the Texans coach. His handling of the QB situation in last weeks game against the Raiders is mind boggling to say in the least, and that tells another story unto itself. The fans booing every time Matt Schaub takes the field is unprecedented, and therefore the Texans deserve to lose if for no other reason for the lack of a real fan base to stick by their team and support them no matter what. It really can't get any worse for the Texans at this point, a team that made the playoffs last year, and had aspirations of being a real contender this year all but evaporated like a dust devil coming in and ruining a paint job still wet on refurbished cheap steel siding. A Jaguars upset is all that Texans fans can hope for at this point, if for no other reason than to seal the fate of their once beloved coach Gary Kubiak. Texans

Titans @ Raiders

Hard not to like the story of McGloin, who was a walk on in college and performed beyond expectations to being an undrafted QB to win his debut. Add also Jennings recent dominance in the running game, and you might have a team that is finding some pieces from the most unsuspecting places. Then again, when you consider history of the Raiders, like Plunkett, Stabler, Schoeder, Gannon, Lamonica (ex-Bills), Hotstetler, then it is easy to see that the Raiders have a history of putting together a team of misfits that sometimes finds a way to beat everyone else in a given year. It's just the Raiders nature. However, for this season, I think it is safe to say they potentially will play the role of the spoiler, and remains to be seen whether or not they emerge as a legit threat. Titans on the other hand have Fitzpatrick as their starting QB, and Johnson has disappeared altogether this season, rendering their running game as ineffective. The Raiders

Colts @ Cardinals

Arians has had this game circled on his calendar for quite some time, and now the time has come as to find out if the Cardinals are for real. The only loss this year at home came against the Seahawks in week 7, so a case can be made that playing at home should bode well. Still the Cardinals are not getting much love, especially after Carson Palmer had his best game this season against the Jaguars. That is just it, it is only Jacksonville they played and the real story here though for the Cardinals, should be their defense. They are 2nd overall against the run, and 20th in passing yards, and are easily being overlooked if for no other reason they have not beaten any teams that are considered elite echelon type, of course if you consider Carolina as the lone exception, I would also retort that Carolina was also working through its own issues at the time. Also Detroit, another team that the Cardinals beat is not considered in that category, at least not yet anyway. On the flip side, the Colts strength is their offense, and now at 7-3 it is almost certain that they will make the play-offs this year. The fact that Luck has been pretty consistent to justify his number 1 draft status should not come as any surprise. What is surprising is that Indy, just removed two seasons ago were 2-14, and now staring at a possible playoff run is a remarkable turn around, considering a new coaching staff, and a few new pieces in place. Still playing a highly motivated Cardinals team who are now tied with San Fran at 6-4 and have a real opportunity to stay in the hunt is going to prove to be a real daunting task for the Colts, one in which may get the better of them. Arizona

Cowboys @ Giants

Giants 4 game win streak is not something people are talking about yet, considering that they started the season at 0-6, and are now quietly digging themselves out of their proverbial hole sort of speak. Also take into account that the Giants always seem to get amped when playing the Cowboys and for no other reason, considering the "oh no Romo" factor then it is fairly easy to surmise that Giants make it 5 in row.

Broncos @ Patriots

It is nice to see for a change that pretty boy Brady didn't get what he wanted, like denying that wanton spoiled brat, that elitist frat boy we all love to hate, if for no other reason people like this get all the breaks in life, of another favorable call. Cause and effect is something to behold sometimes, remembering times when Brady got all the calls, and now like a parent teaching his son a lesson of "not this time, you can't get everything you want" type moment by the refs, was as satisfying as indulging in a piece of tiramisu without worrying about the calorie implications. Seeing Brady throw a tantrum afterwards added to that euphoria that Karma sometimes doles out justice, especially after the blatant leg whip by Marcus Cannon to take out Charles Johnson's knee, Carolina's best defensive linemen. The reason why I bring this issue up, is when seeing the replay again, it was obvious that there was intent to maim a player in order to get the advantage. When you consider that Carolina's defense was getting pressure on Brady earlier in the game, and shutting them out and compared to when Johnson had to leave the game, the Panthers defense struggled mightily afterwards. Regardless of what the end of the game controversy ensued, sometimes when you cheat, it comes back to bite you, and Bellicheat in all considerations is not someone who I can admire with playing the game with integrity, a legacy that is certainly tarnished no doubt. Bud Grant anyone?

So now having to deal with the Broncos coming to town, Brady and company are chomping at the bit to justify their elite status. No doubt, the way we saw Brady and New England's offense perform Monday night, was impressive. However with so many injuries on the defensive side of the ball, one has to question how many lives do the Patriots have before succumbing to their injuries? Payton Manning on the other hand is in a league of all his own and inarguably having the best season of his career. The Broncos defense is playing decent as well and all indications that they are at least statistically the better team. Well almost, if you consider that both teams' defenses are alike, one is stronger than the other against the rush and the other better at defending the pass, then what you could potentially have is a game that represents a shootout. The only difference is, if the Broncos defense is truly gelling at the right time, and repeats their performance from the week prior, and then I see this game favoring the Bronco's. Then again the Patriots are playing at home, they are mad as hell for losing a close game, and may want to make a statement against one of the NFL's top teams. Also factor in the Ref's playing favorites again (or babying Brady so that he can win) then the game becomes a toss up. Tough choice, and this game can go either way. Broncos

49ers @ Redskins

This is a no brainer, 49er's now 6-4, losers of two in a row, and now facing an inferior opponent who have to play as survivalists in order to stay alive in the playoff hunt. While Seattle and New Orleans are running away with the top two seeds, and Arizona breathing down their necks, it would seem that the 49'ers needs are more out of necessity than a luxury at this point. Washington's problems can not be exacerbated any further, with RGIII playing as a sophomore, his development is where expectations should be, and the defense is still a draft or two away from being a legit contender again. Sometimes predictable outcomes become clichés too. 49er's

The Officiating

The Fix Is In!

I was convinced a long time ago, particularly when the Bills played the Redskins in Superbowl 26, that it was obvious there is a corrupt element in the NFL. Now before you go and start accusing me of being a conspiracy theorist, hear me out for sec, as I try to make a case as to why I may state this, and lets not be naïve to think that it has not happened before in the history of sports or that I am the first person to make such accusations. First of all the owner of the Washington Redskins at that time was no other than Jack Kent Cooke, the benevolent money bags man, with bottomless pockets who had built the LA Forum, Fed X field, had owned The Los Angele Lakers, LA Kings, Washington Redskins, Los Angles Wolves, various cable TV conglomerates, and contributed to various philanthropy causes, such as Education so on. Also when you consider the power that this man wielded by his enormous wealth and his connects, then one can begin painting a picture, or connecting the dots as to how that may influence a game particularly the Superbowl, if for no other reason out of fear of a sinister retribution for those who would descent or threaten the establishment. Another reason, which is the fairly obvious one, is money. When you consider the amount of money that is wagered on one event like the Superbowl, like say millions upon millions of dollars, then one can also sense there is something nefarious going on here, and again following the money trail the well connect people who we like to call the elitists make out with the loot. In that game one thing I will never forget is when Andre Reed got so frustrated with the stupid officiating that he threw his helmet on the field in protest. It was out of character for Reed to do such an act, and as a result it proved to be costly in the form of an unsportsmanlike penalty. In fact it was so obvious that the refs wanted to control the game, by calling multiple infractions on the Bills that by the time half time rolled around, the game was not even close. Even though Washington had a real good team back then, especially their famed Hog line, I also believed the Buffalo Bills had a real good team and had matched up well, but because the refs denied any chance of a fair game, we will never know what might have been. Also Marv Levy's book titled "Between the Lies," in which was inferred the Superbowls might have been rigged, but insisted that his book was based on fiction raised some eyebrows for sure.

"Marv Levy and fiction wouldn't normally seem to go in the same sentence.

That is, unless you think a coach taking a team to the Super Bowl four consecutive seasons - and losing each time - sounds like made-up stuff." 1

Now lets fast-forward to today, and look at where the NFL is with its integrity and transparency. If you take into account the head injuries, and the methodical cover-ups and subsequent settlements to stave off another PR nightmare, as well as the tax-exempt status, the NFL also enjoys, that is kind to political connections, then you can also start seeing another picture emerge. The NFL as an industry is a very powerful entity, with multi billion dollar owners who are part of the rich elite, politically connected, consortium of people who have enjoyed the perks of their power wielding status. When you consider that 70% of the American Taxpayer monies goes towards capital costs for furnishing excessive lavish multi billion dollar stadiums, the worlds most profitable sports league, which is also tax free, and gives their CEO an annual salary of 30 million dollar's then it is time to start questioning that when the NFL begins to be transparent with it's revenues then they should not be deserving of a non profit status. With endless resources to payoff people, ruin careers, or buy influence, then it can also be argued that the product on the field, and the prostitutes in which the NFL parades for the sheer entertainment value for it's consumers, and all for the revenues in which is generated, endorsements, TV contracts etc, is nothing more than a glorified tax shelter ecosystem whose only purpose is to benefit the wealthy. Those prostitutes are Brady, Rogers, Brees, and a few others who are considered superstars in their own right, and not including the ones who are beginning to emerge, like Luck, RGIII, Newton, to name a few, then you can also start to see that protecting those assets is also a priority in which the NFL has been trying to address by amending the rule book. (by the way I use the word prostitute as a metaphor)

The recent examples such as the game in which 49er's linebacker Ahmad Brooks was called for a personal foul on Drew Brees certainly illustrates a refs influence on the outcome of the game, especially when you look at the specific play and infraction that occurred was incidental during the action of the play itself therefore was an extremely questionable call. Another such example was the Monday night's game, in which a pass interference call was made, but later rescinded when the refs decided to discuss the play, rendering it a no call, thus Carolina wins and controversy ensues.

The point of all this, is that the NFL is getting harder to watch and is indeed becoming so arbitrary, such as Hollywood, music, mainstream media, even news is no longer objective, that I begin to wonder what is the point, if everything is already decided before the game is even played? When you compare the Tim Donaghy scandal of throwing games in the NBA, (an isolated incident) then I begin to wonder how long have refs in the NFL have been bought off to throw or influence the outcome of games. We simply don't know, because maybe no one has been caught yet. Also money has a way, especially in today's climate, where moral conscience pretty much takes a back seat to security, wealth, and material possessions, and the threat of reprisals of keeping "whistle blowers" quiet, and then it is easy to make these assumptions as theoretical possibilities. Again I will reiterate, these are just my personal opinions and can not be proven and I am only trying to present these as theories, but what I am seeing in the world today, our Government, our contrived media, greed of Wall Street with no accountability, then I am simply putting out there another context, that man himself along with his oldest preoccupations, has always been corrupt. Some things never change, except the individual who starts to seek out the truth. Then again, with any other sporting event, we can just chalk it up as entertainment, and thus is the reason we pay the price for admission, or not, but we make that choice, based on how we value the game itself, and anything in-between we are left to our own judgments and the perils of those decisions.

Ref 1: RICK TELANDER rtelander@suntimes.com July 23, 2011 1:10AM

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.

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