Week 12 Picks: Just Win, Baby!
I grew up a Raider fan. Your condolences are appreciated.
Being part of Raider Nation wasn’t a choice for me. My old man was a Raider, and I was a fan of my old man, so I too was a Raider. From my naive six year-old perspective being a Raider seemed important to him in a way that nothing else did. Whenever the Raiders lost – ok, well, I should have phrased that ‘whenever the Raiders played’ – he would yell at the TV, shake his fist at the ceiling and shout words that, at my delicate age, I had to pretend that I didn’t know the meanings of. If the Raiders managed a win, always in a closely contested match against a team who would have been considered a bye week for any normal NFL organization, the victory often involved group-prayer between my father and I and the crossing of every appendage and hair follicle on our bodies for good luck. During commercial breaks, in the most critical moments of a close matchup, my dad would beckon my mom and I to ‘give him some good ju-ju!’ or simply to ‘put it in’ as he held out his palm, and we pressed our thumb to our other four fingers and rubbed them together in a motion to simulate the sprinkling of what I could only image as being good luck fairy dust, in our futile attempt to conjure up a Raider victory. And once or twice, it worked.
I was six. I had no idea why my fully grown father who is normally so calm and levelheaded, would resort to such seemingly insane antics. I thought it was hilariously delightful. I got to stay up late and yell cleaner versions of the words he was yelling. It all sort of felt important. And it all had to do with the Raiders.
As I grew older I began to recognize some undeniable facts about the world. Any woman who tolerates her husband acting like a child in front of her child, who is in turn acting like an infant, all for the sake of football, is a keeper. Thanks mom, you were always the sane one amongst us, and scientific analysis has proven your fairy dust to be the most effective of all. I’ve realized that the Raiders are a horrible franchise with, until recently, a horrible owner – NFL legend Al Davis – who always reminded me of Skeletor. And I recognize now that the tradition of crossing of one’s limbs isn’t necessarily used to help the outcome of some external event, but rather to give the crosser piece-of-mind that he/she is ‘doing everything in their power’.
I also learned that loyalty is really important. I feel like the Raiders have been terrible since I’ve been old enough to ride a bicycle – the only good version of the Raiders I remember experiencing is in historical franchise mode while playing John Madden football. But every time I see a Raider game a part of me goes mystical, asking some other part of me to ‘put it in’ and get all crossed up. Ok, that came out a bit odd, but you get my point. Once a Raider, always a Raider … Right?
And it’s precisely the lesson of loyalty where this highly exaggerated story of a father and son bonding over their love for an absolutely horrible football franchise comes to screeching halt.
During the 2001 AFC divisional playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots, a game that will forever be known as the “Tuck Rule game” (also hilariously known as the “Snow Job”), the Patriot’s second year 6th round draft pick quarterback Tom Brady, playing in his first ever playoff matchup, had marched his team down through the falling snow into Raider territory for what would be a game-winning score. Brady dropped back to pass and was sacked mid-pump-fake by Raider’s Pro Bowl corner Charles Woodson, dislodging the ball from Brady’s grasp. The fumble was recovered by the Raiders. With 1:43 left in the 4th quarter the Raiders could run out what was left of the clock, win the game, and advance in the playoffs to what would surely be the first Raider Super Bowl victory in 17 years (and I could finally stop saying “the last time the Raiders won the Super Bowl was the year I was born” when describing just how bad my Raiders had become… I still say that today when people ask about ‘my team’).
Football fans everywhere outside of Massachusetts watched in disbelief as the referees huddled, discussed the call, and ruled that Brady’s arm – which had been moving forward, but which Brady had obviously tried to tuck back into his body – was ruled to have not yet been fully tucked, and thus the outcome of the play was an incomplete pass. You be the judge. Adam Vinatieri would go on to kick a game tying field goal, and another game-winner in overtime.
My dad and I, and the rest of Raider Nation, were stunned and appalled by the game-altering call. The Patriots would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVI, and Tom Brady would be named the Super Bowl MVP. That could have been the Raiders. Since that fateful day the Raiders have floundered in obscurity, like a down-on-his luck sailor, drinking uncontrollably, getting into bar fights, and jumping into bed with guys named “JaMarcus”. The last 12 years have been a roller coaster ride of failed attempts at recovering from that one abysmal call.
Interestingly, the Tuck Rule was overturned before the 2013 season by a 29-1 vote of NFL franchises. The Patriots, in an act of pure spite and asshole-ish braggadocio (the patented style of head coach Bill Belicheck) were one of two teams that abstained from voting.
Sorry for the length of this rant – let me try and get to the point. The Tuck Rule game did more than just crush the spirit of an organization, it taught me a few more valuable lessons about life. You see, my old man would eventually become enamored with Tom Brady – who he lovingly refers to these days as “Young Tom” – and the New England Patriots franchise. And worse; he wont watch a Raiders game unless they are playing against New England.
So I ask you – what of loyalty?! What of honor!?! It was crushing to see my once proud and strong father succumb to the irresistible allure of Young Tom’s Uggs, high-fashion scarves, deep-V’s, and whatever the hell is going on here. Then there was spygate, Randy Moss doing this, Rob Gronkowski doing crap like this, and more recently letting go of the only Patriot I could never hate – Wes Welker… I hope those ba-jillion Super Bowls are worth it, Dad. I’m still here clad in spikey shoulder pads, wearing silver and black, waiting for the return to Raider Nation of the prodigal father who has lost his way…
But in all seriousness – the other valuable lesson from this turn of events is this: you can’t will other people or organizations to be great. You can’t impose your character on others, no matter how hard you try. All you can do is lead by example and hope that the people around you are intelligent enough to catch on. And at some point, after you’ve given years and years of your cheering, praying and body-part crossing; after you’ve sacrificed the NFL loyalties of your first born son and forced your otherwise sane wife to sprinkle magical lucky fairy dust into your outstretched hand, you’ve got to look facts in the face and make a change. Tom Brady is pretty good at football (though I maintain he’s terrible at life – seriously, I don’t care how well you play quarterback, none of this is OK!). The Raiders are a the worst. At everything. Forever. As emotionally invested as my old man was in “our team”, he was eventually compelled to go a different route by the facts of reality. And as much as I hate it, I have to respect it.
Which brings us to this week’s picks. Peyton Manning might be considered the polar opposite of Tom Brady outside of football. He wears jeans instead of yoga shants, drinks beer instead of wine spritzers, and he doesn’t cheat or act like an whiny asshole, ever. He’s just a solid dude, who’s also happens to be the greatest NFL quarterback to ever live. The only other active player that enters into the conversation is, of course Young Tom (honorable mention here for Brees and Rogers – and by the look of things Luck may surpass them all before he’s through). Because of the solid values I picked up from my parents, I naturally disavow a cheating, whining, super-model sexing, constantly victorious guy like Tom Brady. I was raised to appreciate the kinds of people I would trust to hold my goat without looking homo-erotic, guys like Peyton Manning. I’ve taken Peyton under my broken fan-wing as my ‘next favorite’ thing to watch in the NFL… seriously – who wants to watch the Raiders every weekend?
This week Brady and Manning face off – my Dad’s fan fallback plan vs. my own. As has been the tradition for the past few years my old man and I were all set to partake in a friendly wager this weekend on this epic duel. Before the algorithm had time to spit out it’s picks (it ‘thinks’ from Thursday afternoon until sometime Friday night) I was certain that it would figure out that Denver minus 2.5 points in Foxboro is an absolute gift from the betting gods. I pre-approved a friendly wager with my old man… and like my love for the Raiders, I was flat out wrong. In fact – New England was projected as the pick of the week by the machine… oh the horrible, soul-wrenching irony… but such is life.
Without further ado – here are the week 12 picks against the spread:
And here are the week 12 fantasy QB predictions:
Sorry for the poor quality of the images here – don’t yet have the right method for presenting columns of data on the blog.
For the spread picks: the machine got the Thursday night stint correct with ATL, while my intuition had me going with the Saints -9.5 in my pick-em leagues. Here’s hoping that the algorithm’s weekend picks fare equally well.
For the QB projections: switched to a machine learning technique from the standard iterative LMF model. Interested to see how this impacts the accuracy of the projections. Notice that Manning is projected at 20.4 fantasy points, and Young Tom at 15.7 – meaning Manning will be the better quarterback, but the Patriots will cover anyway. Sounds about right.
Good luck everyone! And even though I’ll be betting on New England, my heart will be pulling for Denver.