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My 2011 Year in Music

2011 was a fantastic year in music. From re-occurring superstars to intriguing newcomers to revolutionary mixtapes it’s safe to say we were plenty spoiled this year. If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a sucker for lists, picks, rankings or reviews. I like to consider myself a huge hip-hop fan but might not be a “hip-hop head” by definition. My iTunes library doesn’t consist of X rapper with Y mixtape found on some random underground hip hop website. I’m not listening to X Bay Area rapper’s mixtape and bumping his low quality tracks. Case in point: my taste in music could be (and will be) very different than yours.

You’ll notice my lists consist of mostly hip-hop and R&B albums. It’s what I listen to. Don’t be mad because I didn’t list the Foo Fighters or Maroon 5’s albums in my favorites of the year. Don’t be mad that “Marry The Night” or whatever shit single Jessie J released isn’t one of my songs of the year. I don’t work for Complex, RapRadar or RapUp, I have no agenda. These are my favorites of 2011. Will some of you think my taste is “mainstream?” Probably. Will Watch The Throne receive multiple awards? You bet. Take these for what they’re worth, they won’t be the last awards I ever do. Let’s do it.

Album Art of the Year

An album’s cover art was much more influential in the days of actual CD’s. You would walk into a Sam Goody, Circuit City or whatever record store that’s no longer open and browse the shelves for what looked like a cool album. Your decision to purchase an album wouldn’t solely be decided by its album cover, but it sure as hell had an influence. This year’s winner is clearly Watch The Throne. I bought three copies of the album: one digital, two physical and hopefully a vinyl if I can find one. The cover, designed by Italian fashion designer Ricardo Tisci, perfectly embodies the grandiose style of Jay-Z and Kanye West (i.e. “The Throne”). The gold cover is accompanied by a four sided insert that features “The Throne” as beastly figures, an angelic figure, American flag and a sensual zebra-esque pattern. That darkened zebra pattern can also be found on the disc itself (not to mention my Twitter background…shameless plug #1). With help from Kanye West’s art director Virgil Abloh, Tisci designed an inherently simple yet beautifully complex package that is clear representation of what The Throne is all about.

Honorable Mentions: House of Balloons, Section.80, Blue Slide Park

 Video of the Year

 

Can you blame me? Big Sean’s single “Dance (A$$)” doesn’t require much thought or lyrical breakdown. The beat is catchy, the hook is one word and the newly crowned remix features one of the hottest MC’s in the game. Say what you want about Nicki Minaj’s act (the constant blinking, the hair, the clothes, the nipple slip) but she’s one of the hottest acts in music today. Oh yeah…AND SHE CAN RAP. Let me be clear: “(A$$)” isn’t the perfect example of her verbal skill (more physical skills) but it shows you that she can and is changing the game as it relates to female’s in the hip-hop arena. Regardless, she is used merely as an object in this particular video. For guys, it doesn’t matter. For girls, well, who knows. Either way, I was feeling this song since Finally Famous was first released and my feelings only get bigger and better (woah dere boi) because of this video. Enjoy.

 Honorable Mentions: “All of the Lights,” “Monster,” “The Motto,” “Yonkers,” “Make Some Noise”

 Verse of the Year

 

When “Lost Ones” first leaked the internet went abuzz. This wasn’t some radio hit or club banger in the making but rather a deep, emotional, hard-hitting confessional. Cole speaks for the thousands of young couples in America dealing with unprotected sex, birth and abortion. Originally recorded in 2008, “Lost Ones” was mastered and released on Cole’s debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story. Whether the story that Cole is telling pertains to the listener or not, the message that Cole is crying out for is not for the faint of heart. It’s the deepest and most emotionally gripping verse of the year. Listen to the words, watch the video and always remember the lost ones.

Honorable Mentions: Jay-Z on “New Day,” Kendrick Lamar on “The City,” Common on “Sweet,” Kendrick Lamar on “HiiiPower”

Mixtape of the Year

TONS of great mixtapes were released in 2011. Whether it was R&B or hip-hop there were multiple mixtapes that deserved your full attention. Nevertheless, my favorite mixtape of the year was House of Balloons. HOB is the first of three mixtapes in the epic trilogy summoned by Canadian born Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd. While most artists today build hype from underground tapes, sign with a label then release their debut album. The Weeknd instead formed the OVOXO label with Toronto-mate Drake and decided to release three free mixtapes through that label with no promotion at all. To compare The Weeknd to any current or past artist would be a complete disservice to his craft. I can safely say that The Weeknd reminds me of no one else I’ve ever heard in music. Whether it was the mysterious promotion (or lack thereof) for the tapes, the talk of hardcore drugs, sex and partying, the sonic atmosphere that you’re transformed into once you play it, HOB changed the scope of R&B for years to come. While the next two chapters in the trilogy were also released this year, there’s no question that HOB is the most complete and alluring of the three.

Honorable Mentions: Nostalgia, Ultra, Fear of God, Thursday, Echoes of Silence, Cabin Fever, KRIT Was Here, The Soul Tape

 Rookie of the Year

While The Weeknd definitely made an imprint on the R&B genre in 2011, there was one other artist who when mentioning “R&B” and “2011” you couldn’t go without saying: Frank Ocean. As a member of OFWGKTA, or simply Odd Future, Ocean released Nostalgia, Ultra, one of the best R&B projects in recent memory. In addition to his own projects Ocean has also co-written songs for Brandy, John Legend, Beyonce and Justin Bieber. What brought Ocean to new heights in 2011 were his two features on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne. Even though I tend to lean towards House of Balloons over Nostalgia, Ultra, Frank Ocean is the bigger artist and has made a bigger public imprint on the game than The Weeknd. “Novacane” and “Thinking About You” were almost immediately considered classics. The not one but two features on Watch The Throne easily excelled his career and while we’re still waiting for his follow up to Nostalgia, Ultra, it’s safe to say that R&B has found a star.

Honorable Mentions: Tyler, The Creator, Childish Gambino, A$AP Rocky

 Worst Album of the Year

After Kush & Orange Juice and Cabin Fever I had really high hopes for Rolling Papers. I’m not your typical Wiz Khalifa fan: I don’t smoke, I’m not 80 pounds and I actually go to school. Regardless, I thought his sound was good and was anxiously waiting for what Wiz had for us next. What he had was a radio inspired piece of garbage that had many people wondering what happened to pre-label Wiz. I wasn’t expecting greatness, I just wanted what Cabin Fever and Kush & OJ gave me: solid beats, decent flow and a fresh sound. Instead we got songs like “No Sleep,” “Roll Up,” and “Wake Up,” songs aimed at the mainstream that could barely be considered hip-hop. While “The Race” and “Hopes and Dreams” are the highlights, the lowlights overshadow any quality tracks this album may have had. I still have some hope for Wiz though. I hope to see that Wiz-Big Sean-Curren$y mixtape that was being discussed. As far as studio albums are concerned, let’s hope Wiz has learned his lesson. Sadly, as long as the money is coming in from the Taylor’s, we shouldn’t expect a dramatic change. Sigh.

Honorable Mentions: Carter IV, Lasers, We The Best Forever, Radioactive

Song of the Year

I first heard of the potential of “Niggas in Paris” while reading a review of an early Watch The Throne listening session. The listening session, held at The Mercer Hotel in New York City, was hosted by Jay-Z as some tracks off Watch The Throne were played for an exclusive group of critics and friends. The reviews were unanimously positive, but one track stood out above all. The Hit-Boy produced “Niggas in Paris” provided listeners to a “Blades of Glory” sample, a banging beat and the 2011 maxim of the year: “That Shit Cray.” The love for the song reached astronomical heights during Kanye and Jay-Z’s nationwide tour, playing the song multiple times each stop and reaching a personal record 11 times in Vancouver. 11 times! The single is slated for a music video release at some point and is finally hitting radio waves now. But real fans of The Throne were immediately enamored with the track the night Watch The Throne digitally released. The combination of a banging beat, perfect bass hits, lyrical ingenuity and “Blades of Glory” inspired hilarity make for a simply incredible track and my song of the year.

The Throne performing “Niggas in Paris” in San Jose:

Honorable Mentions: “HiiiPower,” “Novacane,” “Rise and Shine,” “Lord Knows,” “No Church in the Wild,” “High For This”
Album of the Year

I got my first taste of J. Cole on his mixtape Friday Night Lights. The sound, the flow, the lyrics, I immediately fell in love with everything J. Cole brought to the hip-hop table. Songs like “Too Deep for the Intro,” “The Autograph” and “Best Friend” were my early favorites from the Jay-Z prodigy. Naturally, listening to Friday Night Lights forced me to download The Warm Up. I was equally as impressed. J. Cole, on the contrary of most artists today, makes his name from his lyrical skill. Storytelling, rhyming patterns, metaphors; J. Cole has it all. Combine his sick flow and advanced lyricism and you have a deadly hip-hop combination. I immediately became a fan for life.

The “New York” feel to his tapes and Sideline Story also make J. Cole one of my favorites in music today. It’s clear he can tell a story, but to tell a story through a unique sound, through his specific flow and talk about such heavy topics is true skill. Cole also produced 12 of 16 tracks on Sideline Story, a truly incredible feat knowing that most beats today are transferred from artists and producers. Cole is his own producer. He’s truly one of the most talented artists in the game today. The hype of being the poster boy and first signee to Roc Nation was astronomical. Combine very successful mixtapes and you have one of the most hyped debuts in hip-hop history. Sideline Story delivered and exceeded any previous expectations.

From the very start of the album you are transformed into a member of Cole’s entourage as he’s about to tell you his story, how he got to where he’s at today and why he does what he does. From there you are taking a journey through Cole’s world. Every song has its own purpose, every bar carries emotion and each track is a heartfelt piece of art that must be heard. To name out specific tracks wouldn’t do the album justice. Sideline Story is a unifying, unique piece of storytelling. While the album serves as a sequel to his previous mixtapes it stands above and beyond them. J. Cole personifies what it means to be hip-hop. His debut album is the first chapter in what hopefully is a long and illustrious musical career. Producer, rapper, lyricist, storyteller: it’s a Cole world, we’re just living in it.

Honorable Mentions: Section.80, Watch The Throne, Take Care, The Dreamer, The Believer, Undun

—Jordan

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NFL Week 16: My Picks

The 49ers have been one of the most consistent teams in football this seasob. Under Jim Harbaugh’s leadership the 49ers have moved past “trap” games or “letdowns”. They’ve moved beyond the phase of being “lucky” or “pretenders”. The 49ers vs. Steelers matchup was already enticing before the season even started. Tack on two of the top records and you now have one of the best matchups of the season.

A national game between two of the NFL’s top teams, in San Francisco no less!

Then it got weird.

Candlestick Park suddenly lost power due to a blown transformer (whatever that means). Now I’m not saying there was a conspiracy by Jed York or anything, but if he wanted to show the NFL that the 49ers really do need that new stadium, what better way than on national TV in one of the best games of the year? It showed the world what most Bay Area sports fans new already: that Candlestick is a dump.

It isn’t just San Francisco that needs a new stadium either. Both Bay Area football teams are sporting the most filthy, grimy and downright nasty stadiums in the NFL. Oakland has to share its trash to the MLB as well. That lovely baseball track during the first month of the NFL season is a beautiful sight. Sigh. At least San Francisco has AT&T Park.

This is no way breaking news. The Monday Night fiasco only highlights and hopefully accelerates the efforts in Santa Clara. I still dream of a joint stadium but that window is closing faster than Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. A new football stadium in the Bay Area is long overdue. The Bay Area knows it and now the sports world does as well.

5-10-1 last week

113-91-6 for the season

Home team in BOLD and CAPS

Texans (6½) over COLTS

Leave it to those pesky Titans to ruin my picks last week. All they had to do was beat the win-less Colts by a TD. I remember after the Colts victory that the Titans were also the ones who screwed me in Week 2 when they beat the Ravens. I vowed never to put money on either the Titans or Ravens. Lo and behold I did. My wallet suffers.

Raiders (+2) over CHIEFS

Did you know that the Raiders haven’t lost in Kansas City since 2006? A shocking statistic when you consider the Raiders recent history. The Raiders took care of Kyle Orton in Week 1, if they can limit Dwayne Bowe (i.e. not Calvin Johnson numbers) than the Raiders should win this game. If there is a clear definition to the phrase “letdown game” than this is it for the Chiefs.

Broncos (-3) over BILLS

The Patriot blowout last week was expected and anyone who thought otherwise was drunk off the Tebow Jesus Juice. Against a downtrodden Bills team Tebow and Co. should have no problem this week.

TITANS (7½) over Jaguars

The only reason I lean towards the dreaded Titans is the location of the game. By the way, is there a worse starting QB in the league than Blaine Gabbert right now? Sheesh. I know it’s only his first year and he doesn’t have any WR’s but I see no hope in sight for this guy. I’m not even mentioning the hair…

BENGALS (-4) over Cardinals

The Cardinals are playing well. Let me repeat: the Arizona Cardinals are playing well. John Skelton is Tim Tebow minus the Christianity, the national titles, the Heisman’s and the Skip Bayless-esque blowhards. Here’s a question, which deal was worse: the Kevin Kolb trade and immediate extension or the Carson Palmer trade? The Cardinals can opt-out of Kolb’s deal after this season while the Raiders have to give up (at a minimum) their 2011 first round pick and 2012 second rounder. Just win baby?

PATRIOTS (-10) over Dolphins

The last three meetings between these two teams have all been blowouts in favor of the Patriots. With the Patriots rolling I see no reason why this should be any different.

RAVENS (-13) over Browns

The Ravens at home + Baltimore defense + Ray Rice + Seneca Wallace = a multiple TD victory.

Giants (+3) over JETS

Leave it to Eli Manning and the G-Men to kill my holiday funds last week. In a must win game at home the Giants were giving seven points to the Redskins. They continued to not show up at all and talks of Eli being “elite” quickly flushed down the toilet. Since they played like dogs last week it’s only fitting they play like Super Bowl contenders this week. The universe will restore order.

Vikings (+6½) over REDSKINS

This will be ugly. Don’t expect a shootout. Don’t expect beautiful football. Expect a close game.

PANTHERS (-7½) over Buccaneers

The Panthers have quietly won three of four and sporting a very potent offense. If their defense was healthier they could be a .500 team this year. Watch out for them next year. This week? Take them against a horrible Bucs squad.

STEELERS (-13½) over Rams

Big Ben’s decision to play or to sit out doesn’t matter. The game is in Pittsburgh and the lowly Rams are opposing a tough Steelers defense that’s getting back James Harrison.

LIONS (-3) over Chargers

Whatever the over/under for this game is, take the over. Two of the best offenses in the league playing each other in turf. This will be a great game to watch. One late killer Rivers interception seals the deal for Detroit.

49ers (-2) over SEAHAWKS

Seattle is playing better, it’s always tough to play there and after the 49ers loss in Arizona a couple weeks ago I’m not as confident as I should be in this 11-3 team. The 49ers are oblivious to “trap” games at this point and I expect (once again) tons of FG’s. All they need is one.

Eagles (+1) over COWBOYS

OK, the Cowboys surprised me last week with their shellacking of the Bucs last Saturday. The Cowboys still haven’t convincingly beaten a great team this year. Have they had a statement” game this year? When was the last time you combined the words “great win” and “Cowboys” in the same sentence? Take the soaring Eagles on the road.

PACKERS (-13) over Bears

It’s been awhile since anyone can say this but…the Packers COMING OFF A LOSS should be ready to roll over Josh McCown and the Bears. The game is in Green Bay too? Sounds like an easy victory to me.

Falcons (+7) over SAINTS

I was tempted to take the roaring Saints at home but the Falcons have been showing a lot of fight lately. Many wrote them off after a disappointing start to the season. Prediction: a lot of TD’s will be thrown. Expect a 34-31 or 27-24 type game. A great way to close out an otherwise horrible MNF schedule.

—Jordan


NFL Week 15: My Picks

 

This was the last straw. I thought I hated Skip Bayless as much as I humanly could. This “All He Does Is Win” song, like all other DJ Steve Porter songs, is complete and utter garbage. As If we needed more of this guy, ESPN for some reason decided to make a one minute, glorifying music video to pay homage to Tim and Skip Tebow.

I have nothing against Tebow, but I have a lot against the coverage he’s getting. I finished my last final on Tuesday morning and got back in time to watch the replay of 1st&10. What do I see? A question regarding Tim Tebow. Fine, whatever. Wednesday comes, I wake up in time to watch the live version of First Take, what do I see? A topic regarding Tim Tebow. Thursday comes, once again I wake up and First Take is on, and WHAT DO IT SEE? A TOPIC ABOUT TIM FREAKING TEBOW.

ESPN knows what they’re doing. They did it with Brett Favre. I guess the ESPN formula is: constant coverage + viewers = must like the topic. No, no and no. I actually used to find the 1st&10 segment enjoyable, even in the (gulp) Woody Paige days. Now it consists of Skip yelling, Tebow, more Tebow, NBA, Skip yelling, Skip owning everyone but Stephen A. Smith, Tebow, NBA and finishing with Tebow. It’s unbearable.

I wish Stephen A. would be on every show with Skip, because Stephen A. is actually competent when he talks. Unlike the “analysts” or the “Two Live Stews” (I feel dumber just typing that), Stephen A. makes solid points to back up his Skip-like persona. I’m thankful that ESPN gave Smith his job back, his NBA insight is a welcome sight to a network that desperately seeks competence in all their sports coverage.

We watch ESPN because it’s the norm. It’s what we’ve grew up on. We aren’t going to watch VS or FoxSports. There’s a reason The Best Damn Sports Show Period didn’t make it. ESPN is king. This king is making Skip Bayless it’s self righteous prince. I hate it, I know plenty of other people that hate it and it MUST stop.

As if you needed another reason to hate Skip Bayless…

 

10-6-0 last week

108-81-5 for the season

Home team in BOLD and CAPS

FALCONS (-11½) over Jaguars

Yes this game already happened. Yes the Falcons covered. Yes I would have really chosen the Falcons to cover.

BUCCANEERS (+7) over Cowboys

Subtract the Cowboys fluke victory over the 49ers early in the season and you get a Cowboys team with not one impressive victory this whole season. They’re more famous for their colossal collapses then their victories. On the road in a must win game this has all the ingredients to a disappointing Cowboys loss. They might not lose but they sure as hell won’t cover.

GIANTS (-7) over Redskins

There’s no doubt that Eli Manning is an elite QB, there’s also no doubt that the Giants are the superior team this week. Take the Giants in a blowout.

Packers (-14½) over CHIEFS

The ONE week I didn’t choose the Packers in my pool was last week. Just my luck huh? Even though I picked them to cover in this post I decided to skip that game and pick the 49ers instead. Yay. That worked out well. The ½ point kind of scares me, but when in doubt, choose Rodgers.

Saints (-7) over VIKINGS

Last time the Saints were on the road in a dome they shockingly lost to the Rams. There’s no way that can happen again can it? CAN IT!!!??? I have faith in the Saints even with Peterson coming back.

Seahawks (+3½) over BEARS

I was going to choose the Bears at home, but then I remembered about Cutler…and Forte…and BEAST MODE. Take the Seahawks in the upset.

Dolphins (+1) over BILLS

Wow the Dolphins couldn’t wait to get rid of Sparano couldn’t they? After winning four of five they finally have a bad game and POOF, Sparano is gone. But heck, if it gets them that much closer to Jeff Fisher or Bill Cowher more power to them. I was getting sick of the whole “sunglasses at any time of the day” look anyway.

TEXANS (-6½) over Panthers

This could be a trap game for Houston coming off that amazing comeback. I emphasize could. Arian Foster and Ben Tate might be the best running back duo in the league, and the Panthers are near the bottom of the NFL in rush defense. TJ Yates could literally run it every play and the Texans could win by two scores. I wouldn’t mind seeing that actually…

Titans (-6½) over COLTS

If the Titans and Chris Johnson can’t beat a winless Colts team by a TD then the’re dead to me.

Bengals (-7) over RAMS

How good is AJ Green? Every time I turn to Red Zone on Sunday he’s making some spectacular catch over multiple defenders or sprinting past safeties for TD’s. Is he already a top-10 receiver? Expect multiple TD’s coming his way from Dalton this week.

Lions (-1½) over RAIDERS

This will be a slow, ugly, nasty, turnover filled game. What’s the over/under on penalties? 25? 30? The Raiders have shown no signs of life the past two weeks. Ford and McFadden are out per the usual. I don’t see Stanford Routt (or whoever has to help him) limiting Calvin Johnson. Titus Young is a name to watch here too. Sadly, I can see at least two long bomb TD’s from Stafford to either one of those guys. I haven’t even mentioned Mr. Suh’s return…

Patriots (-7) over BRONCOS

Tebow finally failed to cover last week. Why do I say this? Well because I put money on him of course! Facing such an explosive offense like the Patriots is something the Broncos haven’t seen since they played Detroit, and we all know how that game went (in Denver too). The Broncos will score, probably 20+, but it won’t be enough to get within the seven points. The Patriots win by double digits.

Jets (+3) over EAGLES

So the Eagles win one game convincingly and they’re suddenly three point favorites against the Jets? Huh? The Jets have been lighting it up as of late, scoring at least 28 in their last three games. I have very little confidence in a still bewildered Eagles team covering three points against a very hot Jets team.

CARDINALS (-7) over Browns

The Browns will be without Colt McCoy, which might not be horrible actually. Seneca Wallace isn’t a terrible QB. He can run, throw some good passes and has been in the league for a long time. Wait…did I just spend two sentences praising Seneca Wallace? Ugh. Take the Larry Fitzgerald’s instead.

Ravens (-3) over CHARGERS

Ray Lewis is back, the Ravens are in full playoff mode and the Chargers are still very turnover prone. The Chargers have been showing signs of life lately, but against the best defense in the league I can’t see them competing with Baltimore.

Steelers (+1) over 49ERS

I went back and forth on this one. Apart of me likes the 49ers at home, to pound the rock with Gore and Hunter and feast on Big Ben’s leg. The other part of me has seen Big Ben play with terrible injuries before, I’ve seen the Pittsburgh receivers tear it up and I’ve seen what Polamalu and Co. can do to offenses. The 49ers need to convert all those FG’s to TD’s if they have any chance at winning a playoff game. Does it start here? I don’t think so.

—Jordan


NFL Week 14: My Picks

It’s about time Marshawn Lynch got some love. Sure he got a little love his rookie season after his 1,115 yard, 7 TD season, but he’s a top 10 running back that is rotting on a terrible team. First Buffalo and now Seattle, Lynch is prone for the highlight real. His “Beast Mode” reached astronomical heights in the playoffs last year with the infamous run against the Saints. He’s since followed that up with a very strong season (854 yards, 8 TD) that has the NFL buzzing in appreciation.

Born in Oakland, it seems that Lynch often goes unnoticed when talking about the best running backs in the league. He’s not as elusive as Adrian Peterson or as good a receiver as Arian Foster but he’s formidable at both. Is it because he played for Cal? Is it because he’s played for two bad franchises throughout his career? Is it because he scares little children?

The fact he plays in the wretched NFC West has hindered his popularity and awareness through the league. After his primetime performance against the Eagles last Thursday and his continued success on the field we should be hearing A LOT more of Marshawn Lynch in the future. Hopefully in Pro Bowl discussions.

For old times sake…

9-7-0 last week

98-75-5 for the season

Home team in BOLD and CAPS

Browns (+ 14½) over STEELERS – W

Yes this game already happened. Yes the Browns covered. Yes I would have really chosen the Browns to cover 14½ points.

RAVENS (-17) over Colts

I’m always hesitant to choose big spreads, especially after I got screwed last week courtesy of the New England Patriots. The difference here is the Baltimore defense. Baltimore always plays better at home. The Ravens have had some horrible losses this year (JAX, SEA, TEN) but all have been on the road. Expect 27-3. Maybe worse.

Texans (+3) over BENGALS

There are two types of backup QB’s in the NFL: 1) The guy that looks like he doesn’t belong anywhere near a football and 2) The guy that looks like he could be starting somewhere. I’m not saying TJ Yates is better than Schaub, but the team hasn’t lost a step with him behind center.  In other words? He’s no Kyle Boller.

PACKERS (-11½) over Raiders

My Twitter companion and fellow sports blogger Bay Area Sports Guy brought up a great point when talking about this matchup. To paraphrase, BASG said that this would be the type of game the Raiders would win. The Raiders would be the ones to screw up the Packers perfect season. Why? Because the Raiders are a screwy team. One game they look like AFC contenders the next they look like bottom feeders. Les we forget they’re playing the Packers this week at Lambeau. I see bottom feeder Raiders this weekend. “My heart….is…telling me YES!!!!….but my mind…is…telling me NO!!!!”

JETS (-9) over Chiefs

I hate Shonn Greene. I was on the fence of the playoffs in my fantasy league: I was in the 7th spot and the top six teams make the playoffs. I needed the 6th seed (my dad) to lose (he was playing my little brother, 3rd seed) and I needed to win against the worst team in the league. I won my match handily, but thanks to a certain Mr. Greene, who scored a blasphemous 29 points thanks to garbage time TD’s, my fantasy playoff hopes were thrashed. What does this have to do with their game against the Chiefs on Sunday? Not a god damn thing.

LIONS (-8) over Vikings

I was watching Sound FX on NFL Network yesterday while they were showing the Vikings-Broncos game. The piece focused on Leslie Frazier and the Vikings sideline. If there was ever a coach that just knew he was going to get fired it would be Frazier. Uninspired, slow and seemingly dead was the Vikings sideline. I feel bad for two elite talents like Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson who are just rotting previous years off their illustrious careers. Let the Bill Cower rumors start in 3…2…1…

Saints (-4) over TITANS

All three of New Orleans losses have been on the road (Green Bay, Tampa Bay, St. Louis). Their largest margin of victory on the road was 16 against a hapless Jacksonville squad. Translation? The Saints are not the same team outside of the Superdome. With this in mind I still like them to cover against the Titans. Chris Johnson seems back to normal but the Titans still are an average team to me despite their 7-5 record. Cortland Finnegan can’t cover everyone either. Take the Saints.
Eagles (+3) over DOLPHINS

I’ve been wanting to bust out my Michael Vick Eagles jersey for the longest time.  I got it last off-season and wore it at my offline fantasy draft…a lot of good that did me. Since then its been grabbing dust in my closet hoping for a significant weekend for me to put it back on. With Vick coming back from injury and playing a now formidable Dolphins team I feel like this weekend could be the one. Whether that’s a good thing for the Eagles still to be determined.

Patriots (-9) over REDSKINS

If it weren’t for the Colts the Redskins would easily be the worst team in the league. Why is Mike Shanahan coaching this team? Why is he coaching at all? How is it that Dan Snyder has no GM yet? The Patriots win this one easily.

Falcons (-3) over PANTHERS

This will be a great game. The Falcons must win this game to keep in the playoff hunt. The Panthers are a one man show with Cam Newton looking more and more like a superstar QB. Get this Panthers team a defense and another WR and they’re easily in the playoff discussion next year. For now they’re facing a healthy Falcons offense and a team desperate for a win. I wouldn’t be shocked if this is a push but take the Falcons regardless.

Buccaneers (-1) over JAGUARS

There’s always one game every week that no one really cares about. The game NFL Red Zone cuts to and everyone cries “Why are they cutting to this game?” With Josh Freeman back I like the Bucs to steal one in Florida. Not that it really matters.

49ers (-4) over CARDINALS

Since Thursday I’ve been trying to figure out why this spread is so low. Is Patrick Willis really worth six points to the spread? The 49ers are beyond the “trap game” syndrome and have shown no willingness to let up. A late Patrick Peterson punt return TD aside I see no reason the 49ers shouldn’t cover.

BRONCOS (-3½) over Bears

The Bears were already decimated with Cutler gone. Now add Forte to the injury list and you have a team that resembles the Minnesota Vikings. Forte accounted for roughly 70% of the Bears offense. Sure they still have their defense intact…but does that even matter with Tebow God behind center? Until proven otherwise take Denver.

CHARGERS (-7) over Bills

San Diego is coming off a blowout victory against the Jaguars. The Bills have lost five straight games. Take the Chargers.

Giants (+3) over COWBOYS

The Cowboys don’t have one impressive victory all season. Sure they beat the 49ers but that game was outrageous fluke. The Giants have lost four in a row but three of them to playoff teams (SF, New Orleans, Green Bay). The Giants are clearly the better team and I expect them to get back on track this week, even on the road against a division foe.

SEAHAWKS (- 4½) over Rams

“Beast Mode” indeed. Even with teams stacking the box Marshawn Lynch still  is running like crazy. Too bad Lynch has never had a consistent QB or he can be even scarier. Combine the game being played in Seattle, Bradford and Feeley banged up, Lynch beasting and a very underrated Seattle defense and you have a formula for disaster for the Rams. Take the ‘Hawks with confidence.

—Jordan


NFL Week 13: My Picks

Ndamukong Suh is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the NFL.

Maybe it’s my mentality as a Raiders fan where penalties, punches, kicks and slaps to the face are welcomed. Maybe it’s the fact that the NFL has quickly become soft. Maybe it’s the fact that I like my NFL  with some swagger.

I’m not justifying his Stomp the Yard like dance move that took place on Thanksgiving, but I also don’t think he needs to be persecuted to the nth degree.

The NFL tries to hard to be what it isn’t: safe. No matter what the NFL rules are the sport will never be safe for the players involved. The NFL is now constantly changing its rules to cater to it’s new “safe” ideology. The problem? The very same rules that are being changed for players safety is taking away from the integrity of the game.

The reason why the NFL is America’s most popular sport isn’t a secret. Americans are enamored with violence, sex and stars. The NFL has 2/3 of those traits.

We love to see people get beaten up, slammed to the ground and  knocked out.

The NFL is the biggest hyprocrisy in sports today. They’re changing the ideals that made the sport what it is today.

This isn’t how I want my NFL. I don’t want to stand up and cheer for a big hit when no more than 10 seconds later I have to deal with a 15 yard penalty.

Dear NFL, stop trying to be what you aren’t.

Signed, your fans.

11-5-0 last week

89-68-5 for the season

Home team in BOLD and CAPS

SEAHAWKS (+3) over Eagles

Seattle is never an easy place to play no matter how bad the team is. I can just see it now: Pete Carroll, with his one size too big hoodie on, three seconds left in the game, down by two, the kick is up….IT’S GOOD. Seattle goes crazy and everyone runs to their nearest Starbucks.

Titans (+3) over BILLS

Eeek. Did you know that Stevie Johnson is from the Bay Area? Born in San Francisco, Johnson is quickly becoming the new Braylon Edwards of the NFL: gifted, troubled and known for his drops. The Bills actually played well last week against the Jets, but they’re division foes and know each other very well. Even though the Bills are at home I like the Titans. Watch out for Nate Washington.

BEARS (-7) over Chiefs

The Chiefs put up a pretty good fight against the Polamalu-less Steelers last week at Arrowhead. A sign of things to come? No. The Bears are extremely tough to beat at home no matter who’s at QB. Hanie starting helps the Chiefs but the Bears defense alone should account for one score. Take the Bears with confidence.

Raiders (+3) over DOLPHINS

Vegas sees this as an even matchup, I don’t. The Dolphins are definitely playing better since their horrific start but the Raiders have the superior defense and QB. Palmer has surpassed my expectations. Of course it helps when Michael Bush is carrying the load in the backfield (I may regret using those words) and shredding defenses each week. The Raiders win this game but it will be close throughout.

STEELERS (-7) over Bengals

I had a perfect week going last week with my picks (Cardinals, Panthers, Broncos). The Steelers were 10½ point favorites, facing a depleted Chiefs team coming off one of the largest blowouts of the season. I thought the Steelers were now on their playoff mode. I thought Big Ben and Co. would throw all day on the Chiefs secondary. I thought the Steelers defense would shutout Tyler Palko.

Ugh.

That game cost me at least $300. Are the Steelers in my betting doghouse a la Baltimore? No. They’re getting there though. Take Big Ben at home this week.

Ravens (-7) over BROWNS

If the Ravens can’t beat the Browns by double digits than they have no business being in the Super Bowl discussion. We’ve all seen Baltimore on the road before though…I’ll give them one more chance.

Jets (-3) over REDSKINS

The Jets were my pre-season pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

We all make mistakes.

The Jets should win this game on talent alone. Mark Sanchez should find a way to actually complete passes. Darrell Revis should shut down whoever is opposite him.

Saving Private Ryan should’ve won Best Picture too.

TEXANS (+3) over Falcons

The Falcons have shown a willingness to screw with betters this whole season. Because of this I’m choosing the Texans, who if I recall, still have Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and the league’s best defense.

BUCCANEERS (-3) over Panthers

The Panthers actually won a game last week…now it’s time they turn back to losing.

SAINTS (-9) over Lions

This game would be a lot more interesting if Mr. Suh was playing. The Lions haven’t been playing particularly well the last month and the Saints…well…have. The Saints are the best home team in the NFL. The trend of easy victories continues against a reeling Lions team.

Broncos  (+1) over VIKINGS

Tim. Tebow.

Rams (+14) over 49ERS

The 49ers must be relieved. Going from a short week matchup (on the road no less) against the NFL’s best defense to the Rams is a early Christmas gift. Then again any matchup against the NFC West is an early Christmas gift. Regardless, the 49ers will win this game easy. Frank Gore should tear up the Rams run defense. I expect Brandon Lloyd to have a solid day against his old team but it’s not enough.

Cowboys (-4½) over CARDINALS

If the Cowboys are truly going to earn my respect they have to blow out the Cardinals this week. After a near loss at home on Thanksgiving the Cowboys need to man up. Do they? Yes.

Packers (-7½) over GIANTS

Every time I pick the Packers to cover it seems they don’t (against the Panthers earlier this season, the Bucs). The only concern for the Packers here is Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. If there’s one glaring weakness on the Packers it’s their pass defense. Cruz has quickly become one of the best big play threats in the league. It will continue this week but the Packers find a way (hopefully) to cover.

PATRIOTS (-21) over Colts

I really wanted to pick the Colts here. Then I realized they’re the Colts.

JAGUARS (+3) over Chargers

With every Monday Night Football game comes another stinker. Seriously…what is ESPN thinking? I can’t remember two MNF games this year that A) Were competitive or B) Were worth my time. The Chargers are a walking carcass and the Jaguars are playing with one guy on offense. The Jaguars defense is actually good but…ugh…I’m already bored of this game.

—Jordan


NFL Week 12 : My Picks: Thanksgiving Edition

The NBA has Christmas Day games. MLB has its July 4 games. The NHL has it’s outside game on New Years.

Each sport has their respective “day” on the calendar.

I love the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule. Often filled with top tier matchup’s (like last year’s Heat vs. Lakers game), the games on Christmas day have become another gift for me and most NBA fans.

Baseball has every team play on Independence Day. Some argue that this day is the most prestigious of all the sports respective “days.” I beg to differ. For me, I always find the MLB games to lack that “wow” factor. They don’t seem all that special compared to the other sports top notch matchups.

I bash on the NHL quite frequently, but the game played outside on New Years day is pretty freaking cool. That’s doesn’t mean I watch the whole game, but I will give hockey a glance when I normally wouldn’t. Now can the Sharks get in on the New Years day festivities please?

Turkey. Football. Get fat. Watch people try and kill each other.

There’s no doubt that football and Thanksgiving go hand in hand. They were made for each other. It’s the day when you see family members you haven’t seen in awhile, catch up over dinner, share some stories, get bored of those stories, butter that warm sourdough roll and stuff turkey and gravy in between, dress fancy for dinner than immediately change out when you’re done, have pumpkin pie for the first time since last Thanksgiving, ask yourself “Am I related to that guy?”, but most importantly, more important than anything I just listed: it’s a day when you can unite with family and enjoy the game.

My mom and sisters struggle each Sunday with my dad and brother’s day long chillfest on the couch watching the games. But on Thanksgiving? They even get into it.

This Thanksgiving should be no different.

We always travel to Fresno for Thanksgiving. Translation? We always travel to Cowboys-land for Thanksgiving. It’s fun but no doubt can rub some family members the wrong way. Two years ago the Raiders played the Cowboys on Turkey Day in Cowboys Stadium. Most of my family is Raiders fans, the other small portion is Cowboys fans. That was fun.

I wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Enjoy family, the food, but most of all: the football.

5-8-1 last week

78-63-5 for the season

Home team in BOLD and CAPS

Packers (-7) over LIONS

It kinda sucks that this game is in the morning doesn’t it? Normally I don’t mind Lions games in the morning because of their usual terrible squad but for ONCE I wish this game was the afternoon game. This game has all the ingredients of a great, entertaining game. With Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford on the same field I expect nothing less than 80 points between the two. Take the Packers in an absolute shootout.

COWBOYS (-7) over Dolphins

Anyone else think Matt Moore is a top 15 QB in the making? No? OK…nevermind. The Cowboys are rolling, playing in Dallas and facing a fairly weak Dolphins defense. All signs point to a trap game here but I think the Cowboys are actually good this season. Yes…for once they might deserve the attention they get. Take the ‘Boys in a surprisingly competitive game.

49ers (+3) over RAVENS

The “Harbowl” as it’s come to be known now…this game seemed like a mismatch when the schedule was released. Oh how the tables have turned. You guys know my stance by now: take the 49ers until they fail to cover. 9-0-1 against the spread this season the 49ers have been absolutely money (See what I did there?). Take the 49ers in what should be a fantastic way to end Thanksgiving day.

Cardinals (+3) over RAMS

Two NFC West teams playing against each other. Any NFC West matchup that doesn’t involve the 49ers are always the worst games of the week. Ugh. Take the Cardinals. I’m still bitter from that horrible OT loss the Rams gave me a couple weeks ago.

JETS (-8) over Bills

The Jets piss me off. Not just because their coach tells paying fans to “Shut the fuck up!”, but because they’re wasting so much talent. They have the talent to win the Super Bowl. They’re one of the most talented teams in the league. Does that fall on the head coach? In my opinion no. Brian Schottenheimer is the one to blame here. He should be fired after the season. Will he? Probably not. Even with the Jets offensive woes they should beat the Bills pretty handily this week.

That Bills victory over the Pats seems like years ago now doesn’t it?

BENGALS (-7½) over Browns

All signs point to AJ Green being back for this week. The Bengals should have no problem with the Browns. Ugh. Anyone else just have the immediate impulse to shake their head in disgust after just saying “the Browns?” OK just me then.

Texans (-3½) over JAGUARS

If Schaub was playing I’d say this would be a double digit spread. Vegas is essentially saying Leinart is at least a seven point downgrade. That’s understandable, but I think Leinart is due to shock the world here. He has incredible talent on both sides of the ball. If he can’t succeed in this situation he really should just go back to partying with sorority chicks at USC. Can’t blame him for that though.

Panthers (-3½) over COLTS

A shockingly low line for a team coming off scoring 35 points on the road against a tough Detroit defense. Now they’re playing one of the worst defenses in the league? I think the correct term for Cam Newton’s play this week would be: HAM. Sign me up!

Buccaneers (+3½) over TITANS

If last year’s Chris Johnson was playing I would take the Titans. It also doesn’t help that their starting QB is more brittle than Samuel Jackson’s character in “Unbreakable.”

FALCONS (-9½) over Vikings

Adrian Peterson isn’t playing. That’s all that really needs to be said.

RAIDERS (-4½) over Bears

Caleb Hainee is starting for the Bears…I’ll pause for a second to give everyone time to Google his name.

Done? OK.

The Bears have a great defense. Can Michael Bush find enough seams up the middle? Can Carson Palmer infiltrate the Bears Cover 2 defense? Can the Raiders hold Matt Forte in check? Can the Raiders have less than 100 years in penalty yards?

All viable questions.

I believe in Carson Palmer. I believe the team is now fully in support of their QB now after a rough first couple weeks. Palmer has proved to be a viable QB even after months on the couch. Even without Cutler this is an extremely tough matchup for the Raiders. The Black Hole will be in full force on Sunday and I expect the Raiders to being their “A” game.

SEAHAWKS (-4) over Redskins

The Redkins are reeling losing six straight games. They look hopeless. No QB, no WR, no RB, no coach. This team needs an ownership change before it can succeed. Remember when “experts” were choosing the ‘Skins to win the NFC East after their 3-1 start? Yeah, this collapse wasn’t predictable. The Seahawks win by a TD.

Patriots (-3) over EAGLES

A fairly low line considering the Patriots are rolling and the Eagles are somewhat in flux, even with their shocking win over the Giants last Sunday. Although the Eagles played well last week at home, the Giants have been known to play the occasional “How the hell did that happen?” game. With Welker and Gronkowski at his disposal, I see the Patriots winning this one. It’s close for most of the game but the Patriots break away late.

Broncos (+7) over CHARGERS

Why is this spread so big? The Broncos defense is playing very well and here comes the Chargers turnover-friendly offense. Oh yeah and that Tebow guy is playing pretty well. I’d be willing to bet on the Broncos winning straight up, let alone getting seven points. Take the Tebows.

Steelers (-10½) over CHIEFS

The Steelers are still the best team in the AFC. The Chiefs just got massacred by the Patriots. While the Chiefs made the Patriots look offensively challenged for a half, the Pats were able to let loose as usual in the 2nd. With the Steelers potent aerial attack I see no trouble for Big Ben and Co. against KC, even on the road.

SAINTS (-7) over Giants

The Saints have had an extra week to prepare for the always disappointing Giants. The Saints are also undefeated at home. No Ahmad Bradshaw for the Giants.  While Eli has the tools to win this game, I just can’t see the Giants getting a W after looking so awful last week. Take the Saints with confidence.

—Jordan


NFL Week 11: My Picks

My dad: “I bet Tebow takes down the Jets this week.””

Me: “No way, Jets with Revis and that complex defense will make Tebow look stupid.”

My dad: “Wanna bet? Money talks son.”

Me: “Come on that’s easy money. $10?”

My dad: “Make it $20 Mr. Confident.”

Me: “You got it. Wow, that was the easiest $20 I ever made.”

I really would have gone more if my dad wanted to, I was that confident that the Tebow Express would make a valiant stop against the Jets this week. Me and my dad bet football spreads all the time, but this one was, in my opinion, one of the easiest ones of the year.

The Broncos were coming off an emotional high after their win in Kansas City that Sunday. The Jets? The exact opposite. They were obliterated by the Patriots Sunday night. Great defenses travel, so I thought even off a short week the Jets would give Tebow enough looks to really make him struggle.

I’ve seen Denver’s defense shine before, specifically against my Raiders a couple weeks back in Oakland, but I still wasn’t a believer. Mark Sanchez has always been a late in-season bloomer, playing better as the season went on, so I was expecting a turn of the corner type game for him.

My last reason? The Jets are simply the better, more talented team. No way were the Jets going to not come into this game fired up, desperate for a win after their embarrassing loss at home last week.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong again.

I guess I have to start respecting this Tebow guy now. It’s not that I don’t like him, it’s just I’m so damn sick of hearing his name that I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpassed “Brett Favre” on my “If I Hear His Name One More Damn Time I’m Going To Punch A Whole In My Wall” list.

Yes, “he just wins games” is a phrase that also is getting severely overplayed, but it’s true. The Broncos are winning, albeit the ugliest possible way a football game can be won, and at the same time chasing the Raiders for the division lead in the AFC West. If Tebow was in the NFC South I would care a little bit less than I do now, but the fact he’s in my own division makes it even worse. He’s winning and hurting my team at the same time.

Tim, I respect you, you’re a man of faith, spirituality and whole-heartedness, but I beg you, stop winning games. Stop haunting my TV with constant coverage from ESPN and more specifically Skip Bayless, who, if you are indeed the second coming of Christ, be my Judas to your Jesus.

It has to end eventually right?

7-8 last week

73-55-4 for the season

Home team in BOLD and CAPS

Jets (+7) over BRONCOSL

FALCONS (-6½) over Titans

Everything in my head is saying “Don’t pick the Falcons. Don’t pick the Falcons. Don’t pick the Falcons”. So why am I picking them? Good question. And honestly I still don’t know why I am. Maybe because they’re the more talented team. Maybe because they’re at home. Maybe because they’re determined to comeback after their heartbreaking should-be-win-but-loss-because-of-the-stupidest-call-I’ve-ever-seen last week. I like the Matt Ryan to Roddy White connection to win by a TD this week.

Bills (+2½) over DOLPHINS

I’ve been a big proponent of the “Dolphins aren’t as bad as they look” mentality. They’ve covered the past two weeks and have looked like a team that actually cares about their play on the field (Hear that Colts?). I’ve also been a big proponent (except last week) of the “Bills aren’t as good as they look” mentality. So what gives this week? The Dolphins normally are terrible at home. They beat the Redskins last week but really, the Redskins are just as bad as the Colts. This won’t be a barn burner, but I like the Bills to win outright.

RAVENS (-7) over Bengals

I hate the Ravens. No, not because I hate the dumb look that Joe Flacco has after every incomplete pass or the city of Baltimore (seriously though what’s there to like?), but because of how awful it feels to bet on them. I lost a survivor pool in just Week 2 of this year because of them. They didn’t cover last week against the Seahawks a week after a great comeback win against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. What the hell? Without AJ Green I give the edge to the Ravens. I’d be lying if I said I was confident in this pick though.

Jaguars (-1) over BROWNS

I only picked this game because I had to. Really, does anyone care for this game? I’m 95.9% confident than the state of Florida could care less for this game. Heck I’m not even sure if they know they have a team. Cleveland? I’m sure they’re still lying in their corners wondering how Lebron left them for Miami. Yeah…shocker!

Raiders (-1) over VIKINGS

Adrian Peterson vs. the Raiders 25th ranked rush defense. Jared Allen vs. Carson Palmer. Jared Allen vs. Michael Bush. Jared Allen vs anyone who gets in his way. LOUD Minnesota crowds vs. Carson Palmer. For a 2-7 team the Vikings present tons of problems for the Raiders. I had my doubts last week on the road against the Chargers. Palmer proved me wrong. Here’s hoping that Palmer me right this week. Take the residents of the Black Hole. And no I’m not talking about Ray J or Reggie Bush (Kris didn’t hit it).

Panthers (+7) over LIONS

This could be my genius pick of the week, or it could end up like my Bills and Vikings picks last week. The Lions are banged up: Calvin Johnson is dealing with concussion symptoms, Jahvid Best is out (what else is new?) and Mathew Stafford is dealing with a broken right index finger (what else is new?). Cam Newton is playing on turf. Let me repeat: Cam Newton. Turf. I expect this to be high scoring and a fun game to watch. Lions take it in a close one.

PACKERS (-14) over Buccaneers

I finally manned up and decided not to choose the Packers last weekend. I tried to buck the trend after they failed to cover a couple big spreads earlier in the season. Well, they sure made me look like a moron. Home, again, facing a below average Buccaneers team? Take the two touchdowns. Heck, tease that sucker up.

Cowboys (-7½) over REDSKINS

“In the 11th round Team Rubicon selects Demarco Murray!” ……. **everyone wonders in silence for 20 seconds who the hell Demarco Murray is** ……

Yes, Demarco Murray was actually drafted in our family fantasy league. I honestly didn’t know who he was until I searched his name seconds after he was drafted.

The funny thing? Team Rubicon dropped, yes dropped, Murray the week before his huge debut start for the Cowboys.

As you would expect he was picked up immediately the next week off the waiver wire.

It’s safe to say Team Rubicon isn’t very happy with that drop.

Did I mention his other running backs are Shonne Greene and Ahmad Bradshaw?

49ERS (-9½) over CARDINALS

A wise man once said: “Good teams win, great teams cover”. The 49ers are 8-0-1 against the spread this season. Until they prove us wrong, take them.

Seahawks (+1) over RAMS

Another game that I pick because I must. After the Rams lost in OT to the Cardinals by the single worst way possible I will forever hold a grudge against them. Marshawn Lynch is also quietly having a very good season. Take Seattle against the Rams in a game that no one really wants to watch.

BEARS (-3½) over Chargers

I sorta kinda but not really wanted to pick the Chargers in the upset here. I also sorta kinda really believe the Bears could kill the Chargers. San Diego, traveling across the country against a tough Bears team that seems to be in NFC divisional round mode already. Can the Chargers stop Forte? Can the Chargers be smart enough not to kick to Devin Hester? Can FOX not zoom in on Norv Turner’s horrendous neck wrinkles, forcing me to vomit whatever food I’m currently chewing at that time? No, no and no.

GIANTS (-4½) over Eagles

No Michael Vick. No Jeremy Maclin. A sleepy, broke DeSean Jackson. The Eagles are on the road. The Giants are coming off a tough loss to the 49ers. Andy Reid is still coaching the Eagles. Need I go on?

PATRIOTS (-14½) over Chiefs

Tyler Palko is starting for the Chiefs. You’re welcome.

—Jordan