With cap in hand—that phrase is the origin of the word handicapped; think about it—I come to you, dear reader, with the word that last week's 5-8 ATS was an all-time low for the SMA swami. Hunches didn't play out, favored visitors (the Eagles, the Seahawks, e.g.) tanked, home favorites (Redskins, Broncos) did the same, and visiting underdogs given a chance by the oddsmakers (the Texans) looked very bad. Sometimes I just don't listen to myself. I build arguments why a team might win, but then I don't have the sense to buck the chalk. I'm not convinced that a totally different approach need be taken. I'm still gonna argue the facts and the tendencies. But maybe I'll pay attention a little more to that old adage about "any given Sunday." Except maybe where the Texans are concerned. Getting beat is one thing; laying over and playing dead, against your big instrastate rival, is another matter altogether.
We also come to you on the heels of recent action in the U.S. Senate, which has put the kibosh on a lot of internet wagering. On Friday, Oct. 13, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee dicked around on the Senate floor and stealthily attached a rider to a bill on U.S. port security, which, in effect, dealt a blow to American-originated internet gambling transacted with off-shore betting services. I see three potential reasons why this portion of the bill was shoved through without anyone really knowing about it: 1) Frist is striking a blow for conservative Christians who think gambling is sinful (even though he doesn't apparently mind if Christians get drunk and risk killing others when behind the wheel of a car); 2) he wants to control the internet (even though it's rightfully called the WORLD-wide Web); 3) monies placed with off-shore services don't yield any tax dollars for the U.S. government so he wants to play the role of punisher.
An online wagering industry exec, who shall remain nameless, told me directly: "The government, in its infinite wisdom, passed a bill called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.... There were no options to attach amendments to this bill. There was no time for politicians to even read the bill before it was brought up in Congress. There was no opportunity for any dissent or discussion. The bill was deceitfully attached to a Port Security Bill by Senator Bill Frist [and] it passed overwhelmingly. Several of the offshore sportsbooks have buckled under the pressure and will no longer accept American bettors. Several have stopped advertising and marketing. This has resulted in...sponsors pulling out and a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the industry."
Fascism's around the corner, folks. Between Frist and Bush, we get no say-so on anything. But if gambling's such a bad thing, why does the state of Tennessee—Frist's state—have a huge public lottery that funds the public education system by sucking precious dollars out of the hands of poor folks desperate to take a flyer on a million-to-one chance to hit the big time and alleviate their financially stressed existence? Ever stand in line at the convenience store behind a lottery player? The odds are 10-1 it's a woebegone minority or older person obviously not living the middle-class demi-dream. Ever ponder that reality, Mr. Frist? Doubtless, he knows nothing about it. It's hypocrisy writ large, America. Meanwhile, the people who can actually afford to gamble are now punished because Frist doesn't like how they're able to do it without his imprimatur.
Time to take back our country, methinks. If the fascists don't get us frist...er...first.
Season record: 28-23-4. Let's have at it again. (Spreads courtesy of FootballLocks.com.)
1. SAN DIEGO (-5) @ KANSAS CITY Chargers (4-1) playing well; Chiefs (2-3) off a debacle in Pittsburgh. Traditionally a tough game. Chiefs showed almost nothing last week, and QB Damon Huard will have to face that insistent Chargers defense. If I saw a strong reason to think the Chiefs could do this—besides the fact that they're at home—I'd pick 'em. Prediction: Chargers.
2. JACKSONVILLE (-9.5) @ HOUSTON Jaguars (3-2) coming off a bye week, rested and talented defensively. Texans (1-4) coming off a lackluster effort versus Cowboys, just when you'd think they'd have had a chance to prove something. They have no running game, and their offensive line is ready to collapse again under the onslaught of an aggressive D. They won't win. They could cover—but the facts say they won't. Prediction: Jaguars.
3. NEW ENGLAND (-5) @ BUFFALO Bills (2-4) played Pats (4-1) tough in Week 1, dropping a squeaker in Foxboro. But for all their moxie, the Bills are, plain and simple, mediocre. The Pats are still in the middle of re-tooling aspects of their team on both sides of the ball, yet have won anyway. If Brady is on, they should cover this one. Prediction: Patriots.
4. PITTSBURGH (-2.5) @ ATLANTA A 2-3 visitor is yielding points to a 3-2 host. Make any sense to you? Well, the Steelers did look formidable last week, and the Falcons stumbled badly at home against the Giants. I simply don't understand the Falcons. But maybe, when all is said and done, it's because Michael Vick is simply not a championship-caliber quarterback. I still think they have a chance here, though. Prediction: Falcons.
5. GREEN BAY @ MIAMI (-5) How much fun can you have? These two also-rans are a combined 2-9, and they've looked even worse getting there. On paper, the 'Fins are better, and in this case home field has to mean something. Prediction: Dolphins.
6. PHILADELPHIA (-5) @ TAMPA BAY Eagles (4-2) play second straight southern road game. Bucs (1-4) coming off first win, versus Cincy. Fairly tough play here, but Eagles can do it. Prediction: Eagles.
7. DETROIT @ NY JETS (-3.5) Lions are 1-5 coming off their first victory of the year. Jets are a surprising 3-3. That half-point is tricky, but the play has to be the Jets. Prediction: Jets.
8. CAROLINA @ CINCINNATI (-3) An interesting matchup here. Panthers are playing very well, having won four in a row. Cincy dropped a road game to lowly Tampa Bay last week, after coming off a bye. Panthers covered last week as a road underdog, and they're capable of doing it again. Prediction: Panthers.
9. DENVER (-4.5) @ CLEVELAND Denver's offense last week against Oakland was pathetic. Rarely will you see a team show that little faith in its quarterback. Cleveland (1-4) is off a bye week, though as Cincy showed us last Sunday, that doesn't necessarily mean anything. You can be rested and still not find your rhythm. Denver's defense is tough; Cleveland's is hurting. Prediction: Broncos.
10. WASHINGTON @ INDIANAPOLIS (-9.5) If Indy were playing better...wait a minute...Can you be better than 5-0? The Jekyll & Hyde Skins are 2-4, 2-1 against the AFC South. Indy should win, but Washington has the talent to cover the spread. Prediction: Redskins.
11. MINNESOTA @ SEATTLE (-6.5) The Vikings, at 3-2, have showed plenty of grit. But if they lost by 5 on the road at Buffalo (which they did), they're likely to lose by more than that on the road against the defending conference champions. Prediction: Seahawks.
12. ARIZONA (-3) @ OAKLAND Whattya say, America? Can the Raiders (0-5) win their first game? Was Cardinals coach Dennis Green's postgame Monday night tirade enough to inspire his overrated, underachieving 1-5 team? I see chaos everywhere I turn. Raiders could lose but still cover. Prediction: Raiders.
13. NY GIANTS @ DALLAS (-3) Here's a Monday night matchup worthy of the ages. It's practically a toss-up. I like the Cowboys at home. The spread could be a killer though. Prediction: Cowboys.