Crystal Ball


My friends, THE GURU was all set to write a lengthy column about the national anthem and its place in the NFL this week when it hit me: the topic of if athletes are standing during a song – as a great a tune as it is – simply isn’t worth the ink.

Yes, it is important to me, personally, to stand during the anthem. I love this country and am beyond blessed to be an American.

But I also wholly support folks peacefully exercising their rights as Americans not to stand during the anthem, and to do so without fear of retribution. Yes, I’d love to see everyone rise and show respect with hat in their hand and hand over their heart but I also feel that, as a white male who grew up somewhat comfortably, that’s easy for me to say. If I were a black American, odds are I’d feel very differently. Who am to say their cause isn’t righteous?

At the end of the day, my allegiance is not to the anthem, the flag, my country or even my football team. My allegiance is to God – and God alone – so I thank Him every day for putting me in a nation where I am free to do as I see fit. And others are as well.

The Week Three record was (a) 10-6 (b) blind luck or (c) all the above. The answer, of course, is C and the season mark is now 27-20 (.574).

On to the games…



8:25 PM, NFL Network/CBS/Amazon Prime

Chicago (1-2) at Green Bay (2-1). If you have network TV (CBS), cable (NFL Network) or internet access (Amazon), you’ll be able to see this ballgame. Bezos, I may not be a fan of your kooky clock or your second-rate newspaper but I love what you’ve done with the interweb.

As for Thursday’s game, the longest-running and most-played rivalry in NFL history is tied at 94-94-6. What’s even more interesting: this is even though the Bears led the series by 24 games (!) as recently as 1992.

Brett Lorenzo Favre – hailing from the Italian province of Redneckio – is most responsible for the GB comeback, winning 20 of 23 games in one stretch, but Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been too shabby either, going 14-3 vs the Bears since 2009.

This means the Packers have their first chance to take the lead in this series since 1933! ’33! That’s when Prohibition began, when the Kit Kat was invented…seven years before THE CHIEF was foisted upon the world.

Where does this leave us? With no other choice but the home team, in a tight one. PACKERS, 24-22.


9:30 AM, FOX

New Orleans (1-2) vs. Miami (1-1) in London.Cutler is the quarterbacking equivalent of OBNOXIOUS MIKE. Would you trust either on another continent? SAINTS, 30-27.


Buffalo (2-1) at Atlanta (3-0).This game matches two teams who know Super Bowl pain like FATBACK HOBBS knows about a sweaty backside. FALCONS, 31-25…

…Pittsburgh (2-1) at Baltimore (2-1). What happened to these folks in Week Three? Both looked like strong contenders in the opening two games before faltering to the Bears and Jaguars, respectively.

Most disturbing was the Ravens’ defeat, an absolute drubbing at the hands of Tom Coughlin & Co. Yes, I know that Doug Marrone is the coach but if you don’t think Coughlin is pulling all the strings you need to watch the Manchurian Candidate on a loop. STEELERS, 16-14

…Cincinnati (0-3) at Cleveland (0-3). This game will be one for the aged i.e. the only folks who are going to watch this tilt will be those confined to their bed and unable to reach the remote.

Here’s what is in Cincy’s favor: Vontaze Burfict returns from a(nother) suspension and they played Green Bay well last week.

That said, I like the cut of Cleveland’s jib this year, despite the record. BROWNS on a late rouge, 5-4

…Tennessee (2-1) at Houston (1-2). Did you see recently retired Texans lineman Vince Wilfork in his “RIBS” hat? The man looks amazing. And the Texans and rookie Deshaun Watson are pretty impressive themselves, pushing the Pats to the brink in Foxboro.

Love how both teams are playing but giving the home team a slight edge. TEXANS, 22-21

…Jacksonville (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2).
The TCRI (Tom Coughlin Redface Index) went on hiatus last week with the head of Jacksonville’s football operations a happily pale white after the big victory.

Man, the Jags laid the wood to Baltimore with Blake Bortles looking like a superstar. How long will that last? Give it at least another week since Jacksonville is facing off against the Jets. NYJ may have won last weekend but, like a Trump victory, that’s more a function of the opposition. JAGS, 31-20.


Dee-troit (2-1) at Minnesota (2-1).
The Lions lost a heartbreaker last week on an official review while Minnesota, behind the one and only Case Keenum, obliterated what looks to be a highly overrated Bucs squad.

Everyone knows that Matthew Stafford’s won-loss record on the road vs winning teams isn’t good. It’s 1-25, in fact. But here’s where I provide the type of insight that you can only find in the Ball: it’s a team game and, if your team stinks, you’re seldom going to win on the road, no matter how the QB plays.

Look for the Lions’ defense to confuse Keenum all day long, first by designing exotic blitzes and then by tickling him after sacks. DEE-TROIT, 27-24…

…Carolina (2-1) at New England (2-1). A rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII and hey, Carolina, where is Jake Delhomme when you need him? Or Kerry Collins for that matter?

When your name is Cam Newton and you’re being mentioned in the same sentence as Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco, it can’t feel good. Truth is that Cam is still capable of carrying a heavy load – not unlike HONG KONG MIKE after a big buffet meal – but his body is banged up and he didn’t get a lot of work in the preseason. PATS, 35-23…

…Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Dallas (2-1). The fondest Rams-Dallas memory for moi? That’s easy – Vince Ferragamo hitting Billy Waddy on a deep crossing route for a 50-yard touchdown to knock the Pokes out of the 1979 playoffs. If you’re a legit football fan – please be excused, TOMMY BIRD – you’ll note at least three things in the related clip – first, the legendary Vin Scully is doing the broadcast; second, and most satisfying, George Allen, the former Redskins (and Rams) coach and passionate hater of all things Dallas, is the analyst; and third, Ferragamo literally takes a 10-step drop before delivering the ball.

Sean McVay has hit all the right notes thus far and, even though Dallas got off the schneid with a big win in Arizona, I like the Rams to confuse the Cowboys with unique offensive sets. Upset special. RAMS, 37-34.


4:05 PM, FOX

Philadelphia (2-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-3). This is as far from a rivalry as one can get – just the 12th meeting between these two combatants in a series that began in 1974.

The Birds are off to a solid start while the Chargers have lost three tight ballgames in painful fashion, following a season in which they lost 10 games (TEN!!!) by one score or less. These guys have worse fortune than PLODDING GEORGE STAHL’s masseuse. EAGLES, 23-21…

…San Fran (0-3) at Arizona (1-2).The Cards are on the decline but they’d have to fall much further to lose at some to SF. Expect Kyle Shanahan but come up with a few interesting wrinkles e.g. pork tamales at the pregame meal, but not enough to stop the home team. CARDINALS, 30-27…

…New York Giants (0-3) at Tampa Bay (1-1).Something’s gotta give here and it’ll likely be Eli and Jameis as they both love to hand the ball to their opponents. BUCS, 19-16.

4:25 PM, CBS

Oakland (2-1) at Denver (2-1). This rivalry is as bitter as a good order of broccoli rabe and the Raiders will come in spitting fire after being humiliated in DC last week. But all that anger doesn’t add up to having an answer for Mr. Von Miller & Co. BRONCOS, 25-24.


8:30 PM, NBC

Indianapolis (1-2) at Seattle (1-2). Don’t look now but the Jacoby Brissett Era has begun in Indy. I’d put it right up there with other memorable Colts quarterbacking regimes such as those of Mike Pagel and Art Schlichter. Seattle might squeak by in this one. SEAHAWKS, 27-13.


8:30 PM, ESPN

Skins (2-1) at Kansas City (3-0).I am excited about this ballgame, partly because I’ll be returning to my former stomping grounds of KC. On tap for the visit: barbecue as I don my Wilfork hat.

Folks overreacted to the Skins losing to Philly in Week One and they’re overreacting to their win over the Raiders last week, as epic as it was. I still see my boys as a 9-10 win team in 2017 with 11-12 coming in ’18.

Kansas City is as tough a road opponent as you could have – it is deafening in Arrowhead and the Chiefs are on a big high. Still….SKINS, 30-29.


That’s it for this week, all. Enjoy the games and God bless (especially you, YOSTY)!

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