Tag Archives: Gambling

Job Security, Health, and Midges Dominate Cleveland

Welcome back to my little corner of More Than a Fan. I took last week off from the column for the holidays, but don’t worry, my terrible record of picking games this season kept right on chugging.

On Johnny ManzielHis time in Cleveland is through. Maybe he’ll end up on the field in a Browns uniform at some point to finish out 2015, but I can’t see any plausible scenario in which Johnny sticks around, regardless of anything at all that takes place on the football field…

…Unless Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer get fired. I have flip-flopped on my opinion of whether these two should get canned, whether only one of them should be shown the door, and, if one of the other, I can’t decide which should get the pink slip1Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned..

[Read – The Browns Broke Me – by Jeff Rich]

Sometimes I think that Pettine really has the veterans in the locker room. That he gets their respect because he holds players accountable and rewards guys who work hard. The flip side of that coin is the perception2/pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. that Pettine won’t play Farmer’s guys out of spite, because the two can’t get on the same page.

Oh, there’s also the terrible clock management, his buddy Jim’s terrible defense, and the offensive coordinator doing everything he can to not pass the buck while passing the buck.

Let’s also not forget that this headline happened today; “Browns coach Mike Pettine acknowledges discussion about his future could be in Jimmy Haslam’s plans.3This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.

Ray Farmer is terrible at picking players, and considering that’s his most important job, things aren’t looking good the former prodigy. No, Bernie Kosar could not be the GM of a football team. I would love to see him working with scouts, though.

[Subscribe – Railbird’s Nest Podcast. Recent guests include Ken Carman, Hayden Grove, and Tony Mazur.]

Someday the Cavs will be healthy. With health will come more meaningful rest for LeBron James, Love, and the back court crew that started the season playing heavier than normal minutes due to Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert‘s injuries.

When isn’t important. There are plenty of things that happen in losses that can be pointed to and harped on for improvement, and the Cavs five losses so far this year are no exceptions to that rule4Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.. The Cavs are NOT a perfect team that sometimes takes a loss just because. Yes, there is real room for improvement.

That improvement will come. The players and coaching staff will settle in more each week, especially as the team’s health starts to improve. Glorious revenge will be ours.

Alright. Maybe I’m getting carried away.

I think Timofey Mozgov‘s knee is still messed up. This is a completely unsubstantiated opinion based on nothing but the fact that I’ve wasted thousands of hours watching basketball games. Maybe Mozzy’s knee is fine, but I remember trying to tell people Kevin Love looked like an old man with a back issue last season, and it turned out he was. 

The Indians signed Joba Chamberlain.  There’s no punchline.

Mark Shapiro lured Indians VP of Player Personnel Ross Atkins away to become the General Manager in Toronto. This is a cool promotion for Atkins, who gets to put GM in front of his name, and work with a colleague with whom he’s comfortable in the process.

This looks like bad news for Blue Jays fans. Don’t believe me?

“But increasingly, front-office executives with GM experience, like Shapiro, are hiring GMs who function, in many ways, like an assistant would in the old model.” – Brendan Kennedy Toronto Star

Mark Shapiro, the not-GM who will act like a GM, even though he hired a GM.

I’m sorry, Canada.


Packers @Lions
Jets @Giants
Cardinals @Rams
Falcons @Buccaneers
Panthers @Saints
Seahawks @Vikings
Texans @Bills
Ravens @Dolphins
Bengals @Browns
Jaguars @Titans
49ers @Bears
Broncos @Chargers
Chiefs @Raiders
Eagles @Patriots
Colts @Steelers
Cowboys @Redskins


1 Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned.
2 /pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
3 This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.
4 Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.

Josh’s NFL Picks Week 11: Don’t Even Read These

This season has been junk. I felt good about the start of the year, and my picks showed it. But the last few weeks have been as bad as these Thursday Night Football jerseys.

I think the root of my problem this season is the AFC South. The Colts, Texans, Jaguars, and Titans are all almost the same trash. I miss so many games from this division, I can’t keep them straight any more.


hydratedThe Good news for me is that the Cavs are fine. It’s weird that I have to say this in November of a basketball season, but two losses in a row makes people crazy, I guess. The Cavs are going to be SO FINE that I’m not sure of my sure thing bet of under 56.5 wins this season. I even started calling the Cavs the No Cover Squad, until a two game losing streak pissed them off so badly that the covered against the Bucks Thursday night.

It was a beautiful thing, really. Efficient LeBron and double-doubles from Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson is a hallmark of this Cavs team, especially when the squad went into the game with its three best back court players watching in suits.

Also, if you’re ever at a game, keep an eye on Love when it’s time to dap.

The Browns are on a bye and the Indians are on vacation, so I’m going to plug a great podcast I did with Cleveland sports beat reporter Hayden Grove (@H_Grove). Hayden is on the Browns, Cavs, AND Indians beat for The OBR, Wine and Gold Report, and Indians Baseball Insider. Hayden was a first year hire here at More Than a Fan, and his insights into being a Cleveland media member made us here at MTAF look smart.

Picks Notes

I can’t quit the Packers. I should, but Aaron Rodgers’ leadership prevents me from giving up on his team. On the road at Minnesota is a tall task, so this is my pick most likely to go wrong.

The Raiders are a playoff team. I’m excited to see them prove it on the road.

That’s it. There are no more picks notes. I’ll just be depressed about them next week, anyway.

Titans @Jaguars
Raiders @Lions
Colts @Falcons
Jets @Texans
Buccaneers @Eagles
Broncos @Bears
Packers @Vikings
Rams @Ravens
Cowboys @Dolphins
Redskins @Panthers
Bengals @Cardinals
49ers @Seahawks
Chiefs @Chargers
Bills @Patriots


Josh’s NFL Picks Week 10: Fail Gif

I don’t want to talk about last week’s picks1Stop it.. Ever2No. Stop.. Don’t even bother3Jesus. Leave me alone. I sucked..


It’s Uncle Drew time, Cavs fans. Chapter four would have been better without a knee injury, but you don’t need to run to get buckets.

There are actual in game things happening, too. Mainly, that the Cavs are great.

The Cavs are rolling 11 deep so far this season. Sure, small sample size arguments stack up here, but it’s pretty difficult to look at the per-36 stat box below and not get excited. Then, think about where Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert will squeeze in there4Holy shit.

Oh. Browns.

I’m talking about this piece on the OBR. It’s a subscription only article, so allow me to lift a few quotes from Waiting For Next Year, who lifted them from the original5Web thievery is no problem, until the cease and desist shows up.. The OBR is fantastic, so make sure to give them your money and go read this in full.

“There are many in this building that believe the [head coach] gets too personal, too invested in his beliefs and immediacy to take necessary steps with some younger talent which may not be what he wants.

“Pettine never wanted [Johnny] Manziel from [Day 1]. He certainly didn’t want him, did not want to deal with bringing him along after Manziel’s issues in his first season. Pettine was directly involved in [Justin] Gilbert being here, but was turned-off rather quickly, didn’t like how immature the young man was and he’s never been too receptive in seeing the young man through. You see this type of issue throughout the ‘playing’ roster.

“Pettine plays who he wants, when he wants and how he wants, which is within his rights — some within these walls believe that may not be what is in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns as an organization overall. Some in this building believe Pettine has made some playing decisions to spite Farmer.”

There’s also the whole Johnny Manziel thing floating around. If I were running the team, I would start Manziel. Not because I think he’s going to be head and shoulders about McCown6We all know Johnny isn’t taller than anybody besides his wide receivers., but because the franchise can’t afford another rinse and repeat on an offseason of talking Johnny vs whomever in a quarterback battle.

None of that really matters, though, if the aforementioned OBR article holds any water. Pettine will be out of here, and Farmer will probably get a chance to work with a coach he’s going to hand pick to cooperate. Maybe Bernie Kosar will be around, too.

But probably not.

Picks Notes:

Seriously, did you see my picks last week? What makes you think I should have any sort of explanations for any of these probably terrible picks.

Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Washington, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego, Kansas City, and San Francisco are done. They’re out. Cross them off. That’s 14 teams with no chance just over halfway through the season. Let’s all jump on the Oakland Raiders bandwagon. Not because we want to, but because hanging out with the crazies is the best way to stay safe when they’re loose.


Bills @Jets
Lions @Packers
Cowboys @Buccaneers
Panthers @Titans
Bears @Rams
Saints @Redskins
Dolphins @Eagles
Browns @Steelers
Jaguars @Ravens
Vikings @Raiders
Patriots @Giants
Chiefs @Broncos
Cardinals @Seahawks
Texans @Bengals


1 Stop it.
2 No. Stop.
3 Jesus. Leave me alone. I sucked.
4 Holy shit
5 Web thievery is no problem, until the cease and desist shows up.
6 We all know Johnny isn’t taller than anybody besides his wide receivers.

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Nine: Two Browns Losses for the Price of One

After a nine win week eight, I’m pretty depressed. I never feel good when I have to start off the picks column with a number so low; I have to spell it out instead of use the numerals1Bet you degenerates didn’t think you’d get a grammar lesson today.. I’m off to a (depressingly) strong start this week after picking the Bengals to beat the Browns on Thursday night. Ho hum. My favorite football team is terrible again. I’ll just have to drown my sorrows in Cavaliers basketball.

Don’t bet on the Cavs2I’m listening to Odelay as I write this. I forgot how cool Beck was. Don’t get me wrong, Cleveland’s swashbuckling heroes are going to win a lot of games3my preseason bet was less than 56.5, but 55 is still a lot., but betting on the Cavs to cover point spreads is a risky proposition. Slow starts and managing minutes is going to leave bettors feeling differently than fans.

I know LeBron James downplayed the moment he tore the sleeves off the awful Adidas uniforms the Cavs wore against the Knicks, but I suspect LeBron is being a little less than honest in that Uninterrupted video. Not that I blame him; losing your cool at a tee shirt isn’t always the best look. Speaking of bad looks; those uniforms are the worst look. They’re tee shirts that teams should give away to fans before a playoff game. They’re not basketball uniforms.

I wish there were fantastic Indians news to share, but there isn’t. Alas, it’s not all fire and brimstone at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. How could it be, if the folks over at Tribe Time Now are still recording podcasts? Take a trip over there and sit down with episode 35: Ryan Raburn: Key to World Series Victory.

We have two Browns games to lament since my last column. Mike Pettine said the Cardinals game was “a tale of two halves… frustrating because we’re capable of being better for longer.”

I don’t buy that at all, especially since the Thursday night game in Cincinnati was no different. Moreover; the Browns weren’t that good in the first half of either game, anyway.

In the Cardinals game the Browns secondary was abused as much in the first half as they were in the second, but was bailed out by Karlos Dansby and K’Waun Williams forcing key turnovers. At best, the Browns defense could be called “Big Play,” considering their four forced turnovers. But, in reality, they’re just a high risk unit. Specifically, it’s risky for the Browns that this is the unit.

Against the Bengals, the only thing preventing an uglier defensive output was two seemingly miraculous scoring drives that combined to eat up 10:58 seconds of game clock. Not including Carson Palmer taking knees to end the first half and the game, the Browns defense only forced one three and out Thursday. Guys; the defense is the problem.

Not playing Duke Johnson in the second half against Arizona because that’s how the game flowed is the biggest load of garbage I’ve seen since the Voyage of the Mobro 40004There’s a new “Most watched load of garbage in town,” Mobro.

I would love to harp on Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell only combining for 13 carries Thursday night, but the Browns got in such a huge hole so early in the second half, they had to start throwing the ball around like a Madden game. I’m sure Duke would rather run pass routes than keep up that torrid Thursday pace of 0.0 yards per carry.

I don’t know what Jimmy Haslam wants. I don’t know what Mike Pettine wants. If it were my money, I’d have to stop paying Jim O’Neil.

Picks Notes:

I’m not breaking down anyone’s doors to wager roses this week. My favorite is a big favorite, the Patriots covering against the Redskins.

I’m comfortable admitting I was wrong about not liking Teddy Bridgewater. Honestly, being so right about not liking Colin Kaepernick really eases that sting. Quarterbacks make the world go round, and they shall continue in their two matchups. The Vikings will win easily, and the 49ers will lose ugly.

I had the hardest time with the matchup between the Raiders and Steelers. I’m taking the upset. It feels right.

Happy picking!

Browns @Bengals
Packers @Panthers
Redskins @Patriots
Titans @Saints
Dolphins @Bills
Rams @Vikings
Jaguars @Jets
Raiders @Steelers
Giants @Buccaneers
Falcons @49ers
Broncos @Colts
Eagles @Cowboys
Bears @Chargers





Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league

1 Bet you degenerates didn’t think you’d get a grammar lesson today.
2 I’m listening to Odelay as I write this. I forgot how cool Beck was
3 my preseason bet was less than 56.5, but 55 is still a lot.
4 There’s a new “Most watched load of garbage in town,” Mobro

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Eight: Sort Of

Congratulations on clicking on an experiment here at More Than a Fan. Before you flip out because you unknowingly clicked on some sort of internet test, don’t worry. We’re not the Stanford Psychology Department. We don’t do crazy things like follow the scientific method or set up control groups to test variables. We yell into the internet until enough of you listen. That’s how we set the volume around here, and we’re in the middle of finding the right level.

If you came for my NFL picks, they’re still here! Somewhere. Probably way down at the bottom, which means you have to read the rest of this stuff. The rest of the stuff here that you’re probably not used to yet is some Friday morning riffing on Cleveland sports. I haven’t quite decided on the best format for doing this on a weekly basis, but I’m sure I’ll be on solid ground by the time football season is over and there aren’t any more picks to make.

I’ll probably change the title structure of these columns, too, but too much change at once might break the internet.

The Cavs are good. Like, really good. David Blatt’s crew is merely 1-1 at this point, after a close loss to open the season in Chicago and a trip to Memphis to crush the Grizzlies, but this Cavs team is different from any other team we’ve seen here in Cleveland. Even different than last seasons’ second first season with LeBron.

You won’t hear any Mike Miller or Shawn Marion hate here1Okay, you MIGHT. But not right now., but Richard Jefferson and Mo Williams bring depth to the Cavs roster that didn’t exist last season, even during the 34-9 run that turned around a sub-.500 start.

An early season word of caution to Cavs fans: we’re not going to see the Cavs trouncing through the regular season, eviscerating teams and winning 65 games. Or 60 games. Or 56.5 games2Cavs over/under for 2015-16. David Blatt’s first priority is keeping LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving healthy and rested. Williams, Jefferson, Tristan Thompson, and the rest of the bench are going to allow Blatt to go to the bench early and often during this season. So, don’t lose your mind over losses. There will probably always be fair criticism after bad games, but 16 wins in May and June matter far more than playing the starters heavy minutes against the Knicks in December. Let Carmelo try out for the Celtics3Carmelo should get traded this season. Not as hard as Boogie Cousins should get traded, but it’s close.

Allowing Mark Shapiro to go to Toronto may have actually been a savvy move by the Cleveland Indians ownership, as the first big thing to happen under his watch is the resignation of 2015 GM of the Year Alex Anthopoulos. You heard that right. The man who JUST WON GM OF THE YEAR saw Mark Shapiro coming and bailed, without even having another GM job in his sights. It looks like the Blue Jays needed to go cheap, and Shapiro is the perfect man for the job.

Francisco Lindor got jobbed. Not snubbed, but jobbed. Major League Baseball’s Gold Glove eligibility rules are… I don’t know. Unexplainable? Confusing?



Don’t make me talk about the Browns. Just get to the picks already. I don’t have anything nice to say about the Browns. Except, I’m apparently the only person in Cleveland who doesn’t hate the 2015 uniforms.

Some Picks Notes: The proof of my Thursday night picks are always on Twitter. If you don’t follow me there, you’re missing out.

One of the Tie-breakers in the #NomPickem League is which team will score the most and fewest points. I chose Seahawks for most and Cowboys for fewest. I really think this one will blow the roof off of Jerry World.

The Packers will be the team that finally exposes Peyton Manning‘s noodle arm, and the fact that Gary Kubiak is making a mistake trying to shoehorn an offensive system onto the golden years of the most cerebral quarterback who’s ever played the game. Manning is still more Peyton than Eli, but only when he’s running the place.

Cam Newton will continue to be an MVP candidate against the Colts. I just can’t wait to see what this week’s Andrew Luck “Dearest Martha” memes will be like.

Dolphins @Patriots
Lions @Chiefs
Buccaneers @Falcons
Cardinals @Browns
49ers @Rams
Giants @Saints
Vikings @Bears
Chargers @Ravens
Bengals @Steelers
Titans @Texans
Jets @Raiders
Seahawks @Cowboys
Packers @Broncos
Colts @Panthers

Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league

1 Okay, you MIGHT. But not right now.
2 Cavs over/under for 2015-16
3 Carmelo should get traded this season. Not as hard as Boogie Cousins should get traded, but it’s close.

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Six: More Bad Picks

I’m averaging 9.75 wins per week so far this season, and that’s just terrible. I’m almost to the point where I’m going to start a Dear Abby style advice column and just put the picks at the end.

Falcons @Saints Thursday 8:25 PM ET

Saints score on the first drive of the game, then Matt Ryan fumbles on 4th and 1 on the second drive. Early returns look like I will continue to be bad.

UPDATE: Looks like I’m starting from behind again this week. How was I supposed to know the Saints would channel 2006 and block that punt for a TD against the Falcons?

Redskins @Jets Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Cardinals @Steelers Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Chiefs @Vikings Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Bengals @Bills Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Bears @Lions Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Broncos @Browns Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Texans @Jaguars Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Dolphins @Titans Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Panthers @Seahawks Sunday 4:05 PM ET 
Chargers @Packers Sunday 4:25 PM ET 
Ravens @49ers Sunday 4:25 PM ET 
Patriots @Colts Sunday 8:30 PM ET 
Giants @Eagles Monday 8:30 PM ET 


Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Five: Day Late and Dollar Short

The day late portion of this week’s title is easy to figure out; I usually publish on Friday morning, but here I am on Saturday tapping away at this keyboard. The dollar short ending is something I can’t quite figure out. For some reason, I’m bad this year. I’m barely averaging 10 wins per week straight up, and that’s a little maddening.

Some writers would blame both parts of this title on having the best one year old daughter in the history of the world and using all that football brain on her, and, well, I’m doing the same damn thing. Anyway, here’s my abbreviated picks column for week five.

Colts @Texans Thursday 8:25 PM ET

The Colts are a reason for my mediocrity this season. How can they possibly be SO bad and still be sitting at 3-2 after two weeks without Andrew Luck? Indianapolis is a product of the AFC South, and that fact alone will propel them to the playoffs.

Bears @Chiefs Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Seahawks @Bengals Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Redskins @Falcons Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Jaguars @Buccaneers Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Saints @Eagles Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Browns @Ravens Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Rams @Packers Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Bills @Titans Sunday 1:00 PM ET 
Cardinals @Lions Sunday 4:05 PM ET 
Patriots @Cowboys Sunday 4:25 PM ET 
Broncos @Raiders Sunday 4:25 PM ET 
49ers @Giants Sunday 8:30 PM ET 
Steelers @Chargers Monday 8:30 PM ET

Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Four: Good Luck, Jeff

Earlier this week, I recorded the very first Railbird’s Nest Podcast with the top man here at More Than a Fan, Jeff Rich. In what’s either a sad coincidence, or even a somber indication of where we are a society, I write this under the shadow of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon after talking about learning how to be the leader of an organization and having to push forward with a plan in the face of national tragedy.

I faced these dilemmas too many times to count during my time as the public voice of More Than a Fan, and, today, Jeff has to do the same. Jeff’s first month in control of this website ends with a mass shooting across the country, he also has to see the news of the third murdered child in his hometown. Today, with the national media mourning a number of deaths not yet confirmed in the Pacific Northwest, a six month old was murdered in a drive-by shooting in the city so many of us close to More Than a Fan have in our hearts. In the last four weeks, Cleveland has seen a six month old infant, a three year old toddler, and five year old child murdered shooting incidents.

Some days, the weight of our world can be carried confidently. Some days it’s just so heavy. My heart really isn’t in writing this column tonight.

Good luck, Jeff. You’re going to need it on days like this.

The Patriots and Titans are on bye this week. The rest of the league needed a break from New England as much as the team needed a week off.

Ravens @Steelers Thursday 8:25 PM ET 

Jets @Dolphins Sunday 9:30 AM ET 

The Jets defense is too good for this shaky Miami team to exploit. Not in Miami, New York, or London, where they’re actually playing this game. At least we sent another ugly contest across the pond.

Jaguars @Colts Sunday 1:00 PM ET 

I know. I hated myself for picking the Colts early in the season, and then I hated myself for picking against them and lost THAT pick. I can’t help it, I have to pick Indy.

The game is in Indianapolis, the Jaguars are coming off an embarrassing loss, and Andrew Luck has absolutely dominated the Jags recently (72%, 905 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INT in three games). The Colts might score the most points this week.

Giants @Bills Sunday 1:00 PM ET 

Great defense at home against Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr may be the story line that many people are talking about, but a surprisingly effective Tyrod Taylor against a Giants defense that’s allowing 26 ppg will be the key that turns the lock to this game.

Panthers @Buccaneers Sunday 1:00 PM ET 

Carolina isn’t as good as their undefeated record indicates, but there’s no taking those wins away. Beating bad teams – Jacksonville, Houston, and New Orleans – is what a good team is supposed to do. This game at the Pirate Ship is no different.

Eagles @Redskins Sunday 1:00 PM ET 

If it was possible to pick both of these teams to lose, I would have. Yeesh.

Raiders @Bears Sunday 1:00 PM ET 

Derek Carr and Amari Cooper are going to keep impressing their insane fans. I don’t know what’s happening in Chicago lately, but winning at Soldier Field isn’t going to one of the things.

Texans @Falcons Sunday 1:00 PM ET 

I was one of the few people high on the Falcons at the start of the season, and I’m going to stay up here for a while. Matt Ryan has this offense running on all cylinders, and Julio Jones is reclaiming his spot on top of wide receiver mountain. The only thing that can clip the Falcons wings is their defense getting gashed for big plays. Ryan Mallett doesn’t have many big plays in him.

Chiefs @Bengals Sunday 1:00 PM ET 

Cincinnati looks like they’ll be the class of the AFC North, and Kansas City has given up a combined 69 points against the last two teams that were the class of anything. Sorry, KC, at least you have the Royals.

Browns @Chargers Sunday 4:05 PM ET 

I don’t want to talk about this one. Damnit.

Packers @49ers Sunday 4:25 PM ET 

Aaron Rodgers is still a super hero, and I’m still waiting for a meme that says so. Send me one.

Rams @Cardinals Sunday 4:25 PM ET 

Arizona is a top five NFL team in 2015. Let that sink in.

St. Louis is +7.5, their leading rusher is a wide receiver, and they’re actually happy to be on the road so they don’t have to worry about their turf catching fire again.

Vikings @Broncos Sunday 4:25 PM ET 

Psst. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t playing well this season, which is something I didn’t expect. Neither is Peyton Manning, but the Broncos offensive line should have a better time against the Vikings pass rushers than San Diego did last week. That’ll be the difference for Minnesota.

Cowboys @Saints Sunday 8:30 PM ET 

I’m legitimately sad that I’m not picking New Orleans. I saw on Ellen that Drew Brees is playing this week, so hopefully I’m wrong.

Lions @Seahawks Monday 8:30 PM ET 

Seattle gets two patsies at home in a row, right on time. The Seahawks were able to get right last week against Chicago, and they should be able to shake the rest of the boogies out when Detroit comes to town Monday night.

Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league

Will Manfred and Rose reach common ground?

Gambling is one of the most popular “hobbies” associated with sports. It is a global issue, but none more so than in North America. Gamblers can obtain bets on just about anything, from teams winning a game, a series, a championship, to a player leading his league in a statistical category, to off the wall things such as who gets the first base hit in a major league game, who scores the first touchdown in the Super Bowl or even a wager on who wins the coin toss at the Super Bowl. It has been with us for decades and will be with us for however long sports are played.

Sports has recognized the presence of gambling in its world, as evidenced by its forcing teams to publicly post which players are hurt and therefore not likely to play in a certain game or report injuries that might limit their performance or at least their playing time. Sports leagues allow gambling institutions to post odds on games and gambling sites are often primary advertisers at stadiums, so it is clear that the sports world recognizes the existence of gambling and to some extent is prepared to accept it. The NHL is even considering an expansion application from a group in Las Vegas.

But one area that all sports are extremely protective of is the reputation of the league and its players when it comes to their participation in gambling. Everyone has heard of the Black Sox Scandal, where several players on the 1919 Chicago White Sox were accused of accepting bribes in return for throwing the World Series to the National League champion Cincinnati Reds. Many were convicted and accepted their punishment. Of all the players involved, only “Shoeless” Joe Jackson continued to plead his innocence and Jackson backed up his claims by hitting .375 (12 for 32) in the series.

Such a huge scandal forced Major League Baseball (the NFL and NHL were both in their infancy and the NBA was 25 years in the future, so baseball was the only “major sport” in 1919) to take serious action against any player or team official that became involved with gambling on the game.

Major League Rule 21 – Misconduct, clearly outlines the need for players and team personnel to avoid any suspicion of improper behaviour. The rule has been posted in all major league and minor league clubhouses for decades, both in English and in Spanish. No player fortunate enough to make the major leagues could claim that he was unaware of the need to stay clear of gambling.

College sports and the NFL had their challenges with players being involved in gambling. Some star players were suspended for periods of time as a result however most came back and enjoyed further success as players after serving their suspensions. Major League Baseball was able to avoid the spotlight until the late 1980’s when it revealed that Pete Rose, one of the stars of the 1970’s Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds was suspected of placing bets on games when he was managing the Reds in the mid 1980’s. Rose denied all of the allegations, vociferously, but in August 1989 then Commissioner Bart Giamatti ruled that Rose had in fact bet on baseball and that as a result Rose had agreed to a lifetime ban from the game. Giamatti suffered a heart attack and passed away just eight days after announcing the Rose ban.

Even though he supposedly agreed to the ban, Rose continued to plead his innocence for many years and we can only suspect that he felt that this was a wound that time would heal and that he would eventually be re-instated. Rose has discussed his suspension with each of Giamatti’s successors as MLB Commissioner, all of whom have declined to re-instate Rose. At this point in his life, even if he was re-instated it is unlikely Rose would be considered for another job with a major league club, he has been out of the game too long, but re-instatement would provide Rose with the one thing that he really wants………to be eligible for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As the all-time leader in major league base hits, one would have to think that under normal circumstances, Rose would have been an automatic first ballot entry, perhaps even a unanimous one. If he ever does get re-instated, there will need to be some specific guidelines around his eligibilty, since he has now been retired long enough that it would be the Veterans Committee that considered his candidacy, not the Baseball Writers Association of America. How veterans would look at Rose’s off field behaviour isn’t known.

With a view to seeking re-instatement, Rose met with current Commissioner Rob Manfred at MLB headquarters last week to make his latest request for re-instatement. While details of the meeting have not been made public, the Commissioner’s Office did issue the following statement after the meeting: “On Thursday, September 24th, Commissioner Rob Manfred met with Pete Rose and his representatives at Major League Baseball’s New York office regarding Mr. Rose’s application for reinstatement. Commissioner Manfred informed Mr. Rose that he will make a decision on his application by the end of the calendar year. Both parties have agreed to refrain from further comment.”

Whether Manfred and his colleagues will give the request full consideration is known only to those involved. In the minds of the public, the real question here is what would the effect of Rose being re-instated have on the game? While there is no question that his individual numbers warrant Hall of Fame status, especially when combined with the Reds’ team accomplishments during his time with the team, Rose has never shown himself to be a sincere, humble individual and therefore it is hard to believe that he really is sorry for his actions. He is an opportunist. He has “crashed” the annual Hall of Fame indication weekend several times, setting up shop in a Cooperstown store to sign autographs. He has made a lot of money signing memorabilia at one of the Las Vegas hotels. Hardly examples of a man who is genuinely sorry for his mistakes. There is no doubt that Rose has profited just as much financially by being outside the Hall of Fame as he would have done if he had been elected.

I look at this request with somewhat mixed feelings. Living in Toronto most of my life I have been a die-hard Blue Jays fan, but the Blue Jays didn’t come into existence until 1977, a decade after I moved to Toronto. Before the Blue Jays existence, I was a Cincinnati Reds fan. That means that Rose was one of the stars of the team I followed as a youth and someone I looked up to because of his ability and his work ethic. He came from a working class background in Cincinnati and was the first singles hitter to earn $100,000 a year. He was proud of that. It was his claim to fame. He was nicknamed “Charley Hustle” because he always hustled on every play. He will admit that on every base hit he was thinking “double” until it became evident to him that he wouldn’t reach second base. He ran to first base on walks. He ran over Ray Fosse, essentially ending Fosse’s career to score the winning run in the 1970 All-Star game in his hometown of Cincinnati. I had no ties to the city of Cincinnati and I didn’t pick the Reds because I had a favourite major league player, although Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez were always exciting players. I settled on the Reds as a team to follow mainly because the Reds flagship station, WLW, AM 700 in Cincinnati was one of the few AM radio stations that carried baseball games and reached Toronto at night. I’m old enough to remember when Al Michaels was the voice of the Reds, before Marty Brennaman. I followed the Reds through the 1970’s, including the back to back World Series wins over the Red Sox and the Yankees and for a few years I followed both the Reds and the Blue Jays, eventually transitioning to a full-time Blue Jays fan at the end of the decade.

Notwithstanding my fondness for the Reds of the 1970’s, I find it difficult to support an athlete who plays outside the rules of the game, especially when the rules of the game are made very clear to all who play the game. If playing ability and success on the field were the only criteria, I think Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as a player based on his statistics and we know that not every Hall of Fame member was a choirboy, but I fear that Rose has been less than completely honest about all of the things he has been involved in. He has changed his story more than once. He has clearly benefitted financially from NOT being in the Hall of Fame. If he is allowed to be considered for the Hall of Fame, it is likely that his eligibility and possible election will simply add to the circus that Pete Rose’s life has become since he was banned from the game. Furthermore, since Manfred recently neglected to re-instate Jackson, about whose guilt there is clearly some doubt, what message would be communicated to the public by re-instating someone who has admitted to participating in wagers on the game? How do we know that he didn’t take advantage of his association with other players and managers to learn about who was not feeling 100%, which top relief pitchers might not be available that night etc. This was information that might have influenced how much he wagered and on what teams he wagered. We will never know the truth.

I believe that Manfred will consider all of the facts before making a ruling. Rose was a star player and many of lesser talents are already inducted. We live in a world where a lifetime sentence does not always mean forever and a day. What concerns me is that given Rose’s previous history of changing his story, how does Manfred know that Rose is being completely honest with him in terms of what happened and when?

While the terms of his suspension do not specifically forbid Rose’s name appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot, it is perceived that as he is banished from any association with MLB that the Hall of Fame committee chooses not to consider him because the Committee has a close association with MLB and the Commissioner is always a part of the annual induction ceremonies. The ban forbids him for working for any MLB team and from appearing publicly at an MLB event, unless previously approved by MLB. The possibility exists that Manfred may soften the ban somewhat, without removing it entirely. What format any partial re-instatement would involve isn’t known.

Pete Rose was known as “Charley Hustle” as a player for the reasons outlined. It is apparent that he also knows how to hustle off the field. That may hurt him in terms of his request for re-instatement. If I had a vote, it would be “no”.

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Three: A Sobering Format Change

Last week was a bloodbath for my picks. Think of your favorite historical battle, I was the losing general in week two of the NFL season. If you picked worse than me, I’m not even sure you should be reading this. Take up knitting, maybe. Football might not be for you.

I’m switching from the table I used for the first two weeks, to a more traditional format. I found that I couldn’t make the tables fit well on mobile screens. I know there’s plenty of fancy mumbo-jumbo someone will tell me about responsive coding, but I’ve become lazy since I hung up my boss hat. You get a new format, without tables, whether you like it or not.

Also, I didn’t drink any Cleveland Whiskey before my picks this week. You should drink some while you’re reading, though. Unless you’re driving.




8:25 PM ET

This tweet embed is so meta.




1:00 PM ET

“This quarterback Weeden can drive the ball down field. He’s a thing of beauty on throwing a football. His passing motion and his arm, frankly, you won’t see a more gifted passer, power, accuracy, the entire aspect of it. If he can basically prepare, be the starting quarterback, come in and execute and keep his head right, then I feel good about Weeden.” ~ Jerry Jones on 105.3 The Fan

Jerry Jones is insane. I’m not sure what else there is to say about a Dallas team without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. I was high on the Cowboys before the season, but not as high as Jerry Jones is right now.

I’ve liked the Falcons, too. Atlanta is much more flawed than Dallas was to start the year, but any team with Matt Ryan throwing to Julio Jones is a team to be reckoned with. The Falcons are -2.5 on the road, and I expect them to run their record ATS to a perfect 3-0 this week.




1:00 PM ET

Indianapolis has scored an NFL low 21 points this season, and Andrew Luck has thrown four interceptions against the blitz after only two games. This is bad for Colts fans.

I don’t love Tennessee this season, but I can’t see the Titans getting unlucky enough to beat the Colts. Weak schedule be damned, the Titans should be able to move the ball behind Marcus Mariota on the Colts below average defense enough to control the pace of the game.

Indianapolis is -3.5 on the road after an 0-2 start, and are the consensus pick according to SportsInsights. I don’t get it. Upset City will be the newest burg in The Volunteer State on Sunday.




1:00 PM ET

Cleveland -3.5 makes me feel a little queasy. I went with crazy hometown optimism with my first two week picks for the Browns, but being a home favorite is a spot that I haven’t trusted the Browns in for a long time. Not that I’ve ever really trusted the Browns, but I like it even less when they’re favored.

There are a couple pretty good conversations in the replies to that tweet about Josh McCown being named starting quarterback over Johnny Manziel. I believe Travis Benjamin stays a game breaker no matter who is throwing the ball, and if the Browns defense can keep up their 4.5 sacks per game pace, I think Cleveland has a good shot at winning this game. (They’re 0-2 ATS this season, though. I wouldn’t bet on that changing.)

Derek Carr is a solid quarterback, but he’s still struggling under pressure. Cleveland is third in the league in sacks and eighth in defensive completion percentage. The Browns weakness has been giving up the big play through the air, but pressure on Carr will make it hard for him to hit Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree deep.

There’s also the fact that the Raiders have given up 33 points in both of their games this season. If McCown and the Browns don’t score against this defense at home, I’ve got a knitting link to send them.




1:00 PM ET

I’d like to pick both of these teams to lose.

Baltimore is -3 at home. I’m hooked on the road underdog.

There’s a lot of evidence that Baltimore COULD have beaten the Broncos in week one and pull out last week’s last minute loss against the Raiders. MAYBE the Ravens were just unlucky in those games. Joe Flacco could very well be elite.

Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, and Tyler Eifert are on tear this season, and that doesn’t even take into account the inevitability that is A.J. Green‘s breakout games to take over the season in Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Ravens are trending in different directions right now, and I don’t expect Marvin Lewis to let his team collapse until the playoffs.




1:00 PM ET

This is going to be ugly. New England is -13.5, and while I think they’ll cover, the Jacksonville money line at +736 could be worth a few bones, if you have more bones than you know what to do with.




1:00 PM ET

This hurts. Not as bad as Drew Brees‘ rotator cuff hurts, but it hurts me still.

Brees hasn’t been himself this season, the Saints haven’t been good overall, and Carolina should get LB Luke Kuechly back from his concussion in week one.




1:00 PM ET

Turns out Chip Kelly is better at denying being a racist than he is at running a football team. Who knew?

I didn’t. I thought he would be good, but the more he shapes this team in his vision, the worse they become. His moves just don’t seem to work.

Also, the Jets defense is pretty fantastic.




1:00 PM ET

The home team will come out on top in this week’s I Don’t Care Bowl, but I don’t expect them to cover the -6.5.




1:00 PM ET

I like San Diego and the under based on the strength of the Philip Rivers led offense.

I want to take a moment to clear the air. I was not a Teddy Bridgewater fan when he came out of college, but he did a really good of proving me wrong during his rookie year. I’m not buying tickets to the Bridgewater bandwagon at this point, but there’s no sense in pretending like I’m never wrong. Anyway, Teddy is good and Adrian Peterson will get stronger all season, but that Chargers offense should keep chugging in Minnesota.




1:00 PM ET

Speaking of offenses…

Pittsburgh should be the best offense in the NFL this season. Now that Le’Veon Bell is back from his suspension (weed is still banned by the NFL CBA  ¯_(ツ)_/¯), I can’t imagine a scenario in which the Steelers don’t run through the Rams like a video game.




4:05 PM ET

Arizona -6.5 has the makings of an upset ATS, but I’m comfortable picking the Cardinals outright.

Stat of the Day (From ESPN):

Carson Palmer (14 TD: 3 Int) AND the Cardinals pass defense (12 TD: 20 Int) have the best 4th quarter TD-to-Int differential in the NFL since 2013. Colin Kaepernick‘s 4th-quarter TD-to-Int rate is tied for the worst (4 TD: 8 Int) over that span among qualified passers.




4:25 PM ET

I’m picking Buffalo because of their defensive prowess and to irritate Jeff.




4:25 PM ET

Bears fans should just skip this Sunday. Do literally anything but watch this game. Maybe knit.




8:30 PM ET

Read this.

Peyton’s Place: Why the Broncos Quarterback Should Retire




8:30 PM ET

First person to make me a meme of Aaron Rodgers as a superhero will get published here.


Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league.