A shark cage constructed largely of LP Legacy premium sub-floor panels protects the diver during this extreme product testing expedition. Doing something like this is at the top of my bucket list. Photo Provided by The Associated Press
A shark cage constructed largely of LP Legacy premium sub-floor panels protects the diver during this extreme product testing expedition. Doing something like this is at the top of my bucket list. Photo Provided by The Associated Press
In recent weeks, I’ve been writing the introduction to this column last, after I finish up all of my picks for the week.

Part of it could be to make sure I don’t go too long as this column already takes up a bunch of room in our paper as it is.

But I think the other part might be even more humbling: I just might not be that interesting.

When I’m not in my office or at a game, I’m either watching something on TV or playing video games. I might be building a LEGO set if I’ve spoiled myself recently. Outside of my bubble that is the local sports of Kosciusko County, I am just another man. A man with thoughts. Here are some of them.

Rumor has it that one of my favorite athletes of all time, Jose Abreu, is thinking of joining the Cubs in free agency. That move would devastate me beyond belief and I’ve already warned my Cub-fan friends that any mention of the deal should it happen will result in their number being blocked. I’d rather see him on the Twins or Guardians.

My favorite animal is a shark, specifically the Great White. The number one item on my bucket list since I was a kid has been to get into one of those cages in the ocean and swim with them. I will not consider my life fulfilled until I do so.

The main cause of stress in my life is currently the Missouri Tiger football team, which currently sits at 4-5, despite playing well enough to be 8-1. If only the team had a freshman quarterback sitting on the bench that couldn’t possibly be worse than the current guy (Hi Sam Horn).

My favorite restaurant currently is Pat’s Chicago Dogs in Syracuse. Everything on their menu hits differently. I recommend the double cheeseburger or the Italian sausage.

Last, but certainly not least, I think I found out what having a quarterback is like. Justin Fields is my king.

Once again, I needed to win on Monday night to have a winning record last week. Once again, the team I picked got stomped. You have to credit my unwavering optimism, because I am once again certain this is the week I turn it around.

THURSDAY NIGHT

Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Carolina Panthers


Atlanta lost a very tough game to the Chargers Sunday on a game-winning field goal. The team made mistakes, none bigger than dropping a fumble recovery on defense to give the ball back to Los Angeles to set up the winner. Cordarrelle Patterson was welcomed back into the lineup after missing a few weeks and scored two touchdowns in his return.

Carolina took two steps back against Cincinnati after playing a few weeks of good football. The Panthers were throttled 42-21 and were down 42-7 at one point. P.J. Walker was benched after a slow start, giving Baker Mayfield another crack at the job. Backup QB Sam Darnold was activated this week, so we’ll have to see if the starting job is up for grabs. These two teams met and gave us one of the most exciting games of the year just two weeks ago. I think it’s another closer divisional matchup with the same result.

The Pick: Falcons -3

MADNESS IN MUNICH

Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)


The NFL is going overseas once again, this time to Germany for the first time in the game’s history. The game will be held at the stadium of my friend Adrean’s favorite soccer team Bayern Munich. Seattle still sits in first place after finishing off a season sweep over the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks have looked good in all three phases of the game, which is a step in the right direction as the defense started off the season rather slowly. Seattle has already been one of the biggest surprises of the year at the halfway point, and could be getting even better.

It wasn’t pretty, but Tampa Bay finally got into the win column once again by beating the Rams at home Sunday. It took a signature Tom Brady game-winning drive with less than a minute left on the clock to do so, but a win is a win. I have been backing the Bucs all season long and for some reason I still will. This is a really long flight for Seattle and the Bucs need to keep it going.

The Pick: Buccaneers -3

1 O’CLOCK SUNDAY

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-3)


How about those Detroit Lions! Dan Campbell’s men picked up a huge win in the Motor City Sunday against Green Bay to grab their second win of the year and to snap a rather dreadful losing streak. When Detroit has been at its best this season, the offense has been crazy efficient. It ended up being the defense that made the difference against those stinky cheeseheads, picking off Aaron Rodgers three times (it was awesome). Could this game be the confidence booster the team needed to pull it together?

I’ve been wanting to talk about the Bears to anybody who will listen to me all week long. Justin Fields is the guy. The next great NFL quarterback. A future hall of famer. All of the above. WOW. Fields set a new NFL record with 178 rushing yards at the quarterback position Sunday against Miami, and for those who want to complain that the quarterback shouldn’t run that much, he also threw three touchdown passes. Chicago has scored 33, 29 and 32 points in their last three games. Is this what having a quarterback is like? Just wait until this team has a defense. I’m going to be insufferable. Bears by a billion.

The Pick: Bears -3

Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins (-3.5)

Cleveland got an extra week off to enjoy an absolute beat down of the Bengals on Halloween. It was a game the Browns needed badly, as the team had strung together a few losses in a row and hadn’t looked too competitive in any of them. Myles Garrett was a man possessed, Amari Cooper is starting to look like his old self and the Browns aren’t totally out of it just yet.

Meanwhile, Miami moved to 6-0 when Tua Tagovailoa plays a full game with their win over the Bears Sunday. The offense has looked incredible, perhaps even better than advertised. Tua has looked very good and Tyreek Hill might be the best receiver in the league, as he just became the fastest to 1,100 yards in a season in NFL history. Despite all of this, Miami has failed to cover its last six games. I’m surprised to see the line this close, so this is one to keep an eye on.

The Pick: Dolphins -3.5

Houston Texans at New York Giants (-4.5)

Houston took Philadelphia to its limit in the first half of their Thursday night game last week, playing the Eagles tough and keeping the game close until the visitors turned it on in the second half. Dameon Pierce continued his insane rookie run with 139 yards. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks did not play after his trade request was not granted, so his status for this week is still up in the air.

The Giants had a week off to soak up their 6-2 record and the successes that have come with it. Daniel Jones went from counting down his days left in New York to possibly being in line for an extension. Saquon Barkley has gone from another running back plagued by injuries to the running back he always has been when healthy. The defense has been rolling. I could see Brian Daboll having some sort of Andy Reid type success after a bye week, but this team loves winning close games.

The Pick: Texans +4.5

Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills (-6)

Not many people expected the Vikings to come into this game with a better record, but here we are. Minnesota is 7-1 and playing some really good football. Kirk Cousins is putting on a new chain to celebrate each win and is somehow winning me over while doing so. We can talk about all of the talented skill position players the Vikings have, but the offensive line and defense has really been what’s taken this team to the next level. We’re at the midway point in the season and the team already has a four game lead in the division.

The Bills have had an interesting couple of weeks to put it mildly. Buffalo beat Green Bay on Sunday night two weeks ago, but didn’t cover, partially in part to two bad interceptions by Josh Allen. Last weekend, Allen threw a few more bad picks, the offense never really got going, and the team lost to the Jets as 13 point favorites. To make matters worse, Allen suffered an injury to his elbow on the final drive of the game and is being evaluated for UCL damage. It would be a huge blow to both the Bills and the entire league, as Allen is one of the most fun players to watch. With that status up in the air, and the line still pretty big, I have to go with Minny.

The Pick: Vikings +6

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)

The Jaguars got one of the most much-needed wins of the season by defeating the Raiders last weekend, rallying from down 17-0 to come back and secure the victory. Trevor Lawrence had his best performance in some time, leading the comeback and making some nice throws while doing so. Travis Etienne had his second straight 100+ yard game and got into the end zone twice.

Kansas City were given a scare by Tennessee on Sunday night before ultimately winning the game in overtime. Patrick Mahomes is doing everything he can, but the offense just isn’t at the level of scary we’re used to from this team. A team with Mahomes is never out of it, but I don’t think this is a team that can put up 50 whenever it wants like in years past. I still like them this week though, but look for the Jags run game to keep this close for a bit.

The Pick: Jaguars +9.5

Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans (-3)

The Broncos were on a bye last week, meaning those of us who try to watch every game over the weekend weren’t forced to watch Denver play offense for a week. Denver is coming off a much needed win two weeks ago in London, but followed it up by sending their best defensive player, Bradley Chubb, to Miami. As bad as the team has been offensively, the Bronco defense has been one of the best in the league this season, and has been the reason Denver has been in every game, even its losses, to the end.

Do you think the Titans could still use A.J. Brown? Tennessee took Kansas City down to the wire on Sunday night despite putting up one first down in the second half and not completing a single pass to a wide receiver on the night. Derrick Henry had two more touchdowns and the defense gave up 446 passing yards, but only two touchdowns, one on the ground. If I had to pick one game this season to end with a 3-0 scoreline, it might be this one. Get ready for a defensive battle.

The Pick: Broncos +3

New Orleans Saints (-2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers

The entire league has been full of confusing teams this season, and the Saints might be at the head of the pack. Yes, the team has been hit badly by the injury bug, but it’s the alternating performances that really have done them in. New Orleans followed up a dominant 24-0 victory over the Raiders two weeks ago by getting crushed by the Ravens on Monday night. Alvin Kamara went from scoring four touchdowns to only securing 12 touches. Andy Dalton has looked solid at times, horrible at others. It’s been a really odd year.

Pittsburgh had a bye last week to try and figure out how the offense is going to get going. Chase Claypool, one of the team’s top receivers, is now a Bear, so that could mean some more looks for rookie wideout George Pickens. I try my best to speak only of good things players have done in this column, but we must talk about Najee Harris. The former Alabama running back looked incredible when he came into the league, but already looks like a shell of his former self this season. Is there a rebound in his future? I hope so. Pittsburgh is optimistic T.J. Watt could be returning this week, which looms large on my pick. If he plays, I like Pittsburgh.

The Pick: Steelers +2.5

LATE AFTERNOON SLATE

Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders (-6.5)


Before I get into it in depth, can I just say that it takes a special type of dumpster fire to be nearly a touchdown underdog to the 2022 Las Vegas Raiders. The 2022 Colts fit that description. The Colts finally fired Frank Reich after another abysmal performance against the Patriots last weekend. His replacement? Former Colts center Jeff Saturday, who has never coached at the NFL or college level at any capacity. It was a shocking move to say the least, one I am still giggling to myself about how outrageous it is. Owner Jim Irsay went on to add that Saturday was the only candidate for the job in one of the most insane press conferences in recent memory. This is not good!

Speaking of not good, the Raiders tied an NFL record by blowing a 17-point lead and losing for the third time this season Sunday in Jacksonville. The Vegas defense is horrible, the offense looks good at times and completely falls apart at others, and I can’t help but think this might be the doing of proven not-good head coach Josh McDaniels. This is a battle of two terrible teams that did not think they were going to be terrible coming into the season, so your average game in the NFL this year. I really don’t want to go with the Colts after this display of buffoonery, but the number is high enough to convince me I should. Like Sam Ehlinger a few weeks ago, I need to see Saturday in action before I pick his guys.

The Pick: Raiders -6.5

Dallas Cowboys (-5) at Green Bay Packers

This Dallas team might be the best yet in the Dak Prescott era. The team has had some high-flying offenses before, but all were negated by a very bad defense. This year, the Cowboys seem to have both working at a high level and will be a scary out in the playoffs. The big rumor this week seems to be that Odell Beckham Jr. will choose Dallas when he clears his ACL injury from last year’s Super Bowl. Things are looking up in Big D.

Things are not looking up in Green Bay. In perhaps my favorite game of the season so far, the Packers lost to the lowly Lions with Aaron Rodgers throwing not one, not two, but three (!!!) interceptions in the game, two at the goal line. To make things even better, Rodgers was whining like a toddler that got told no at Toys-R-Us after each one. It’s a mess over there, and you won’t see me complaining, unlike Aaron. To make matters worse, bad injuries were suffered by Romeo Doubs and Rashan Gary on Sunday. If the Lions defense was able to hold up that well, we might actually see Rodgers cry going up against the Dallas unit. Fingers crossed.

The Pick: Cowboys -5

 Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-3)

As first reported by my favorite podcast, Pardon My Take, there’s a hierarchy involving the coaches of the NFC West. Kyle Shanahan owns Sean McVay, Sean McVay owns Kliff Kingsbury, and Kliff Kingsbury owns a really nice house in Arizona. In all seriousness, I don’t know how much longer Kingsbury has as Arizona’s coach, but if current trends continue, it might not be past this season. The Cardinals are struggling to score, struggling to get stops and losing games they should be winning almost every week. Things need to get fixed fast.

Same goes for the Rams. Los Angeles had last week’s game against the Bucs won until it wasn’t as Tampa got a last minute score to come away with a victory. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey wasn’t too happy after the fact, and I don’t blame him. The offense has been nonexistent outside of Cooper Kupp, and the team doesn’t even have time to run plays for anybody else because the offensive line is so poor. The only reason I would pick the Rams in this one is due to McVay’s track record against Kingsbury. At this point, I’m not even sure that is enough.

The Pick: Cardinals +3

WAITIN’ ALL DAY FOR A SUNDAY NIGHT

Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers (-7)


The Chargers battled through a ton of injuries to come away from Atlanta with a victory last weekend, winning at the death on a field goal as time expired. Justin Herbert looked good despite not having his top two receivers to work with. Despite all of the hardships the team has gone through this season, Los Angeles remains in the hunt in the AFC West. It will be a tough task to take the division from the Chiefs, but being in the hunt at this point is all the team can ask for.

The Niners had a week off coming into this one, giving star receiver Deebo Samuel an extra week to rehab an injury that kept him out of the team’s last game. Christian McCaffrey had three touchdowns in his first full game in San Fran, one passing, one receiving and one rushing. The guy can do it all and is the perfect fit for Shanahan’s system. All of that being said, I like the Chargers to stick around in this one. 49ers win a one score game.

The Pick: Chargers +7

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles (-10.5)


The Commanders had a chance to make it four wins in a row and knock off the NFC North leading Vikings last weekend, but one too many mistakes cost the team a chance at victory. Taylor Heinicke looks a lot better than Carson Wentz and should have the job for the remainder of the year. The defense, which started the season very roughly, has bounced back in recent weeks and looks like a serviceable unit.

Philadelphia was tested on the road by the Texans last Thursday, as the game was tied at halftime and it took a big second half from the Birds to come away with the victory. Jalen Hurts is starting to pass the ball a lot more than he was earlier in the season when he was relying on his legs. The results have been electric, as A.J. Brown has been exactly the weapon the team needed with four touchdowns in his last two games. I took the Eagles last week with a lopsided spread and got burned. Philly dominated Washington in their building earlier in the season, will they do it again? I think this one is closer.

The Pick: Commanders +10.5

I finished off the first half of the season without going over .500 once. I’m looking forward to a much better second half. There’s nothing like spending the time to write 3,000 words just to be wrong. Cheers.