By Mr Brutal, Special To Buffalo Sports Page
Every year, Bob Gaughan & Mr. Brutal engage in a cross border competition of picking each week’s NFL games against each other with unknown, yet very high stakes on the line for the year end.
………… Saturday, December 22, 2018 ………
…………………. 4:30 pm Eastern Standard Time ……..
Washington @ TENNESSEE (-10) 37
The unmentionables won last week in Jacksonville for reasons we will cover later in the column. The Titans should win this easily, especially after having nine days’ rest. However, that is too big a spread for the Nashville Oilers to cover against competent quarterback Josh Johnson ( The only University of San Diego Torero we can recall ever playing quarterback anywhere in professional football ) and his teammates now generically named the Washington Football team or…. “The Crimson Epidermis Embodiment of Native American Eradication.”
Mr. Brutal: Washington Football Club +10
Bob: Titans -10
………………. 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time …………
Baltimore @ LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-4) 44.5
This is a game that could go either way, but we don’t see the elusive-but-prone to-fumbling Lamar Jackson pulling this one out and subsequently the Baltimore winning streak continuing against a peaking, motivated Chargers’ team that has RB Melvin Gordon back just in time to possibly clinch first place overall in the AFC. Chargers win in front of their customary 60-40 neutral site crowd in the dreaded suburban Orange County soccer stadium.
Mr. Brutal: CHARGERS -4
Bob: Chargers -4
………… Sunday, December 23, 2018 ……………..
…………… 1:00 pm Eastern Standard Time ……………
Cincinnati @ CLEVELAND (-9.5) 45
The “Battle of Ohio” resumes, but the two Sams ( Wyche & Rutigliano ) will not be patrolling the sidelines of their respective teams. These games have a lot of history. There is usually bad blood and we don’t like the upstart Browns to cover more than a touchdown.
Mr. Brutal: Bengals +9.5
Bob: Bengals +9.5
Tampa Bay @ DALLAS (-7) 46.5
The Buccaneers had a few chances to upset the Ravens last week in Baltimore but came up one score short. Will they put forth the same type of effort this week in Dallas, their second road game in a row? The Cowboys got shutout last week in Indianapolis, but they need a win here to fend off the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington “Native American Casualties of Bounties, Segregation & Genocide” in the NFC East.
Dallas should win, but we don’t like that number.
Mr. Brutal: Buccaneers +7
Bob: Dallas -7
Minnesota (-6) @ DETROIT 43.5
KFC recently put chicken scented Yule logs on the market so your fireplace can now smell like a deep fryer full of bubbling trans fat while the family opens their presents. In more disturbing, related news, a company in Japan is now offering fried chicken with spice that makes it smell and taste like “the hair of a young girl.” Yecchh! That is truly creepy, but unfortunately it is 100% true and evocative of that island nations’ often odd predilections related to the art of affection. In the spirit of all of this, and in an effort to attract Red Wings’ fans, the Detroit Lions now offer “Kentucky Fried Octopus” at certain concession stands at Ford Field.
Like hockey fans, the fans might throw their meals on the turf Sunday in another hockey tradition, but it won’t help the hapless Lions against the Vikings who have to win.
Mr. Brutal: Vikings -6
Bob: Lions +6
Buffalo @ NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) 45
There is no logic to this pick other than the fact the Patriots are playing hurt, the spread is big, these two teams are divisional rivals and the weather might equalize things, …. there is also wishful thinking, the power of self-disillusionment and hope for next year to consider as well.
Mr. Brutal: Bills +13.5
Bob: Patriots -13.5
Green Bay (-1.5) @ NEW YORK J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS! 44
Aaron Rodgers has pride and the Jets have Sam Darnold.
Mr. Brutal: Packers -1.5
Bob: Packers -1.5
Houston @ PHILADELPHIA (-2) 45.5
It may be too late for the Eagles to make an encore of last season’s Super Bowl run, but they looked awfully good last week in Los Angeles repeating last year’s upending of the Rams with backup QB Nick Foles commanding the ship again, finding Alshon Jeffrey & Darren Sproles when he needed them. Houston has had ten days off and still has something to play for, but the karma of the Eagles is irresistible.
Mr. Brutal: EAGLES -2
Bob: Eagles -2
Atlanta @ CAROLINA (-2.5) 47.5
After watching their injured quarterback’s feeble output in the winnable 12-9 loss to New Orleans on Monday night, the Panthers announced that they are shutting QB Cam Newton down for the season like a summer cottage in October. All this despite the fact Carolina has a 0.7% chance of making the playoffs. We can only assume that head coach Ron Rivera does not subscribe to the “Dumb and Dumber” philosophy that his team still has a chance.
Look, we’ve been pretty hard on Cam this year ( and every other season including his last two at Auburn ), but it hasn’t been without reason.
Take last week’s uninspired loss to the Saints. At the end of the first half the Panthers were on a drive to score some much needed points without any timeouts. Instead of piloting a responsible drive, Cam let the clock tick off twenty precious seconds at midfield while he posed, preened and gave his patented Usain Bolt meets Cupid pose indicating that he, “Superman” had obtained the first down. The Panthers then ran out of time and didn’t get the opportunity to even attempt a much needed field goal in that low scoring game.
One might expect that behavior from a rookie, but not a veteran, Super Bowl quarterback who won the Heisman in college. After the game, he behaved as he usually does at the media press conference in a room full of reporters. He was evasive about the state of his injured shoulder and pouted his way through questions while wearing another ridiculous fashion house sponsored outfit that would have had me laughing out loud if I had attended in person.
This week he was dressed like:
A.) An Argentinian gaucho who was about to attend a cotillion for plushy-furry lovers ( individuals who crave physical communion with others dressed as stuffed animals ).
…. or ….
B.) A losing South American dictator in ceremonial dress signing a peace treaty on an aircraft carrier, about to hand over control of the Falkland Islands to Margaret Thatcher.
With Juan Peron not starting at quarterback this week, the Panther Nation turns its lonely eyes to Taylor Heinicke, who will get the team’s final two starts. Heinicke’s Alma mater, Old Dominion had a big first year in Division One (FBS? or is it FCS? or just BS?) and defeated Virginia Tech, but we don’t see the once and always Monarch leading his pro team to a win. Both Rivera and Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn could be playing for their jobs, so starters won’t be rested. In a stone cold, test of nerves situation like this between division rivals, we’ll take the team led by Matty Ice.
Mr. Brutal: Falcons –2.5
Bob: Falcons -2.5
New York Football Giants @ INDIANAPOLIS (-9) 47
Colts’ rookie LB Darius Leonard is apparently incensed at being snubbed for the Pro Bowl. He has two games left to record 27 tackles to beat Patrick Willis’ rookie record of 174, set back in 2007 with the Forty Niners. Darius is having a great year. Beyond the high tackle output, he has 7 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, 4 forced fumbles and 11 tackles for loss. Leonard, a South Carolina State Bulldog —- who feels he was overlooked in the first round of the NFL Draft because of his small school status —– vows to not only beat that record, but also Carolina Panther Luke Kuechly’s single game record of 24 tackles.
Good, we like the motivation. Last week the Indianapolis defence shut down the Cowboys in a rare NFL shut-out, sending the Colts’ on their way to a 23-0 victory. QB Andrew Luck and the rest of the Colts’ offence are appreciating the defense’s emergence in the last few weeks. They should win this game going away in their quest for the playoffs. It looks like the Giants and their diva wide receiver, Odell “Mariah Carey” Beckham Junior are at odds again over his physical status, so he won’t play and will shut it down for the season.
A big spread, but two shutouts in a row are a possibility.
Mr. Brutal: COLTS -9
Bob: Colts -9
Jacksonville @ MIAMI (-4.5) 39.5
Our mother always told us to always eat our vegetables, never go to bed still mad at your spouse and don’t overreact to last week’s football results because another overrated Southern California pivot cracked under pressure in his big opportunity.
Jags’ QB Cody Kessler cost us a lot of money last week with his inept performance against the Washington football club. However, that doesn’t mean that the ex-USC Trojan can play that badly again can it? Blake Bortles is a lot better, which tells you how bad a 57 yard passing day with two key interceptions in a game that you dominated on defence really was.
We’ll take the Jags to keep this “Battle of Florida” close and expect to see the UCF Golden Knight Wonder, Mr. Bortles come on in relief during the fourth quarter and cover the hook or maybe win the game.
Mr. Brutal: Jaguars +4.5
Bob: Miami -4.5
…….. 4:05 pm – 4:15 pm Eastern Standard Time ……..
Los Angeles Rams (-14) @ ARIZONA 47
Rumor has it that Arizona head coach Steve Wilks is on his way out. He will therefore pull out all the stops to prove that he is worthy of at least another shot at being a defensive position coach again, somewhere else in the NFL. Rookie QB Josh Rosen is upset because he likes his new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. Assuming that Leftwich will leave when the broom sweeps the Wilks regime out of office, Rosen will have to relearn another, entirely different offence next training camp.
Rosen was quite vocal about this in the press this week. He isn’t shy about his opinions, including politics. This was one of the things that worried some NFL general managers about drafting him last year. Josh can do something about this situation by having a big performance here. We think he will. They won’t win this game against the shaky Rams, but they should cover.
Mr. Brutal: CARDINALS +14
Bob: Cardinals +14
Chicago (-4.5) @ SAN FRANCISCO 42.5
QB Nick Mullens of the Forty Niners will really want to showcase himself this week against the stout Bears’ defense. As we predicted three weeks ago, the San Francisco braintrust has sent feelers around the league to leverage their situation and trade him away in the off-season. This is because GM John Lynch has committed a lot of cash to the injured Mr. Jimmy Garoppolo who has yet to show that he is anything beyond a Matt Cassell/Scott Mitchell overreach.
The Bears are still playing for playoff position after clinching the NFC North, so they should win, but maybe not cover.
Mr. Brutal: FORTY NINERS +4.5
Bob: Bears -4.5
Pittsburgh @ NEW ORLEANS (-5.5) 53.5
We took the Steelers last week and they upset the Patriots. The Saints eked out a win as they relied on their defense since their late season offense has depreciated like a future investment in a Trump Tower time share condiminium in a non-existent building in Moscow that ripped off its investors ten years ago when they initially purchased units.
Saints clinch first overall with a big, get-back-on-track win in the deafening atmosphere of the Superdome over a tired, desperate Steelers’ team.
Mr. Brutal: SAINTS -5.5
Bob: Saints -5.5
……….. 8:15 pm Eastern Standard Time …….
Kansas City (-2.5) @ SEATTLE 53.5
Should be the game of the week. Bottom line: The Seahawks are 16-2 straight up at home in prime time, all time.
Mr. Brutal: SEAHAWKS +2.5
Bob: Seahawks +2.5
…….. Monday, December 24, 2018 …………
Denver (-2.5) @ OAKLAND 44.5
The last Monday Night Football game of this year and the last chance to see if Booger McFarland holds onto his crown as the worst color commentator in the history of major sports. His ingenious NFL insights are delivered from the sidelines each week because he’s too big to fit in the booth with the two other announcers. The geniuses at ESPN are obviously following the trailblazing move by FOX when they put ex-Ravens’ defensive tackle Tony Siragusa in the same roll earlier this century. That experiment lasted about ten years and nobody misses it now. The only memorable moments we recall from Siragusa’s tenure:
1.) The ridiculous, oversized fur coats he wore that were actually bigger than the singular pelt of an adult male bison.
2.) The alarming amount of stadium food he inhaled over the course of a broadcast that caused the Surgeon General to issue a Public Service Announcement about cholesterol & sent the nation’s cardiologists into waking cardiac arrest.
3.) His habit of taking over thirty seconds to ask a single, inane question whenever he actually decided to “report.” It was always cringe-worthy, watching him stick the microphone into the face of his victim whenever he stumbled upon an injured player, cornered a coach or started hyperventilating in front of an unfortunate cheerleader who had wandered off course.
Now maybe Booger is a nice guy, but he makes the mistake of thinking he is entertaining, articulate, insightful and/or has something original to offer the broadcast audience. ( We’ll overlook his non-existent grammar skills and weekly butchering of the English language that is possibly unparalleled in the august annals of announcing ). Over the entire season we have yet to hear Booger say anything that has made us laugh let alone inform. If he would just tell one amusing story from his playing days that would pass the eight second censorship delay, we’d be grateful.
Here are some other, memorable color commentators we nominate for the Hall of Ignominy.
1.) Chris Webber: The ex-Fab Five Wolverine and NBA star was never one of our favorite players ( we always thought he was overly selfish, trying to pad his stats with the singular goal of making the NBA Hall of Fame rather than help his team, much like Carmelo Anthony ) , …. crying that there weren’t adequate soul food restaurants in Sacramento to service his dietary needs was a pathetic negotiating tactic he used in getting a mega-million dollar contract extension with the Kings, …… and no, we didn’t have money on him when he called the infamous timeout that didn’t exist that ultimately cost Michigan the NCAA title and gave North Carolina another championship back in college.
TNT has employed this guy for a decade both in the studio and doing color commentary at NBA games. He has improved only incrementally over that time. He has a monotonous voice, no zip, a distinct lack of unique insights, decent stories or anecdotes that would entertain anybody. Chris is boring and appears to lead a life of non-description. We can only wonder if he has the goods on somebody or that maybe his professional broadcasting tenure is secured in some convoluted, conspiracy theory manifestation connected to the greater Ed Martin gambling scandal that plagued his college team.
2.) Roy Jones Junior: No wonder HBO is dropping boxing after almost forty years. Roy is so blase in his approach to covering boxing telecasts, you often assume that he has absolutely no interest in the sport, ….. other than expounding upon his own exploits, endlessly talking about himself. Jones was a multi-divisional world champion with a ton of talent, and like Floyd Mayweather, the major criticism of his career was a tendency to avoid boxing certain, dangerous fighters who actually might beat him. His career was calculated, clever and never lacked for planning, preparation and profiteering.
The same can’t be said for his color commentary. It is obvious that in over fifteen years, Roy has not attended one seminar on broadcasting or hired a tutor for even basic instruction in the broadcasting arts. The lazy, disinterested, meaningless posturing he brings to the event always comes off like he is doing us a favor by just showing up. Roy often explains that a fighter should do what he would do in the same situation. That is completely irrelevant because 98% of the fighters don’t have Jones’ hand speed or talent. Sugar Ray Leonard used to do the same thing when he became a color commentator:
Sugar Ray Leonard: “What I would do Jim if I was Canvasback Malone is get up on my tiptoes, start dancing, double up my left jab and reverse my rotation to go counter-clockwise, …. and then after confusing him with my footwork and cutting down the striking distance, I would throw some blinding right crosses and phantom uppercuts when his vision was distracted by my machine gun triple-up jabs!”
Jim Lampley: “Thanks Sugar Ray, but Malone is a southpaw, 33 years old, weighs 250 pounds, has a left hand that is slower than the second coming of Christ and he hasn’t danced since senior prom.”
3.) Tommy Heinsohn: Long time Celtic announcer Tommy is a Hall of Fame NBA coach who was a long time player and general manager of that team too. He is a dinosaur, the ultimate “Old School” homer announcer that is really funny to listen to if you are drunk, high or are not an insane, serious Celtics’ fan that has to listen to him more than once a year. Tommy hasn’t seen a foul yet that a Celtic deserved or a referee who wasn’t out to sabotage the team with suspect motives like the blacklisted for life, ex-ref Tim Donaghy.
4.) Pat “Hopalong” Hannigan: The late Mr. Hannigan was the color commentator for the Buffalo Sabres in the seventies and early eighties. Prior to that he had a sketchy, brief NHL career of five years with several different teams. He teamed with the late Ted Darling to provide what we’ll call interesting, Captain Obvious hockey analysis. Ted Darling was an emotional announcer who developed his own interesting annunciations to verbalization and offered unique pronunciations of French Canadian surnames. He used to scare us when he announced the arrival of certain hockey shots about to be used during the game. He often labelled these actions as human form taking nouns like the dreaded arrival of: “The backhander!”
“Hopalong” said almost nothing of consequence to add to the telecasts. The most “colorful” thing about him was his nickname that he didn’t ever use. The one thing we can remember him getting excited about was telling the listening audience that The Benny Hill Show would be delayed for another half hour after the telecast because the hockey game ran late.
Pat seemed to think that Benny Hill was a comic genius and sometimes went into disturbing details about how the various characters in that show had him laughing in stitches, especially a certain buxom blonde and Mr. Hill’s little bald sidekick who played a deadpan Bud Abbott to Benny Hill’s Lou Costello. We’re sure that Mr. Hannigan was a good man, ( we know he did a lot of work for Catholic Charities and helped the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua ), but his broadcasting skills were more minimalist than an Ellsworth Kelly painting.
In fact he was so dull, that he made Ed Kilgore, back hosting the telecasts in the WGRZ studio almost seem charismatic. In fact, Pat’s legacy also rubbed off on his successor. By comparison, his ultimate replacement in the booth, the weepy, milquetoast Jim Lorenz came off as an exhilarating bolt of lightning ( at least for the first few months ) till his true personality exposed itself.
Honorable Mentions for Worst Color Commentator: Desmond Howard, Phil Simms, Tony Kornheiser and Leo Rautins.
This Monday night game is meaningless, but we like Case Keenum slightly more than Derek Carr in a battle of two quarterbacks who have lost the confidence of their coaches, general managers and owners.
Mr. Brutal: Broncos -2.5
Bob: Broncos -2.5