Crystal Ball

WEEK FIFTEEN CRYSTAL BALL – PART THREE: GURU Asks, “Is Playing Football Worth the Pain?”

My friends, THE GURU has spent a lot of the 2017 season wincing (as opposed to Wentz-ing, which sounds painful and only takes place in Philadelphia).

Usually my grimaces are due to the Skins and their oft-mediocre play but, this season, my reaction has largely been the result of the multitude of injuries that have hit the NFL. I don’t have hard data to back it up but, like a lot of folks, I feel like there have been more wounded this year than in years past.

The Skins alone have placed 13 guys on season-ending injured reserve in 2017, including 11 who were expected to start or contribute heavily. And that’s really the tip of the NFL iceberg with others gone for the year including expected MVP candidate David Johnson (Arizona), Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Giants wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr., and Brandon Marshall, Houston QB Deshaun Watson, Seattle defensive backs Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman and Patriots wideout Julian Edelman. Of course, that doesn’t include Aaron Rodgers being gone for two months.

The average football player will tell you that injuries are a way of life. Personally, I was injured for most of my football career, probably due in equal parts to bad luck and inadequate conditioning (my fault, not the coaches). I’m thankful that I don’t have major ailments though from my junior year of high school onward, I only had a single healthy season. And I don’t regret it a bit.

Why is that? First, football helps to develop character and discipline, unlike almost any other sport or life activity such as, say, spending an evening out with OBNOXIOUS MIKE. Fun cannot be a priority – you must work when others are playing or sleeping. You must depend upon others and be depended upon. To use an adage, if 10 of the 11 men on the field do things right and the 11th does not, you probably won’t be successful.

Second, and more importantly, you develop lifelong relationships, bonds that can’t be broken. And you develop them with folks from diverse backgrounds, with many that don’t talk like you or look like you.

I think back in awe of how fortunate I’ve been as many of my very best friends are guys I spilled blood with on the gridiron: they live in places as different as Chicago, Kansas City, Orlando, Toronto, Los Angeles, Singapore and New Jersey. Some are white, some are black. Some are wealthy, some are not. One is a Canadian with Jamaican ancestry who was born in England. Another is a southerner who speaks a dialect that no one could decipher (Sorry, FATBACK HOBBS). They are all my brothers, and, without football, we wouldn’t have that bond.

So, if you’re a parent in the process of determining whether to let your child play competitive football, think long and hard about it. Yes, consider the likelihood of injuries – they WILL happen – but don’t forget that allowing them on the gridiron could be one of the best parenting decisions you ever make.


On to the games. After the first three contests of the weekend, I’m 1-2 and the season mark is 111-75 (.597). Here we go.



1 PM, CBS 

Miami (6-7) at Buffalo (7-6). Tyrod Taylor is back at QB with the Nathan Peterman Era on hold due to the rookie being knocked out of the blizzard loss to the Colts. While I hope the young man gets better soon, it’s a fact that the team is better off with him on the sideline as he plays the position a bit like J. Peterman, of Seinfeld fame, might.

Actually, that might be an insult to the real J. Peterman, who actually does own a catalog company and was, in fact, was an outstanding athlete at Holy Cross, playing on two College World Series teams and spending three years as an infielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Feel free to use that one at your next cocktail party. BILLS, 19-17…

…Baltimore (7-6) at Cleveland (0-13). New Cleveland GM John Dorsey has declared that anything less than a 2018 division title is failure, a statement that sent the medics straight for the office of Hue “1-28” Jackson, whose condition was stable at press time. Geez, John, I believe in setting the bar as high as the next guy but maybe establish some more reasonable goals, like winning a couple of preseason coin tosses. RAVENS, 10-8…

…Cincinnati (5-8) folds like a cheap suit at Minnesota (10-3) and BROTHER BLUENIK, always looking for a bargain, says “Wow, now those are some nice threads!”

…New York Jets (5-8) at New Orleans Saints (9-4). The Jets can compete in this game if they relentlessly pressure Drew Brees as the quarterback, surprisingly, has the league’s worst QB rating when opponents bring the heat. Methinks that Todd Bowles has it in him. SAINTS, 20-17.


Green Bay (7-6) at Carolina (9-4). Aaron Rodgers returns, giving the Packers a bit of hope, but it’ll be a tough slog against a Panthers’ defense that is fifth in the league in yards allowed, seventh against the pass and third in sacks. Carolina does have just seven interceptions this season, odd for a team whose defensive line applies that much pressure, so that may be Rodgers’ hope. PANTHERS, 22-20

…Houston (4-9) at Jacksonville (9-4). Easy to love the hosts here. JAGUARS, 27-12

…Philadelphia (11-2) at New York Giants (2-11). This is a great rivalry, in most seasons. Watch Foles dice these guys up like a Ginsu while the defense and running game step up in Carson’s absence. EAGLES, 43-13

…Arizona (6-7) at Washington (5-8). The key matchup here: NFL sack leader Chandler Jones vs. the Skins beat-up offensive line with right tackle Morgan Moses drawing the tough assignment much of the day. I think the Skins, and THE CHIEF, have one more heroic performance left in them. SKINS, 22-19.

4:05 PM, FOX

Los Angeles Rams (9-4) at Seattle (8-5). Seattle is a tough out at home, but the Rams are the better team in 2017. RAMS, 24-21.

4:25 PM, CBS

 New England (10-3) at Pittsburgh (11-2). THE TRE MAN needs monster performances from both Brady and Bell to save his fantasy team’s season, but I don’t think he’s gonna get it. No, this one may turn into a defensive battle instead. And, though that should favor the home team, I think Miami woke the Pats up last week. PATRIOTS, 20-17

…Tennessee (8-5) at San Francisco (3-10). San Fran has won three of four and is playing with a bit of confidence, the kind of swagger THE BIG D has when a customer strolls onto his used car lot with a wad full of loot. If they can pass block, they’ll win this one. NINERS, 21-20.

8:30 PM, ESPN

Dallas (7-6) at Oakland (6-7).The Skins gave Dallas second life and darned if the Cowboys aren’t about to run the table. We can only hope that it’s too little, too late for a playoff push. COWBOYS, 27-24.


8:30 PM, ESPN

Atlanta (8-5) at Tampa Bay (4-9). Tampa quit about a month ago, in late-70s Bucs fashion i.e. even a struggling Atlanta team will win this one. FALCONS, 30-20.

That’s it for this week, folks. Enjoy the games and God bless!


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