I’m going to begin this week’s column with a story. I’m not sure if it's relevant or not but I think it’s pretty funny.
I fell in love with sports journalism when I was younger, mostly due to the fact that my high school, Glenbrook South in Glenview, IL, had its own radio station. Throughout my four years at GBS, I had my own radio show, learned the many tricks of the trade, and even was a co-director of the station, WGBK, my senior year.
My radio professor, “Doc” as we called him, was my favorite teacher I’ve ever had. He cared deeply about what he taught us, making sure that we left his classroom each day having learned something that would help us at some point in our careers. He also was the first one to crack a joke at any given time, always keeping things light and making sure we all wanted to come back to his class the next day. This brings me to the story I’d like to tell.
Doc was/is the king of running jokes. My favorite of his would be when he had to miss class for any variety of reasons and we had a substitute. Each time we had a sub, Doc would instruct them to give us an easy day, and just show the movie Hoosiers. I’m sure you are all familiar with the premise. It’s a good movie, but there was just one problem. Hoosiers is two hours long. Our classes went for an hour and a half. For those of you doing math at home, that means every time we would watch Hoosiers, we would watch everything before the championship game, the bell would ring, and we would leave class. Doc would be back the next day and we would resume our regular classwork.
I took radio classes for four years. He did this every time. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I’ve seen the movie Hoosiers upwards of 15 times and I’ve never seen the ending. At this point, I probably never will. I haven’t seen Doc in a few years, and I hope he’s doing well.
The reason I bring this up, and this could be a stretch, is because this is the last column of mine that will be published before high school basketball season tips off locally on Wednesday. When I arrived in Warsaw just over two years ago, the words “just wait for basketball season” would find their way into almost every conversation I had.
At first, I was confused. “Wait for what? It’s just basketball. It’s not like football season,” I would think. Please put the sharp objects down, I no longer think that way. That’s because I started covering the games. I could see the passion bleeding out of the stands and onto the court. Individuals who have told me they haven’t missed a home game for their alma mater in 30 years. Student sections whose numbers and tenacity put my high school (population 3,000) to shame. The tears flowing down the faces of players after a massive win. I think I get it now.
As an outsider who is integrating himself more and more as seasons come and go, I’m not sure there’s a way to put Hoosier Hysteria into words, other than the official motto of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame: In 49 states, it’s just basketball.
To all of our local athletes preparing to take the court for the first time this winter: I wish you the best. You get the opportunity multiple nights a week to bring pride and joy to entire communities. Don’t take that for granted, and don’t forget to make memories along the way.
Quick hitters for the week:
Best of luck to the Warsaw cross country teams as well as the local individuals who will be competing at the state finals in Terre Haute this weekend, and congratulations for the phenomenal seasons you’ve put together so far!
I did end up getting to see Killers of the Flower Moon last week. While it wasn’t my favorite Scorsese movie, it was undoubtedly one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Brutal, chilling and impactful. DiCaprio, De Nero and Gladstone are all as marvelous as advertised. It’s a long movie, but worth the watch.
My Missouri Tigers keep on winning and now will have a bye week before facing off against No. 1 Georgia next week. I promise I will get more in depth next Thursday.
I feel like McDonalds fries aren’t as good as they used to be. Feels like they’re really good one out of every four times I go there. That stinks.
Last week was my second straight finishing just a hair under .500. We’ve got to nip that in the bud this week, because three bad showings in a row is a losing streak, and we can’t have that.
Let’s do this.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills (-8.5)
There’s not a more confusing team in football right now than the Bills. Buffalo dropped its first game of the season before going on a tear, and has now lost two of its last three to inferior opponents. Tampa Bay started the season hot but has cooled off significantly over the course of the last few games. I don’t trust the Bills at all right now, but the Buccaneer side I thought was a sneaky playoff contender at the beginning of the season looks less and less like it as the season goes on. Due to the injuries, Buffalo has struggled defensively the last couple of weeks, but I still think hidden under that current mess is a good football team. I regret this already.
The Pick: Bills -8.5
1 O’CLOCK SUNDAY
New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5)
While the Colts didn’t win last week, they surprised a ton of people around the football world by putting up 38 points on a Browns defense that has been heralded as the best in the world heading into last Sunday. The Saints continued to struggle to find any consistency on offense in a loss to the Jaguars last Thursday. Indy’s offense is starting to figure it out under Gardner Minshew and Jonathan Taylor is getting more and more integrated into the offense each week. Derek Carr is not the answer in New Orleans and as good as that defense is, I think the Colts get back into the win column at home.
The Pick: Colts -1.5
Minnesota Vikings (-1.5) at Green Bay Packers
The Packers have gotten worse every week of the season, which I personally find to be very sad. NOT. The Vikings are coming off of a massive win over the Niners on Monday night and will head into Green Bay with a chance to stay ahead of the Pack in the division standings. Even without Justin Jefferson, I think the offense should be able to do enough to make things difficult for Jordan Love and company. Love has regressed mightily already this season, and Kirk Cousins is too good of a quarterback to struggle against. Jordan Addison has quietly been the top rookie receiver in the league in terms of touchdowns. Minnesota gets it done in hostile territory.
The Pick: Vikings -1.5
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5)
The Cowboys were another team coming off of a bye this week and will have to host a tough Rams team at home. I think this is a matchup that could definitely go in favor of LA. While the Dallas defense is incredible everywhere, it’s really the run defense that makes them elite. The passing defense has been near the middle of the pack since Travon Diggs went down, and passing is all the Rams do. While I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if Dallas did win this game, I think the high-flying Los Angeles offense will be able to air it out enough to bring this thing down to the wire.
The Pick: Rams +6.5
Houston Texans (-3) at Carolina Panthers
This game will feature the first career meeting between the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in last year’s draft as CJ Stroud and Bryce Young meet in this one. The spread in this one is close, and while the Panthers had a bye week last week to work on some things, they still are the worst team in football until they prove otherwise. The Texans had a week off too, and I’m sure CJ Stroud, who has been tremendous in his early career, used that extra time to get even better. I like Houston to keep stacking up the wins with another one here.
The Pick: Texans -3
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Tennessee Titans
I’d like to officially declare right now that I do believe the Falcons are a good football team. They’ve won too many games in too many ways this season for me to say otherwise anymore. How good they are remains a question though, as the defense is great and the skill players are cooking, but Desmond Ridder traded three interceptions last week for three fumbles this week. I know I was still a Titans believer early in the season, picking them to pull off some upsets. I know things are starting to look bleak in Nashville, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Mike Vrabel and his teams it’s that when you think they’re dead, they aren’t. When you think it’s over, it’s not. I’m not sure how many more wins Tennessee has this season, but they pull this one off at home. Will Levis will make his first career start.
The Pick: Titans +2.5
New York Jets (-3) at New York Giants
The battle for New York will take place in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon. The Jets had a bye last week while the Giants got a much needed win over divisional-opponent Washington. While writing this it’s still undetermined whether Daniel Jones will make his return to the lineup, but is New York sure he should? I know they paid him a ton of money, but Tyrod Taylor honestly aired it out as good as Jones ever has in last week’s win. The Jets, once thought to be dead after the loss of Aaron Rodgers, have won two games in a row and are suddenly a threat to make a run at the playoffs if they can keep it up. The defense has regained some confidence and Zach Wilson is playing the best ball of his career. J-E-T-S.
The Pick: Jets -3
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (-9.5)
The Patriots got a massive win over Buffalo last week, the 300th of Bill Belichick’s career. Mac Jones silenced a lot of critics with a very good performance. The Dolphins once again ran into a dominant, physical in the form of the Eagles and once again came up short. I wonder how the Phins will fare in the playoffs, but in games like this, they haven’t burned me yet. Miami has done very well in games they should win and this is another example of that. I know the Pats were able to play them close early on this year, but I think Mike McDaniel is going to want to make a statement coming off of a loss.
The Pick: Dolphins -9.5
Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
I think this could end up being one of the more entertaining games of the early slate, the only reason I have it so far down here is because I really don’t know who to pick here. The Jaguars are playing some great football over the past few weeks, having won four in a row. The Steelers have figured some things out on offense and have won their last couple as well. While I do think the Jags are legit, the Steelers under Mike Tomlin as home underdogs have been absolute money makers in the betting world. Kenny Pickett is starting to get it going under center for the black and yellow, and we know how good the defense is. Jacksonville is likely a strong playoff contender, but I can’t go against my system here.
The Pick: Steelers +2.5
Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) at Washington Commanders
Philly got back on track with a big win over the Dolphins on Sunday night while the Commanders struggled mightily against the Giants. Washington seems to always play the Eagles pretty tough, but it's hard for me to think that way when the Commies have played so poorly over the last month or so. Jalen Hurts looked like the MVP candidate he was last year in last week’s game, while the Philly defense shut down the high-powered Dolphins offense. There could be one more magical performance left in the tank for Washington and if it happens here I’ll eat crow, but I just don’t see it right now.
The Pick: Eagles -6.5
LATE AFTERNOON SLATE
Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5)
The Browns had to come from behind to earn a win in a crazy 39-38 game against the Colts on Sunday while the Seahawks took care of business against the Cardinals. The Cleveland defense that has been talked about so much in the last few weeks wasn’t otherworldly, but Myles Garrett certainly was. As long as he’s in the lineup, he’s going to be a problem. Even without DK Metcalf, Seattle didn’t run into too many problems with Arizona, and with Deshaun Watson still as questionable as it gets, I’m not sure which way to lean here. The Browns’ defense is definitely better, but the Seattle unit is very good as well. I trust Geno Smith more than Watson or any Cleveland backup right now.
The Pick: Seahawks -3.5
Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)
The Niners have not won a game since I spent way too much time a few columns ago singing their praises. The Bengals are back at .500 and are coming into this game off of a bye. Deebo Samuel is not going to play for San Fran, and Trent Williams is still a question mark. Listen, I still think the Niners have what it takes to be the last team standing, but there’s no doubt they are battling some issues right now. The Bengals have picked up the pace and are in the playoff hunt once again. This is the perfect situation for them to pick up a win and announce themselves as back in the race. Three losses in a row for San Francisco? Woah.
The Pick: Bengals +3.5
Baltimore Ravens (-8.5) at Arizona Cardinals
Is there any team in football who looked more impressive last week than the Ravens? The talk of the league heading into Sunday was how great of a game Baltimore-Detroit was going to be, and then Lamar Jackson and company beat up the Lions and stole their lunch money. Jackson’s career record against the NFC is gaudy (16-1) and he has another perfect opportunity to extend that mark here. The Cardinals started out the season pretty frisky but have since come back down to earth. It would be pretty on-par for the Ravens to lay an egg here after a massive win a week ago, but I just don’t see it happening.
The Pick: Ravens -8.5
Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5) at Denver Broncos
Patrick Mahomes finally had the game fans had been expecting from him against the Chargers last week, throwing for over 400 yards and four touchdown passes. The Broncos also had a very good day on Sunday, earning a home win over the Packers. Denver didn’t wow me in that game, but they were smart enough with the football and did what it took to get the job done. That being said, we went through the whole “Patrick Mahomes has never lost to the Broncos” a few weeks ago when the two teams played on Monday night and I don’t see last week’s game doing much to change that outcome. If anything, the Chiefs offense is better today than it was when these two squared off in Week 6.
The Pick: Chiefs -7.5
WAITIN’ ALL DAY FOR A SUNDAY NIGHT
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Chargers (-8.5)
I’ll be completely honest here, I had no idea the Bears were playing on Sunday night until I started working on this column. Chicago won on Sunday, but I didn’t get to see the game because our local FOX station showed Lions-Ravens. Tyson Bagent became the first undrafted quarterback out of Division II to win a game since 1950. On the other side, the Chargers were able to keep up with the Chiefs for about a half, but were unable to do enough offensively to keep it close in the second. I said a few weeks ago that the Chargers don’t strike me as a team that wins games big, and I think that shows up here. I think LA still has a very good chance to win, but the defense is not very good. Maybe Bagent has a few more tricks up his sleeve.
The Pick: Bears +8.5
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Las Vegas Raiders at Detroit Lions (-8.5)
After a few weeks of being the talk of the football world, the Lions were served a big ole slice of humble pie on Sunday in a blowout loss to the Ravens. The Raiders started Brian Hoyer over rookie quarterback Aiden O’Connell in a loss to the Bears for some reason. While I do worry about how Detroit will fare later in the season against top teams, they’ve still shown no indication that the weaker teams in the league will be a challenge for them. Unless that Ravens loss created some long-term issues, I think the Lions should take this one easily. The Raiders are heading in the wrong direction and have one of the worst offenses in the league. Give me Dan Campbell’s men at home.
The Pick: Lions -8.5
Whew, no byes this week so a full slate of 16 games to predict. Hopefully I can get back on track and pick up some much needed wins. I’ll be back next week to kick off November. Enjoy the weekend everyone.
Last Week’s Record: 5-8
Season Record: 59-45-2