Archive for January, 2014

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Die Hard is the best all-around movie of all time.  It has action, comedy, drama, romance, and anything else you would want in a great film.  It is the characters that make it a classic, so I have taken it upon myself to rank the Top 25 Die Hard characters.  These rankings only apply to the first movie.  And if you are ranking the movies, it goes 1,3,2 and we imagine that 4 and 5 never happened.  Anyway, here is the Definitive Die Hard Character Power Rankings.

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25. Airplane Passenger: This guy makes the most out of his time on screen.  He gives McClane some rock solid advice about “fists with your toes”.  By the expression on McClane’s face, it works.  This guy seems like kind of a know-it-all but McClane puts him in his place by the end of the scene.

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24: Airplane Stewardess:  This look that she gives McClane almost throws the whole movie for a loop.  If he wasn’t going to see his kids, I guarantee he takes her and his giant stuffed bear back to a hotel and spends a lovely Christmas Eve with his new friend.  Hans robs the building, the hostages die, and the terrorists are on the beach earning 20% before anyone has a clue what happened.  That is how powerful this look is.  Kudos to McClane for staying focused.

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23: The Couple Having “Relations” During The Christmas Party: Getting down during your company’s Christmas party is pretty damn ballsy, but I have to give these two credit for pulling it off.  They help McClane escape by creating a slight diversion.  So hats off to these two freaks, you made the list.

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22. Tony: Gotta give Tony some serious props for being able to cut the phone wires before Karl comes in like a maniac and chainsaws everything.  Growing up with Karl must have been tough, since he is a legitimate psycho.  Tony can’t be ranked higher however since he is quickly outsmarted by McClane, has awful fashion sense, and dies the wimpiest death in the movie.  The “Now I Have A Machine Gun Ho-Ho-Ho” shirt is fantastic, but that is a McClane creation.

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21. Eddie: Hans knew what he was doing when he chose Eddie to be his fake security guard.  The guy can put on a friendly face with a midwestern twang that would make any cop feel like everything is under control.  He also is a decent shot when the SWAT team tries to break in through the front doors.  I am still not sure how he bet on a USC/Notre Dame game on Christmas Eve, however.

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20. Harvey Johnson:  Hey, look!  It’s LA’s least favorite anchorman!  Harvey stands out as an arrogant jerk in a movie full of them.  I imagine he is a drinker, womanizer, and absentee parent.  If anyone can prove differently, please let me know.  He made the list just due to comedic value whenever he screws up.

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19. Paulina:  Ahhh, Paulina.  She seems to have the house in decent order, prepares the guest room for John despite not being asked to do so, and even Holly doesn’t know what she would do without her  However, despite putting up a decent fight against Thornburg (who we will get to later), she lets that weasel and the news team in the house to interview/exploit the kids and puts their parents in danger.  Green card or no green card, she needs to keep people out of that casa no matter what.

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18. Gail Wallens: When we are first introduced to the news team, we see how many blowhards Gail seemingly has to deal with on a daily basis.  She is able to save the greeting to the newscast after Harvey bones the opening and clearly has to pick up the slack on the news broadcast from her foolish co-anchor.  Awesome 80s hair in this pic, too.

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17. Marco: Hans’ ace skydiver comes in here because of one scene and one scene only.  This scene ages like a fine wine, getting funnier every time you watch it.  Add in that he was the one that was thrown onto Powell’s car, and he had to be on the countdown.

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16. Ginny: The older you get, the more you respect Ginny.  She continues to work her butt off after the holiday party begins, is 9 months pregnant during the entire ordeal, and seems to hold it together the whole time.  I hope she got a serious promotion after the movie ended.  Maybe bump Holly up to Takagi’s position and Ginny up to Holly’s old job.

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15. Lucy McClane:  Lucy is on this list for a few reasons.  She answers the phone like a professional.  I don’t know many adults whose phone manners are that polished.  She isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions (When are you coming home?  Is daddy coming home with you?), and the cutest lisp in the world.  Little Lucy really capitalizes on every second of screen time.

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14. Uli: Usually people refer to our friend Uli as the Asian guy who stole the candy bars.  He also stole that scene from the movie and his Fu Manchu from the facial hair Gods.  The face he makes when McClane shoots him is awkwardly entertaining to me as well, which admittedly gives him a boost.

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13. Agent Johnson: Clearly the cooler-headed of the 2 Johnsons, he seems cool and calculated.  We don’t hear much from him and know even less about him (except that he was in Junior High during the Fall of Saigon).  He kinda looks like Carl Weathers in this picture, which has to count for something.

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12. Joseph Takagi: Sharply dressed, well-liked, and mild-mannered are all fair descriptions of Takagi.  He seems like a pretty good boss who goes out of his way to make sure his employees are taken care of.  Unfortunately for him, he also has to take one for the team (in the form of a bullet through the head).  RIP, Joe-Joe.

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11. Special Agent Johnson:  Took the stereotypical A-Hole FBI Agent role to another level.  The cigarette smoking, the threat of US Government action, and the over-the-top quote (just like Saigon, eh slick) are delivered perfectly.  He is played like a fiddle by Hans, who actually needed him there so he could shut down the power and break the electromagnetic lock.  In many other movies, he easily makes the Top-10.

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10. Richard Thornburg: This is where the list gets really tough to chop down.  Thornburg is such a great sleezeball that he appears in Die Hard 2 and you are actually excited to see him.  Looking back now, this movie really did a good hatchet job on the careers of newscasters.  And the news business has only seemingly gotten worse since this movie was released.  But I digress.  Richard Thornburg is a great secondary villain in the sense that he will do whatever he can to advance his career.  He is quite a memorable character, despite not getting as much screen time as I remember him getting as a child.  After seeing him play an even bigger jerk in another 80s classic, he has impossible standards to live up to.

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9. Dwayne T. Robinson: Yet ANOTHER arrogant authority figure who everyone loves to hate.  I have a little more affection in my heart for Dwayne because he just seems goofier than some of the other people on this list.  When you see McClane chew him out on the radio, it’s hard to really hate the guy.  Like Thornburg, this actor had a better performance in another 80s cult movie , which hurts his ranking here.

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8. Argyle: Maybe the most likable character in the movie, Argyle cracks jokes, knows how to have fun while on the job, and takes care of his clients.  His achilles heel is that he has terrible awareness of what’s going on around him.  And as much as I love “Skeletons” by Steve Wonder, he listens to it nonstop.  Literally almost every time they show Argyle waiting for McClane in the parking garage, the song is playing.  Also, busting through the gates after a hostage takeover is not the smartest thing in the world.  After having Karl come out of the building ready to kill McClane, I do not understand why the LAPD didn’t open fire on the “renegade limousine” that popped out of nowhere.  Lastly, why didn’t Argyle drive through that gate earlier in the movie?  And what if Theo wasn’t a terrorist?  Would driving into his car and knocking him out been a smart move?  There are always more questions than answers with our buddy Argyle.  But his personality allows us to overlook most of them.

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7. Karl: The biggest European badass this side of Ivan Drago, Karl is the real muscle behind the operation.  Hans is the planner, Theo is the brains, Karl is the rabid dog off his leash after Tony gets killed.  The cat and mouse game with McClane keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire movie.  Karl has incredible hair, shows great leadership, and survives an attempted hanging.  Let me say that again: HE SURVIVED AN ATTEMPTED HANGING!  Add in the incredible random fact that he is a graceful ballet dancer in real life and you get some respect on this list.  The only real downside to Karl is that he doesn’t really have much a personality.  Die Hard is filled to the brim with characters that have tremendous personalities.  Karl’s just isn’t good enough to be ranked higher.

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6. Theo:  I think the reason I love Theo so much is because I see a lot of myself in him.  He is the smartest terrorist, the wittiest of the character in the movie, and can portray everything so smoothly with his silver tongue.  Theo is like the 6th man for a basketball team.  He doesn’t get the most minutes or the best stats, but he is almost as important as anyone else.  His entertainment value is great, with one liners left and right.  He can carry a tune as he destroys a computer and hacks his way into the building’s security system.  The “Twas the night before Christmas” line is great.  Theo’s two biggest flaws are his lack of screen time and whimper when Argyle knocks him out.  For those reasons, I cannot have him in my Top-5.  But he is definitely one of the best movie “bit characters” ever.

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5. Holly: This seems about right for the best estranged wife in the history of estranged wives.  From the jump, we are able to tell that Holly is smart, driven, and kind.  She treats her co-workers, family, and nanny all very well.  And even though her looks screams “80’s”, she still is a minx on the screen.  This is the same woman that was once able to tame the bucking bronco known as John McClane.  That feat alone is extremely impressive.  I will deduct a point for the whole maiden-name fiasco, regardless of the motivation behind it.  Like they say, sometimes you don’t know what you have in life until it’s killing a handful of terrorists for you.

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4. Al Powell:  When push comes to shove, Al Powell probably is the kindest soul in the entire movie.  In just his first scene, he sings Christmas carols while food shopping for his pregnant wife, ignores a few insults from the ampm clerk, and donates money in the charity jar.  He is John’s saving grace, sounding board, and biggest fan.  Al has to deal with bumbling fools left and right, whether it’s Dwayne Robinson, the FBI, or any of the other inept officers along the way.  I like Al so much that the only parts of Die Hard 2 I enjoy are when he is on the screen.  Die Hard is a movie about redemption.  Good triumphs over evil and the McClanes get back together.  But Powell being able to redeem himself from his accident may be the most heartwarming redemption of all.  We love you, Carl Winslow!

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3. Harry Ellis: American and capitalist arrogance in human form.  Ellis makes it to number 3 on this list with a bullet (no pun intended.  Well, kinda).  He is character that you love to watch in movies but would hate to meet in real life.  He is clearly going after a married woman in Holly, has a super-inflated ego, and hits the powder like the 86 Mets.  I imagine Jordan Belfort was inspired by Harry Ellis as he evolved into the Wolf of Wall Street.  It is very strange that while I love Ellis as a character, I also love when he gets killed.  For all the fellow Ellis fans, here is a Youtube tribute to him.

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2. Hans Gruber: And here he is folks, the greatest movie villain of all time.  Hans has an eye for fashion, an incredible voice for a villain, and is always one step ahead of the game.  Anything nice I have said about the other terrorists double for Hans.  He is ruthless, calculating, yet still humorous.  Hans was such a great character, that they brought back his brother for Die Hard 3 and it made the movie significantly better.   He is probably in the  Top-5 for best movie character ever.  Substitute anyone else for Alan Rickman, and both Hans and McClane are not as entertaining.  The only reason that Hans is not number one because his plan ultimately failed.

Underrated fact:  Hans Gruber’s last words were “Yippee Ki Yay, Motherfucker”, followed by a long, creepy laugh scene that will never get old.  Just hearing “Yippee Ki Yay, muddafuck” in Hans’  accent will always be funny.


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1. John McClane: Not much needs to be said about John McClane.  If you read this much of the blog post, you already have a good idea how awesome John McClane is.  He is funny, he is smart, and he is a tough SOB.  This character keeps on trucking and has inspired countless rip-offs.  He keeps the mood light throughout  and has the greatest catchphrase in movie history.  He is not only the best Die Hard character ever, but the best movie character ever.

Disgree with the rankings?  Are there any egregious snubs?  Let me know in the comments section below.  If not, simply enjoy the incredible Die Hard music video by Guyz Nite.

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So it turns out the Polar Vortex just took a few days off before laying the smack back down with snow and single digit temperatures.  Here a few songs/videos/etc. to get you through this cold snap depression.

First some links:

  1. Who doesn’t love a Puppy Cam?
  2. The Perry Bible Fellowship.  A hilarious, if not unique (and not at all religious) web comic.
  3. If neither of those worked, check out the “Jump In The Line” Pandora radio station.  Nothing but happy songs over there.

And now a whole bunch of Youtube videos.  Stay warm, everyone!

If by some chance you are Happy Gilmore, here you go:

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Die Hard is many things.  It is the best action film of all time.  It is the project that made Bruce Willis a superstar.  And it is also a Christmas movie.  If movies like Frosty the Snowman and Home Alone are considered Christmas movies, then Die Hard is definitely a Christmas movie.  I am sure there were many debates around many dinner tables a few weeks ago regarding this subject.  So I will gladly come to Die Hard’s defense in this matter.  Since Christmas falls on December 25th, here are 25 examples of Christmas references in Die Hard.

  1. The main setting for the entire movie is at a Christmas party (hijacked or not).  There is a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the room and Takagi wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the CEO and the Board of Directors.  Based on the lack of security and other people in the building, Christmas Eve is maybe the only day where a heist like this could hypothetically work.
  2. The orchestra plays “Ode To Joy” the entire time the party is going on.  The song is also played at different speeds in later parts of the movie, usually depending on the mood of the scene.  “Ode To Joy” is not technicially a Christmas song, but is played a lot during the holiday season.
  3. Our first time meeting Ellis, we see him hitting on Holly.  She reminds him that it’s Christmas Eve and a time for “families…stockings…chestnuts…Rudolph and Frosty”.
  4. When Holly gets back to her office, she sees Ginny is still working.  She tells Ginny to join the party, she is making her feel like Ebenezer Scrooge.
  5. The aforementioned office is decorated in the Christmas spirit, with multiple Santa decorations on the desks.
  6. Holly tells Lucy “no snooping around for presents” on the phone.
  7. John has a giant bear with a bow on it.  It is clearly a Christmas gift.
  8. John asks Argyle to play some Christmas music, which Argyle has already put on.  “Christmas Time In Hollis” is definitely a Christmas song.
  9. John gets a big kiss of the cheek from a drunk employee, who wishes him a “Merry Christmas”.
  10. After meeting Mr. Takagi, John mentions “I didn’t realize they celebrated Christmas in Japan”.
  11. When John first escapes the terrorist takeover, he is on the 33rd floor, which has Christmas decorations up.
  12. Once John kills Tony, he puts a Santa hat on Tony’s head and writes “Now I have a machine gun.  Ho-Ho-Ho” on Tony’s shirt.
  13. During John’s radio transmission to the police dispatch station, we can briefly see some Christmas decorations up.
  14. When Powell is in the ampm convenience store, “Let It Snow” is playing on the store’s speakers and Powell is singing the song to himself.
  15. The trees in the main entranceway of Nakatomi Plaza have Christmas lights on them.
  16. As Powell leaves the Nakatomi building after his initial inspection, him and the security guard wish Merry Christmas to one another.
  17. Powell continues to sing “Let It Snow” to himself in the driveway of Nakatomi Plaza.
  18. At the beginning of the news broadcast, Gail Wallens says “Our top stories on this Christmas Eve”.  Random aside, but Gail seems like a pretty nice lady.  I feel bad that she has to work with jerks like Harvey and Thornburg.
  19. When the LAPD tries to forcibly enter the Nakatomi building, Theo says ” ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except… the four assholes coming in the rear in standard two-by-two cover formation”.
  20. After Theo tells Hans that they will need a miracle to break through the electro-magnetic lock on the vault, Hans tells him “It’s Christmas Theo.  It’s the time of miracles”.
  21. When Agent Johnson demands that the power company shut down the grid, Dwayne explains that he should ask the mayor about this first, since it is Christmas Eve.
  22. Once the vault is unlocked and opens, Theo’s eyes grow wide and he wishes everyone a Merry Christmas.
  23. Realizing he only has two bullets left and needs to think of a plan, John sees Christmas packaging tape.  He tapes the gun to his back and you can clearly see the tape says Season’s Greetings when the camera pans to it.
  24. As all the hostages are leaving the building after being rescued, thousands of papers are flying from the sky.  This is the closest thing to snow that you will find in Los Angeles.
  25. As John and Holly drive away from the scene, “Let It Snow” plays.  Which means that Christmas music played as John arrived and departed from Nakatomi Plaza.  This is what we call symmetry, people.

This is not a reason, but it was just too good not to post.  What great attention to detail, down to Karl getting hanged by a candy cane.

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Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my reasons.  If you have any others, please feel free to add them in the comments section next to the title of this post.

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Well after 256 regular season games and another 8 playoff games, we are left with the four teams that many people expected to be here at the beginning of the season.  One of the reasons sports is great is that upsets happen often and anything can happen.  While that is true, sometimes it is nice to see the cream rise to the top, which usually lead to the best games.  Championship Weekend is always bittersweet, since it means that football season is almost over.  Here’s to 180+ game minutes of awesomeness left.  Anyway, onto the picks.

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Patriots @ Broncos

Line: Broncos -5.5

Here we go again.  Manning vs. Brady, Manning vs. Belichick, Good vs. Evil, Offense vs. Defense, yada yada yada (I mentioned the bisque).  A lot has been made about Brady’s win-loss record against Manning’s teams over the years.  However, I feel that not enough people have mentioned how the odds were stacked in Brady’s favor, especially in the beginning of this rivalry.  Peyton has almost always had the better offensive playmakers on his teams, but Brady has had the better coach and defense for almost the entire life of the rivalry.  Does anyone really think that if Manning was the quarterback of the Patriots, they would not have won at least three Super Bowls?  Bill Barnwell wrote a great piece comparing the two quarterbacks and wondered whether we would look at Brady differently if his career had gone backwards (big stats early, championships later).  Regardless, this iteration of Brady vs. Manning is different than all the games in the past, including their Week 12 matchup earlier this season.  That game was in New England, had gusty winds, and featured key players on both teams that have since been placed on IR.

The Broncos are a great, diverse offensive team that admittedly benefited from a weak schedule.  Bill Belichick will have his team as well-prepared as possible.  Last week he was able to contain T.Y. Hilton to only four catches, albeit for 103 yards.  This week, however, he will have a much harder time taking away all the playmakers on the Denver offense.  I imagine we will see Aqib Talib lined up on Demariyus Thomas for most of the game.  That will leave the rest of the New England defensive backfield responsible for Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas.  If Belichick comes up with a gameplan that focuses on stopping the pass while allowing the running game to thrive, Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball will be able to gash the sub-par Patriots front line.  Add in the quick pace that the Broncos run their offense in with the thin air of Denver, and you can imagine the Patriots injury ravaged, paper thin defense wearing down quickly.

The Patriots are an above average offensive team that has had to adjust their identity on the fly due to injuries and off-field issues.  When Rob Gronkowski was in the lineup, the were a very good-to-great offensive team.  Now they are a team that relies on their power running game and Hall of Fame quarterback.  While LeGarrette Blount has played great the last few weeks, I think much of that was due to the matchups and circumstances surrounding the games.  The Colts defense had trouble all season against the run, while the Bronco’s defense ranked seventh in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.  The Patriots passing attack will consist of a bunch of targets to Julian Edelman, a hobbled Danny Amendola, “joker” Shane Vereen, and a slew of lightly regarded players.  The Patriots are hoping that Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson can come back this week in order to give Tom Brady a deep threat.  If either come back, I think they will be limited in terms of effectiveness.  The Broncos defense has taken a hit the last few weeks, losing Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr.  For most of last week’s game, the Broncos were able to contain the Chargers offense.  While San Diego was able to make a push late offensively, the game was mostly in Denver’s hands.  While the Patriots have a better quarterback than the Chargers, I don’t think they have a wide receiver as good as Keenan Allen.  If the Broncos are able to spring out to a lead, it will force New England to throw more than they are accustomed to with this lineup.

In this latest (and perhaps final?) Brady vs. Manning matchup, I am going to favor Manning and the Broncos.  The Patriots have not PLAYED a road playoff game since losing to the Peyton Manning-led Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship Game.  While this speaks volumes for their regular season performance (thus gaining them homefield advantage), it also shows that they have had a legitimate advantage in every AFC playoff game since 2006.  Tom Brady has a career 3-2 record in the playoffs when on the road.  His first loss came at Denver vs. Jake Plummer, and his second loss came in the aforementioned 2006 matchup at Indianapolis.  This obviously means that he has never beaten Peyton Manning on the road in the playoffs.  I think that while Brady still has the better head coach, Manning clearly has the better offensive and defensive units.  New England has done a better job on special teams this year, but the thin air in Denver should neutralize most of their advantages.  If Brady and Belichick can pull out this victory, it will be their most impressive win since they beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.  While the Patriots obviously have a shot to do so, too many things will have to go right for New England and wrong for Denver.  While the Chargers were able to sneak in a backdoor cover last week, I don’t think New England has the weapons on offense to do that.  The spread has gone as high as Broncos -7 and as low as Broncos -4.5.  For the sake of today’s post, I will bet today’s line of Broncos -5.5.  While I hate the thought of betting against the always well-prepared Belichick, I just think that there is too much in Denver’s favor to go against them.  5.5 is a lot of points, but unless Manning gets his signature happy feet in the wrong moments again, I see the Broncos taking control of this game early and coasting to a victory.  Hopefully Mile High will give the Broncos the homefield advantage they deserve.

Pick: Broncos -5.5.  Due to the Patriots lack of offensive weapons and Denver potentially having a chance to control the clock with the running game, I would actually consider Under 56 as well.  

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49ers @ Seahawks

Line: Seahawks -3.5

We move on from the best player-centric rivalry in the NFL to the best team-centric rivalry in the NFL.  Similar to last week’s 49ers/Panthers game, both teams are built on physical defenses, ball control offenses, quarterbacks that can make plays with their legs as well as their arms, and great special teams.  The most talked about man in this game seems to be not a player, coach, or executive, but rather the 12th Man of Seattle.  The old adage is that home field is worth 3 points in the spread.  So if a home team is favored by 3 at home, Vegas is basically saying that these two teams are equal.  Again, based on Bill Barnwell’s home-field advantage column, the Seahawks advantage may be more valuable than that.

As my previous posts have stated, I think Jim Harbaugh is a pretty damn good coach.  He gives the 49ers the advantage in coaching every week, except maybe when he plays the Patriots.  While Pete Carroll is a very good coach who has only gotten better during his time in Seattle, I don’t think he can match up with Harbaugh.  The two quarterbacks in this game are a great example of what the position is evolving to.  Both players have shown the ability to win games on the ground and in the air.  Kaepernick is a tall, athletic freak in the mold of Randall Cunningham.  His physical tools and long strides allow him to do things no other quarterback in the league can do.  Meanwhile, I see Russell Wilson as a more athletic version of Drew Brees.  Both players have similar heights, pocket presence, and leadership abilities.  The “It” factor that has made Drew Brees a champion is something that many people see in Wilson.  Obviously, Brees has much more experience and success in the NFL thus far, but I think Wilson will continue to grow on a similar progression path.  The running back position is basically a wash in this matchup.  BEAST MODE is a harder runner, but Gore seems to be the more savvy of the two and a better option in the passing game.  I expect Gore to have a slightly better average per carry, as I think the 49ers have a superior rushing defense.  The 49ers have a big advantage in the WR/TE side of things.  When it comes to overall play, you can make a case that the 49ers have the best three receivers in this game, with Crabtree, Davis, and Boldin.  They can make plays and they can block.  Percy Harvin has always had the stigma of being injury prone, though he only missed three games in his first three seasons.  Then came the hip injury that held him out for much of last season and almost all of this season.  Last week, the Saints treated him like a piñata and gave him a concussion.  Harvin is by far the best playmaker in the Seahawks receiving corps, and I have a feeling he will not be cleared for this game.  Golden Tate is a decent option as well, but he tends to disappear for long chunks at a time.  The 49ers clearly have an advantage on the Offensive Line, with the Seahawks line varying between poor to above average throughout the season.

On the defensive side of the ball, both teams are pretty good in the front seven.  The 49ers strength is clearly their linebacking corps, with Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Aldon Smith all being annual All-Pro candidates.  The Seahawks have a deep, varied group of players in their front seven.  They have guys who can stop the run, rush the passer, and do a little bit of everything.  The Seahawks biggest advantage in this game is in the defensive backfield.  They have two of the best players in the NFL residing in their secondary.  Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas give the Seahawks the freedom to play tight, man coverage while they turn their big bodies up front after the quarterback.  The 49ers secondary has been pretty good all season, but are dealing with an injury to starter Carlos Rogers.  I think that having Michael Crabtree back will be a huge boost for San Francisco, allowing Anquan Boldin to avoid Sherman for most of the day.  I also think that if the refs decide to call the game in the secondary tight, it will be a huge disadvantage for the Seahawks.  They play physically tough and if they get called for ticky tack penalties, it will change the entire complexion of their defensive gameplan.  We will see if being the home team will give them an advantage with the officials.

Going into this week, I was leaning heavily towards picking the Seahawks.  I think that the 49ers are used to being the more aggressive, physical team and when they face a team that punches back like Seattle, they are thrown for a bit of a loop.  However, just going on the matchups, I think that San Francisco has the better coach, receivers, offensive line, and defensive front.  I think the Seahawks have the better QB, defensive backfield, and obviously a legit home-field advantage.  I think the Seahawks will be able to pass on the 49ers, while the 49ers will be able to run against the Seahawks.  Both defenses should play well enough to keep their teams in the game, while both offenses will have trouble actually putting the game away once they have the lead.  This could lead to the scenario of last team to have the ball wins the game.  In that case, I’ll take the points and the superior coaching, despite the 9ers being on the road in the hardest place to play in the NFL.

Pick: 49ers +3.5

Teaser:  Since this is the last week we have more than 1 game, here is the teaser I think I am going to lay.  It seems like a pretty obvious teaser, but I am going to place it nonetheless.

Broncos +0.5, Broncos/Pats Under 62, 49ers +9.5, 49ers/Hawks Over 33

Well folks, we have made it to the NFL Divisional Weekend.  Many NFL diehards point to this weekend as the best weekend of football, as all the championship “pretenders” have been weeded out and the best 8 teams are still playing.  One quick note on last week’s picks.  Since I try to get this blog up before the end of the work week, the spreads may change.  I had Indianapolis at -2.5 on Thursday, which changed to Chiefs -1 in some books by kickoff.  This is just the nature of the gambling beast, but I will be sure to update the blog if something like this occurs in the future.  Again, my apologies.

To recap last week, I liked the Colts -2.5, Saints +2.5, Saints Money Line, 49ers -2.5.  I also picked the Bengals -7, but would have stayed away from the game due to the Chargers up and down nature.  Anyway, on to this week.

Saints @ Seahawks

Line: Seahawks -7.5

After a full week of talking up the Saints on the road due to matchups and coaching, I am going to pull a 180 and explain why the Saints will not win or cover the spread this week.  First of all, the Saints were matched up with a team that had a defense that ranked anywhere from average to below average.  This week they will face the clear cut best defense in the NFL.  Last week the Saints played a team that has not had much of a homefield advantage the last few seasons.  This week they will go into the stadium that represents the biggest homefield advantage in the game.  According to the tremendous DVOA system of Football Outsiders, both teams are very good offensive teams.  However, Seattle clearly outclasses New Orleans in both defense and special teams.  The Saints are a great passing offense, but the Seahawks are the best passing defense in the league.  Sometimes football matchups are like a rock/paper/scissors game.  The Seahawks are the rock to the Saints scissor.  I see the Saints gearing up to stop Marshawn Lynch in the rushing game, but this will allow Russell Wilson to beat them with both his arm and his legs.  Add in Percy Harvin coming back and potentially making a big play on offense and/or special teams leads me to being very confident that Seattle will win this game comfortably.

Pick: Seahawks -7.5

Colts @ Patriots

Line: Patriots -7.5

Year in and year out, fortunes change in the NFL.  Teams go from worst-to-first and vice versa all the time.  It is not uncommon to even see a Super Bowl champion miss the playoffs the year after winning it all.  This makes the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Era so impressive.  Since Tom Brady took over as quarterback in 2001, the Patriots have only missed the playoffs in 2002 and 2008.  Every other season they won the AFC East, and in 2008 they missed the playoffs even though they had an 11-5 record and Tom Brady was injured for the season in the first quarter of the first game of the year.  I am saying all of this just to remind everyone how great these two legends are.  But despite ALL that, I am going to pick the Colts to cover this week.  Yes, the same Colts that gave up 44 points at home to the Chiefs last week, got blown out by the Rams this season, and are basically down to 2 playmakers on offense.  But I am doing this is because Andrew Luck is in the midst of taking the leap from good to great quarterback.  Luck is able to beat you with his arm, legs, and brain.  Based on last week’s play calling, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton may finally be willing to admit it is time to put all his chips behind the best quarterback prospect since John Elway.  And when the Colts do run the ball, Donald Brown has performed well, also giving Luck a good checkdown option when his receivers are covered.  While Luck will go up against the great Belichick’s schemes, he will not have to worry about the injured Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Brandon Spikes.  Luck’s newest security blanket TY Hilton will likely have the Pats defensive gameplan centered around him, with ace coverman Aqib Talib shadowing Hilton for most of the day.  While both are legit concerns, the Pats have been carved up by opposing WR1 since Talib hurt his hip in October.  As for the New England offense, they have not been very inspiring without Rob Gronkowski.  Tom Brady averaged almost 100 yards and a touchdown more per game when Gronk was in the lineup.  The Pats went from one of the best red zone teams in the league with Gronk to one of the worst without him.  While I admit the Colts defense is more up and down than the Gummi Bears, I think Chuck Pagano will prepare them enough to keep them in the game.  With the Pats offense looking pretty ordinary, their defense banged up, and the Colts proving their mettle against teams like the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos, I am picking the Colts in this game.

Pick: Colts +7.5

49ers @ Panthers

Line: Panthers +1

You gotta love when one of the best matchups of the regular season has a rematch in the playoffs.  This time the Panthers get to host the 49ers after beating San Francisco in their own building in Week 10.  Both of these teams have a lot of similarities to each other.  They are physical units that are built on defense with a rushing-first offense that relies on their quarterbacks to make plays with both their arms and their legs.  I think Cam Newton at this point is slightly better than Colin Kaepernick, however I think Kaepernick has better weapons around him.  I like Frank Gore a lot more than DeAngelo Williams and Co., while Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Anquan Boldin are much better than anything Carolina can throw at San Fran.  Finally, while Ron Rivera has done a great job with this unit throughout the year and is willing to take some calculated risks based on his team strengths, I think Jim Harbaugh outclasses him here.  Despite the Panthers winning in San Francisco, having a week of rest, and being the home team, I am going with coaching and Vegas here.  49ers is the pick.

Pick: 49ers -1

Chargers @ Broncos

A divisional matchup on divisional playoff weekend.  Isn’t that just lovely?  Divisional games always seem to be close, which bodes well for the underdog Chargers.  Both games were decided by 8 or less points, with the home team losing each time.  The Chargers have the least amount of “Three and Out” drives in the league, while the Broncos were second.  However, the Chargers forced the Broncos to go Three and Out five times in their last matchup, while the Bolts played keep away with a ball control offense.  Add in that the Chargers seem to be taking the shape of the Packers, Giants, and Ravens of yesteryear, as the hot team that is on a roll into the playoffs and wins it all.  The Broncos defense was already looking pretty bad, and then they lost their most talented player for the season when Von Miller tore his ACL in Week 16.  The Chargers defense has been no picnic itself, but seems to be playing better as of late.  Peyton Manning is perhaps the best regular season player of all-time, but among the most disappointing in the playoffs.  However, it is hard to blame him for last year’s defeat, which was partially due to a Joe Flacco Hail Mary that was answered.  The Chargers will try to shorten the game again with their ball control offense.  Ryan Mathews has run roughshod on the Broncs this season, but is still dealing with an ankle sprain that kept him out of practice and most of the Bengals game last week.  I have a feeling that the Broncos will jump on the Chargers early and Mathews will be extremely limited with his injury.  Peyton has burned me in the playoffs in the past, but I am going to go with him again here.

Pick: Broncos -9.5

As always, thanks for reading and enjoy the games this weekend!

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Welcome to a new column on the blog called Straight Cash Homey.  Occasionally I will serve up some betting ideas for certain games throughout the year.  This column also serves a homage to the greatest soundbite in sports history.  Without further ado, here are my picks for the 2014 NFL Wild Card Weekend.

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Chiefs @ Colts

Line= Colts -2.5

Only a few months ago, the Chiefs were in the conversation for the title of Best Team in Football.  However, since their bye in Week 10, the Chiefs have gone 2-5.  They went 2-0 against teams picking in the top 5 of the 2014 NFL Draft and 0-5 against teams in the 2014 playoffs.  The Colts are the opposite.  The have played bad games against bad teams, but seem to play their best against the NFL’s best.  Wins over the Seahawks, Broncos, 49ers, and these Chiefs have me thinking that the Indiana Lucks are going to win this game by more than a field goal.  As long as they can neutralize Jammy Charles, the Colts will win this game by 7+.

Pick: Colts -2.5

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Saints @ Eagles

Line= Eagles -2.5

There has been a lot of talk this week (and rightfully so) about how much better the Saints are at home.  Betting against the Saints on the road has been a strategy I have used all season.  However, I am going against this policy for this game for a few reasons.

  1. I think Sean Payton is a much better NFL coach at this stage of his career than Chip Kelly.
  2. I trust Drew Brees a lot more than I trust Nick Foles, regardless of where the game is played.
  3. While the Saints have trouble winning away from home, the Eagles recently have had trouble winning AT home.  While I don’t think this is a huge deal, it’s not like the Saints are marching into Seattle on a Monday night this week.
  4. The Saints seem to be a better team according to Football Outsider’s tremendous rating system of DVOA.
  5. The only playoff team the Eagles beat this year were the Packers when Aaron Rodgers was out.

This should be a high scoring game, with the Eagles controlling the ball on the ground and the Saints trying to win it with the pass.  But for the reasons above, I am leaning heavily towards the Saints.

Pick: Saints +2.5.  I’d even consider the Saints money line at +117.

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Chargers @ Bengals

Line= Bengals -7

The annual Chargers see-saw has made its way back into the playoffs.  With ball control victories against teams like Denver and Indianapolis, the Chargers have shown to be a potentially dangerous team when they need a win.  But they also needed a missed field goal and overtime to beat the Chiefs Junior Varsity team in Week 17.  This Chargers team was also beaten at home by the Bengals in Week 13.  The Bengals are 8-0 at home and have scored 49, 41, 42, 42, and 34 points respectively in their last five home games.   I like the Bengals to win this game, but I would personally stay away from it for betting purposes.  The ball control offense that the Whisenhunt/McCoy/Rivers team can throw at Cincy can make this a very weird game, even though I think the Bengals will walk away with the victory.

Pick: Bengals -7, though I’d rather stay away.  

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49ers @ Packers

Line= Packers +2.5

It seems like a lifetime ago, but 49ers/Packers was the premiere game of Week 1 of this NFL season.  After the Packers were thrashed by Colin Kaepernick and the read-option in last year’s playoffs, everyone wanted to see how Dom Capers and his defense would adjust in the rematch.  They “contained” Kaepernick to 22 yards rushing, but were destroyed through the air to a tune of 412 yards and 3 touchdowns.  A lot has changed since that game.  Kaepernick has had some struggles, the Packers have discovered a reliable running back in Eddie Lacy, and the Packers have gotten back their best offensive player from injury (Aaron Rodgers) while losing their best defensive player to injury (Clay Matthews).  The vaunted 49ers defense has not inspired the same awe and fear that they did in 2012, but this is still a very good unit.  They have not allowed a 100 yard rusher this year and rank number 5 in the NFL in total defense.  Eddie “Gouda Buddha” Lacy has been impressive, but I think San Francisco should be able to keep him in check.  Meanwhile, the Packers are 24th against the pass and 25th against the run.  Having Rodgers back will help Green Bay limit the damage their defense can do to the scoreboard, but I just don’t see how they really get things going.  I think San Francisco has the perfect make-up of a team that can go into Green Bay and win a playoff game.  The McCarthy-era Packers have a history of losing to ball-control, defensive teams at home in the playoffs.  I see this game going the same way.  Kaepernick, Gore, Crabtree, and Davis will be too much for the Pack to overcome against that defense.

Pick: 49ers -2.5

With another holiday season in the books, it is time to look back on what was overrated and underrated during this magical time.

Underrated:

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Mistletoe:  You cannot go wrong with something that encourages people to kiss.  Whether it is used for comedic purposes or can help break the ice for that awkward first kiss, mistletoe is great (especially at parties where the alcohol is flowing).

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Santa Coke:  Santa Coke is great because just seeing the can or bottle reminds you that Christmas is around the corner.  But that isn’t the best part about it.  Santa Coke also tastes somewhere between 30-70% better.  I am convinced the people at Coca Cola put some extra sugar/flavor into the soda during the holiday season in order to add a little cheer into everyone’s lives.

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Liquor gift sets:  A bottle of booze is always a good gift during the holiday season.  But usually for the same price, you can get a gift set, with a glass or some sort of bonus inside with the bottle.  Admittedly I love collecting drinking glasses, but I think this is always a sweet perk when buying or receiving gifts.  Plus the other half of the gift makes you feel happy/funny/invincible.

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Candy Canes:  God bless these sugary treats from the Gods.  They taste great, make your breath smell better, and look nice when hanging on a Christmas tree.  I love that peppermint is the unofficial flavor of Christmas and I hope that people one day celebrate “peppermint season” as much as they currently celebrate “pumpkin season”.  We need more peppermint flavored treats during the holidays.  Remove the few remaining gingerbread staples and focus on peppermint.

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Personalized Christmas Ornaments:  The last few years I have received a few personalized Christmas ornaments as gifts and I love it.  For some reason, when something is in “ornament form”, it just seems well done.  For the foreseeable future, you will put up those ornaments every year and think about that event/friend/family member/time of your life and smile.  Next year buy someone a good ornament and I guarantee they will like it.

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The Christmas Glow: Nothing beats turning on your Christmas tree lights, turning off the rest of the lights around the house, and just laying down and basking in the glow of Christmas lights.  Add some fresh tree smell and you fill up with the Christmas spirit immediately.  In fact, I am going to write the rest of this blog in that exact state.  I suggest you do the same.

Overrated:

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Fruitcake: How fruitcake became an annual tradition, I’ll never know.  It always has a weird flavor to it and anything cake related should be 100% great.  When someone brings it to a party, it usually goes untouched.  We need to change up the traditional dessert of Christmas to match the all around greatness that is Christmas.

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Black Friday: I hate almost everything about Black Friday. The best deals are either impossible to get or are junk you would never usually buy. These soulless corporations make their employees work on holiday and extremely long hours. People fight and hurt each other for crappy deals.  The stories have gone from a funny sideshow to a scary annual tradition.  Shop online and save yourself time, money, and ER visits.

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Egg Nog:  Whenever I eat eggs, I need some sort of combination of meat, cheese, and/or bread to mask the pure taste of egg.  An entire drink devoted to this flavor?  No thanks.  If hosts have to often ask “Do you like egg nog?” at a party, it means there is a wide array of people who hate it.  Let’s think of a drink that is unique to the holiday season and goes well with booze.  Let’s stop this charade that egg nog isn’t pretty awful and just acknowledge that it’s a very weird way to get a buzz.  Facts are facts.  Maybe something with peppermint could work…

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New Year’s Eve: On paper, New Year’s Eve should be amazing.  Alcohol is a staple to the holiday, almost everyone is off the next day, and it lends itself to happiness and celebration.  But usually it ends with people fretting about what to do, going to an overpriced bar/restaurant, and partying with people who cannot handle their booze.  The New Year’s Eve shows on TV are usually filled with celebrities and musicians you would never have any interest in.  And you spend the first day of the new year in complete shambles.  Sorry New Year’s Eve, but you are overrated.