Thursday, November 22, 2012

Talkin’ Thanksgiving and “Hero Picks”

Gonna try to keep it short today. There’s food to eat. And football to watch. And thanks to give.

Vera and I are avoiding the highways and sticking close to home today for Thanksgiving. We’ll catch up with the families soon at Christmas. Meanwhile, I’ll focus on the three NFL games today and my picks in each.

I’m still battling in my “Pigskin Pick’em” pool, trying to defend my title from last year. Right now my team More Cowbell is six games out of the lead in the pool -- perhaps too far to come back and win, actually, although close enough to sneak into the money should I find a way to gain back a few games during the final six weeks of the season.

Last week I made three “hero picks” on my sheet -- that is, games where I picked a team to win knowing that it was very likely most of the rest of the pool would be going the other way.

One was to pick the woeful N.Y. Jets to beat the even more woeful St. Louis Rams, a game in which everyone took the Rams, I took the Jets, and N.Y. won easily (27-13). Felt like a genius there.

Another was to take my Carolina Panthers versus Tampa Bay. Again, everyone (practically) took the Bucs, and when Carolina was up by 11 with six minutes to go, I again was feeling genius-like. I was even starting mentally to prepare a tweet saying something along the lines of “Who’s got two thumbs and picked the Jets and Panthers today? This guy.” (Jinxed!)

Of course, Carolina incredibly found a way to give another game away. It took giving up two quickie drives, a two-point conversion, and turning down another opportunity at sealing a game by punting on fourth-and-1, but they did it.

Because I enjoy pain, I had to check the “win probability” graph over at Advanced NFL Stats for this game, which showed the Panthers at 99% to win with a minute left. (Insert Wilhelm scream here.)

My third “hero pick” last week was to take the Roethlisberger-less Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night. Again, everyone else took Baltimore, and while Pittsburgh looked like they were capable of winning the game they managed to come up short to lose 13-10. So by going 1-2 in “hero picks” I lost a game to the lead pack, but I still felt like I had done well to try and gain some ground. (I was 12-2 overall last week, actually, but there was so much “chalk” everyone did well in Week 11.)

Today there are two games in which everyone will likely pick big favorites. Most will take the Houston Texans (9-1) to beat Detroit (4-6). And most will also pick New England (7-3) to beat the Jets (4-6), I think, even though the Jets took N.E. to overtime earlier this year.

I, too, will probably have to stick with the favorites in these two games, as making “hero picks” just for the sake of being different makes no sense when the team you’re picking can’t win the game. Would be like purposely pushing chips in the middle in an unmistakably negative-EV spot with hopes of getting lucky. No, a “hero pick” is more like a “hero call” in poker insofar as it is unorthodox, but done with a legitimate chance of winning.

The Washington (4-6) at Dallas (5-5) game, however, is more of a Q-Q-vs.-A-K affair. Or should I say, T-6o-vs.-8-7s. The pool will probably be divided, I’m going to guess, with a few more taking the Cowboys. I’d much prefer going with the Skins, if only because I hate relying on Dallas to win. But I’m still deciding. (I’m also mindful that by picking Washington I will have taken all three visiting teams on a short week.)

My hesitation to pick Dallas points back one other “hero pick” I made in Week 6 when I took the Cowboys against Baltimore. Dallas dominated the game, with more than 40 minutes of possession. But they gave away points (kickoff return TD), then botched clock management at the end and missed a long FG to lose 31-29. Again, the entire pool took the Ravens in that one, so it was a two-game swing in the wrong direction for More Cowbell.

So I’m trigger shy when it comes to the Cowboys, and thus uncertain with regard to the one game today that’ll probably have much effect on the standings. Still I’m thankful to be back here on the couch with Vera here and the delicious food smells starting to fill the air.

Speaking of giving thanks, let me do so as well to Bluff Magazine for including me again as a nominee in their “Favorite Poker Blog” category in the 2013 Reader’s Choice Awards.

Voting for that opens up next week, so head over there then and vote for HBP. You know, if you happen to be looking for an underdog to pick.

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