Laughter is best medicine for LeBron, and NFL picks

If LeBron James wants to get past the PR nightmare that was “The Decision,” he should start by not taking himself so seriously.

LeBron James

Why so serious, LeBron James? Associated Press photo

The Minneapolis Star Tribune had a story in today’s editions about how James will be gunning for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season and, notably, forward Anthony Tolliver.

Tolliver, if you remember, did his own version of “The Decision,” which he published on YouTube under the title, “The Decision: Part Deux.” In it, he confirms to the world that he will indeed play for the Timberwolves, spoofing James’ announcement earlier in the offseason, when James told the world on national TV he would play for the Miami Heat.

See below for weekly NFL picks. Here’s the video:

Weekly NFL picks

Somehow I once again forgot to make NFL picks last week. I really have to get my life’s priorities straight.

Anywho, I’m at 14-11 picking against the spread this season. Here’s my picks for Week 8:

Detroit by 1 over Washington. Lions

St. Louis by 3 over Carolina. Rams

New York Jets by 4 1/2 over Green Bay. Packers

Oakland by 1 1/2 over Seattle. Seahawks

New Orleans vs. Pittsburgh pick ‘em: Steelers

Who wants to win the NFC North?

So, NOW who do you think will win the NFC North? And how much are you willing to bet?

One thing is for sure: The NFC North appears to be lacking a dominant team. The NFC as a whole appears to be without a dominant team. It’s hard to guess with any conviction who is going to come out of that conference and go to the Super Bowl.

The Chicago Bears (4-2) are suffering major offensive line problems. Quarterback Jay Cutler – who has played pretty well thus far – has missed one game already with a concussion. And it’s safe to say if things don’t improve along the O-line, he’ll probably miss more time.

The Green Bay Packers (3-3) have lost back-to-back games in overtime. But they’ve lost a whole lot more than that. First, running back Ryan Grant got injured in their first game. He’s out for the season. And recently, tight end Jermichael Finley was sidelined for the season as well. They still have Aaron Rodgers, who didn’t miss any starts due to a concussion suffered a couple weeks ago. But the running game has been stagnant without Grant.

And the Minnesota Vikings (2-3), coming off a win Sunday against Dallas, are riding a 41-year-old quarterback that has more than just sexting allegations to worry about. His elbow problems are pretty evident when watching the Vikings play. They still got Adrian Peterson, who has been phenomenal so far.

I suppose you can’t rule Detroit out the way the other teams are playing. But for now, I am going to.

I’m going to take the easy way out right now and say I still like the Bears, despite having lost two of their last three. An offensive line can be a difficult thing to correct, but they’re in the driver’s seat, and the schedule the next few weeks is pretty light (Washington, BYE, Buffalo). Second-half schedule is real tough though, so they must win the next two.

Reviewing the Week 6 NFL picks

I went 3-2 this past week again. That’s becoming the norm. That puts me at 14-11 on the season. My Chiefs failed me for the first time this season I think. A late TD for Houston gave the Texans a four-point win. The spread had Houston by 3.5 so I lost that one.

Brewster survives another day

Despite reports Friday that University of Minnesota football head coach Tim Brewster would be fired if the Gophers lost Saturday to Purdue – and they did lose Saturday – it appears Brewster remains employed by the university.

Tim Brewster

Minnesota football head coach Tim Brewster sports a 15-30 career record. Associated Press photo

Having said that, I’m not surprised at all that the Gophers would wait a day before making an announcement like that if they do plan to do something immediately. I would expect them to make a move Sunday, after AD Joel Maturi – who is also on the hot seat – has had a chance to sit down with Brewster.

I know this may surprise some people for me to say what I’m about to say, but I hope even if the Gophers do fire Brewster that they let him finish out the season if he chooses to do so. I think if you’re a player on this team, you still deserve to be put in the best position to win.

Granted, with Brewster as head coach, it’s not a great position. But I’m not really sure what good it does the players to promote one of the coordinators to interim coach, only to probably watch that coordinator get let go after the season when a new coach is hired.

But for the sake of the fan base, it might not hurt – if you plan to let Brewster go after the season anyway – to make an announcement soon. I think the fans are ready. I’m sure the boosters are ready.

Weekly NFL picks: Week 6

I’m 11-9 makes picks vs. the spread this season. So let’s keep it going. Here’s five for this week:

Houston by 3 ½ over Kansas City. Chiefs

New England by 3 over Baltimore. Patriots

Philadelphia by 3 over Atlanta. Falcons

New Orleans by 6 ½ over Tampa Bay. Saints

Tennessee by 3 over Jacksonville. Titans

Vikings reaction, NFL picks and a radio teaser

Through four games, the Minnesota Vikings have one win. If that doesn’t make Vikings fans shake in their boots, the way they lost Monday probably does.

Brett Favre

Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre really seems to be struggling with that throwing arm of his. Associated Press photo

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Brett Favre is starting to look his age. But it’s not just that he’s 41 years old. The problems he’s having with that throwing arm of his are pretty obvious, notably on that fourth-quarter pass that went well above the outstretched arms of a wide-open Percy Harvin on what could have been a game-winning drive.

I know there’s at least one colleague of mine whose been officially eliminated from the Vikings record pool with his gutsy – yet misguided – 14-2 prediction.

I fear it will be a long season for the Purple Faithful, unless Favre magically gets that arm healthy again. The guy had a career year last season and it still wasn’t enough. What record will the Vikings finish with if he continues to play at this pace?

But one good note for all of you: At least your starting QB is active. I watched Todd Collins – who looked more like a never-will-be than a has-been – nearly throw away the Chicago Bears’ victory Sunday with four interceptions. Where have you gone, Jay Cutler?

The Vikings are the only team in the NFC North whose starting QB is still playing. Cutler and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are both recovering from concussions, and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford injured his shoulder in Week 1 and hasn’t played since.

Reviewing the NFL picks

Not a bad week for the weekly NFL picks. Third time this season I went 3-2, and this time I took the favorite against the spread in all of my picks. I got the Bears, Lions and Falcons right. But the Cards and Raiders ruined my picks of the Saints and Chargers.

Overall this season against the spread I am 11-9.

Radio teaser

Tom Mix and I will be joining WDAY’s Dom Izzo on “Dizzo’s Den” from 6:30 to 7 p.m. tonight on 970-AM WDAY radio. This will be the first radio appearance for either Tom or myself since the cancellation of “Sports Talk” so it should be fun.

We had planned to talk Twins the whole 30 minutes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have some Vikings reaction too.

My hope is to reveal to the world my thoughts on what the Twins need to do to shake their playoff doldrums.

I assume you take part in the show the same way as you did on “Sports Talk” and that’s by calling 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mailing talk@wday.com

Twins take the field tonight, and weekly NFL picks return

Brian Duensing takes the mound tonight trying to extend the Minnesota Twins season. The Twins are down 0-2 in their best-of-5 first-round series to the New York Yankees.

Brian Duensing

Minnesota Twins pitcher Brian Duensing. Associated Press photo

At the very least, I’m sure Twins fans wouldn’t mind seeing the unreal 11-game postseason skid come to an end.

I’m left thinking how even if the Twins win tonight at Yankee Stadium, what are their chances tomorrow with No. 4 starter Nick Blackburn going against Yankees ace CC Sabathia?

I guess that’s the benefit of going with a three-man rotation in the playoffs. Pitch Carl Pavano in Game 1 and on short rest in Game 4, and have Francisco Liriano pitch Game 2 and be on full rest in Game 5. The rationale for flipping Pavano and Liriano is that Pavano is probably better suited to pitch on short rest.

I was out of town for about four days last week and didn’t get around to making my weekly NFL picks. So the record is 8-7 heading into Week 5.

  • Lions by 3 over Rams. Lions
  • Bears by 3 over Panthers. Bears
  • Falcons by 3 over Browns. Falcons
  • Saints by 7 1/2 over Cardinals. Saints
  • Chargers by 5 over Raiders. Chargers

September slump shouldn’t concern Twins fans

Fans of the Minnesota Twins will have to excuse me for not being too worked up over the team’s losing streak, which reached four games after Minnesota failed to hold an early lead en route to losing 10-8 to Kansas City on Tuesday.

Fans can be quick-triggered, so after the Minnesota Vikings’ win Sunday, it’s easy to shift gears from Vikings panic mode to Twins panic mode.

But I think what the Twins are going through is pretty normal. Barring a huge collapse, they’ve had a pretty good grip on home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Since clinching a playoff spot last week, they’ve essentially been playing for two reasons: Getting an extra home game in the ALCS, and not getting injured.

Ballplayers are paid to play 162 games, but two of the team’s best hitters – Joe Mauer and Jim Thome – haven’t played during the slump.

I think for the Twins, it’s more important to enter the playoffs with a set rotation and a healthy lineup than it is to get home-field advantage in the ALCS when the Twins aren’t even guaranteed a spot in it. If Mauer or Thome misses time in the ALDS, it won’t matter what position they’re in with the ALCS. They need those two sluggers healthy.

As far as momentum, there’s an interesting comment on the latest blog post from Howard Sinker at the Star Tribune. I didn’t see the story the person who left this comment is referring to, but I’ll let you take a look at it:

Interesting tidbit in ESPN The Mag this week. They had a piece on the complete nonsense of “momentum” heading into the playoffs. Popular thinking has most fans believing it to be very important. Reality shows that only 2 of 20 teams that were 8-2 or better in the last ten games advanced to the WS. Contrarily, there were more WS participants that finished 3-7 or worse. Health and good fortune mean much more than how a team finishes the regular season.

Also, baseball fans, don’t forget to check out PBS at 7 tonight for the first in the two-part “Tenth Inning” of Ken Burns‘ “Baseball” documentary. The initial nine innings, which came out in 1994, were outstanding. Can’t wait to see what Burns has done with the years 1993-2009.

Reviewing the Week 3 NFL picks:

  •  Not as good this week. Got the Chiefs and Bengals right, but missed on the Saints, Giants and Redskins. I shouldn’t be putting faith in the G-Men right now. Record for the season in my picks against the spread is 8-7.

The greatest home run ever, and weekly NFL picks

Bing Crosby‘s legacy will leave a lasting impact in the world of baseball.

Maz

Soon the world will see more of the 1960 World Series than just Bill Mazeroski's home run trot. Associated Press photo

It was reported Friday that Crosby – a famous actor and singer who passed away in 1977 – left behind a complete copy of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees. The Pirates famously won the game on a Bill Mazeroski homer in the bottom of the ninth inning at Forbes Field.

Footage of Mazeroski’s homer has been shown frequently in the last 50 years, but no copy of the entire NBC broadcast was known to exist until it was found in Crosby’s wine cellar.

Crosby was a former part-owner of the Pirates.

MLB Network will reportedly air the footage sometime during the offseason.

And for the Week 3 NFL picks (6-4 record through first two weeks):

  • Saints by 4 1/2 vs. Falcons. Saints
  • Giants by 3 1/2 vs. Titans. Giants
  • Bengals by 3 1/2 vs. Panthers. Bengals
  • 49ers by 1 at Chiefs. Chiefs
  • Redskins by 3 1/2 at Rams. Redskins

Too early for the panic button, Vikings fans?

Nobody can blame the Minnesota Vikings for losing their season opener. Facing the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints would make Week 1 tough for any team.

But losing to the Miami Dolphins in the home opener? That probably wasn’t a scenario Vikings fans envisioned.

So with Minnesota and 0-2, while Chicago and Green Bay are both 2-0, is it too early for Vikings fans to hit the panic button? I would say “yes” but that doesn’t mean fans should venture too far from that panic button.

This is the reality of the NFL, though. In Major League Baseball, you go get ‘em tomorrow. If Joe Nathan blows a save, he’s got a decent chance of being able to rebound from that with an appearance the next day.

In the NFL, fans and the media have a full seven days to wait. The anticipation – or the despair, in this case – builds and builds.

So while I don’t think the sky is falling for Vikings fans just yet, a loss to Detroit in Week 3 could change that.

I tried to keep one eye on the Vikings-Dolphins game on Sunday while watching the Bears-Cowboys matchup. I was left with a couple of thoughts:

  • Vikings defense has played pretty well in first two weeks. This unit kept the Saints in check, and other than Brandon Marshall‘s big catch in first quarter to set up the Dolphins’ first touchdown, Miami didn’t move the ball much at all.
  • Brett Favre is looking a tad old. Seems like he’s not moving around in the pocket nearly as well as he was last year. That bum ankle is affecting him.
  • As for the pocket, the offensive line is struggling right now. That hasn’t stopped Adrian Peterson too much, but there were a couple of short yardage situations that the Vikings just couldn’t pick up the big first down or touchdown.

Reviewing the Week 2 picks:

  • Went 3-2 for the week and am now 6-4 on the season picking the spread. This week, I missed on the Bills (by a lot!) and the Ravens, but got the Broncos, Chiefs and Colts right.

With most precincts reporting, I’m calling it: Twins are in

That’s right, folks. Despite the lessons learned from last year’s wild AL Central comeback, I think the Minnesota Twins’ lead is big enough for me to say it’s over and not worry about a jinx. With a 10-game lead over the Chicago White Sox and 14 games left, the Twins’ magic number to clinch the division is just 5. So, it’s over.

Jim Thome

Jim Thome's a man. He's 40. And he needs rest. Associated Press photo

The Twins main objective now is giving their players adequate rest, something they haven’t been able to do in years past, since the Twins are usually come-from-behind second half team. They’re still a second-half team this year, with the best record in baseball after the All-Star break. They just didn’t require the late-season heroics.

So give Francisco Liriano an extra day’s rest here or there. Try to spot Joe Mauer from time to time. And take care of Jim Thome and his all-important 40-year-old back. That’s the priority. And try to get that home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Considering the Twins’ lead over Texas, they should have it in the first round regardless.

And for my Week 2 NFL picks (I went 3-2 in Week 1). My picks are bold.

  • Green Bay by 12 over Buffalo. Bills
  • Cleveland by 3 over Kansas City. Chiefs
  • Denver by 3 over Seattle. Broncos
  • Baltimore by 1 over Cincinnati. Ravens
  • Indianapolis by 5 1/2 over N.Y. Giants. Colts

NFL Week 1 observations

I watched a lot more NFL action this past weekend than I normally do. My satellite provider had a free preview of NFL Sunday Ticket, and I couldn’t resist wringing every last drop of free football out of it.

A few thoughts:

  • As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Chicago Bears fan. Their win got a lot of publicity after Calvin Johnson‘s seemingly sure-thing touchdown to put the Detroit Lions ahead in the final minute was overturned and ruled incomplete. Rules are rules, but if that’s not a catch, it seems like a rule that should be fixed after the season. As for the Bears, a win is a win. They gained a lot of yards, but at the same time committed way too many turnovers. And why, with his defense dominating, did Bears head coach Lovie Smith pass up a go-ahead field goal chance in the fourth quarter to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1? Terrible decision.
  • Speaking of going for it, did anyone else catch the end of the New England Patriots-Cincinnati Bengals game? Here’s the scene: Patriots up by 14, facing a fourth-and-2 deep in Bengals territory with about 1:30 left in the game. So what does Bill Belichick opt to do? Of course. Go for it. He passes up a chip-shot field goal to put the Patriots up three possessions with 90 seconds left. And, of course, the Patriots don’t convert. I appreciate Belichick thinking outside the box, but once again, nobody was rooting harder than I was for the Bengals to make him pay. I honestly don’t see how anyone can defend going for it there. Give it a shot if you like.
  • Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips got a lot of guff about his decision to call a hail mary in the final seconds of the first half against the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. The Redskins forced a fumble on that play and ran it back for a touchdown to end the first half. I can see why Phillips is getting some heat for it. But at the same time, if it’s a hail mary, what is Tony Romo doing flipping the ball to Tashard Choice. That ball needs to be tossed down the field.
  • Jets-Ravens was pretty much what everyone expected. It will be interesting to see what Baltimore does with all of its weapons on offense this season. Not much can be done against that New York defense.
  • I watched the Chiefs-Chargers game from start to finish, because I had a couple of fantasy players involved. One of them – Jamaal Charles – broke off a big TD run in the first half. The Chiefs have some game-changing players. Dexter McCluster ran back a touchdown on a punt. If their passing game can get going, they could be an exciting team to watch.

Reviewing the Week 1 picks:

  • Went 3-2. Got the Giants, Packers and Steelers right against the spread. Wrong on Niners and Cowboys.