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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 1

NFL WEEK ONE: The fact that my first pick is the Rams should make it clear that this isn’t your typical stack of NFL predictions. In honor of the most entertaining football prognosticator of my youth, Leonard Postero, I employ some of the good-old-boy themes from his classic Leonard’s Losers radio show as a springboard for my own column in what we’ll call Woody’s Winners. Enjoy!

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Arizona @ St. Louis

It’s always fun when team-stealers (Arizona, which lured the Cardinals from St. Louis) come back to the scene of the crime to play their replacements. Former Rams QB hero Kurt Warner brought Super Bowl championship hopes to our 48th state, but he retired in January. This gave pretty-boy Matt Leinart time to shine, but Paris Hilton’s ex failed to impress and was released. Now at the helm of the Redbirds is ex-Brown Derek Anderson, who’ll face rookie Sam Bradford and the hapless Rams. The Cards have lost a few pieces, and they’ll be surprised in Week 1.

Woody’s Winner: St. Louis.

FACT: The NFL went to a 16-game schedule for 1978. Since then, the Cardinals franchise never won double-digit games until last season, when the team finished 10-6.

Click "more" to see my picks for the other 15 NFL games in Week 1.

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Atlanta @ Pittsburgh

The Atlanta Falcons have the offensive tools to compete with any team in the NFL, but their pass defense has been as spotty as a Dalmatian. Luckily, they head into Week 1 against a Roethlisbergerless roster of Steelers. The ‘Burgh knew they’d be without suspended-Ben’s services, but hung their hopes on now-injured Byron Leftwich. The Steelers won’t have enough smelt in their tanks to knock the Birds of Prey off their perch… even at home. Black-and-gold fans, wave your “terrible towels” and try to ward off the smell that may begin your team's 2010 season.

Woody’s Winner: Atlanta.

FACT: The Falcons have never won in Pittsburgh. The last time they visited Heinz Field in 2002, they played the Steelers to a 34-34 draw.

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Baltimore @ NY Jets

A Ravens-Jets game in Week 1 means smash-mouth football, so don’t be surprised to see a player or two carted off the field while both teams get to full speed to begin the season. The Jumbos have depth that the Corvus corax lack, however, which means that the Rex Ryan Express will drop its payload all over the team from Baltimore. This coming Monday Night, the New Meadowlands will be filled with passed-out Poe-birds by the time the final whistle blows.

Woody’s Winner: New York.

FACT: Last season, the Jets rushed the ball 607 times, an incredible 82 times more than the next-closest team (the Panthers).

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Miami @ Buffalo

Miami’s always been a Jekyll-or-Hyde team, and it’s tough to say whether the Mister or the Doctor will be “in” when the Bills come due in Week 1. Buffalo should be a better team now that they’re not struggling to justify signing Terrell Owens, but the nickelbacks won’t ride the marine-mammals while summer’s still in season. At least a few diehard Bison fans will get to visit the Southern Florida warmth before colder weather arrives.

Woody’s Winner: Miami.

FACT: The Bills beat the Dolphins in their last matchup of the 1960s and their first matchup of the 1980s, but Miami was a perfect 20-0 against Buffalo in the decade of the 1970s.

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Carolina @ NY Giants

The Panthers have an NHL twin (in Florida) and the Giants an MLB one (in San Francisco). We’d take the cats in that matchup, since 6 with hockey sticks beat 11 with gloves every time. But on Sunday, we’ll go Gotham, knowing that the “other” Manning is eager to rebound from last year’s lost season. Sweet Carolina has a top-tier rushing attack, but they won’t best the Big Guys at home in Week 1.

Woody’s Winner: New York.

FACT: The Giants and Jets share a stadium, so they rarely play home games in the same week, but the Giants play Sunday afternoon—and the Jets Monday night—to allow both teams to christen the New Meadowlands.

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Detroit @ Chicago

These Great Lakes cities have a rivalry of historic importance. Okay, what that really means is that it’s been many years since their match-ups have mattered very much. The Bears have found occasional success in our lifetimes, however, which is more than can be said for the Lions. Detroit’s offense may perform well this season, but their defense tackles like day-old kittens. And until Motown shows some teeth, picking them to win is about as smart as poking at an angry Grizzly with a toothbrush.

Woody’s Winner: Duh. I mean, Chicago

FACT: The lion logo on Detroit’s helmets was updated last season to give him a more “menacing” look. Good for him. And did you know he has a name? Bubbles. Yes, really.

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Cincinnati @ New England

In Week 1, we get to find out if Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco can truly fit on the field at the same time. While the Patriots will be ready for the Bengals’ pass bombs, Cincinnati won’t be able to stop New England’s more balanced attack. By the time the Tigers find out if it’s more than a hunch, the Tom Brady bunch will be well on their way to the Week 1 “win” column.

Woody’s Winner: New England

FACT: Despite being members of the AFL and then the AFC, the Bengals and Patriots have never faced one another in a postseason game.

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Cleveland @ Tampa Bay

It’s difficult to come up with a less-exciting matchup than mixing Browns with Bucs, but such games often turn out exciting to watch. At least Cleveland seems to be going in the right direction; Tampa Bay might as well switch back to their orange Bucco Bruce logo if they’re going to party like it’s 1976. The Dawg Pound would have more to root for if the Brownie’s weren’t mired in the tough AFC North, but Northeast Ohio will still party down on Dollar Corn Night.

Woody’s Winner: Cleveland

FACT: This game is one of only two inter-conference match-ups in Week 1 (the other is Atlanta @ Pittsburgh).

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Dallas @ Washington

Last year, Dallas’ new giant overhanging video screen doubled as a punting target. For 2010, the Redskins installed new end-zone screens at FedEx Field, and proclaimed them “punter-proof” in an obvious jab to the Cowboys. Washington should find out quickly if they’re really immune to punts, since they’ll be turning the ball over to Big D all night long. New Capital City QB Donovan McNabb will quickly learn to miss the prowess of the Philly team that once surrounded him, and D.C. will need some Romo-Seltzer before the Sunday-night game ends.

Woody’s Winner: Dallas

FACT: Weekly Sunday-night games were introduced on ESPN in 1987, and moved to NBC in 2006 when ESPN took over Monday Night Football.

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Denver @ Jacksonville

A Jaguar will beat a Bronco on the open road, but in the four-wheel-drive land of professional football, it’s nice to have ground clearance. Denver is still finding itself under QB Kyle Orton, and injuries to most of the running backs on their roster will reduce their ability to mix things up. Some fans feel that Tim Tebow could be the next John Elway, but that’s just the mile-high air making them lightheaded. Still, they’re playing in a city that has made it clear they’re bored with their NFL team, so enjoy the Jags before they head to Los Angeles.

Woody’s Winner: Denver

FACT: Forbes magazine recently labeled the Jags the least-valuable franchise in the NFL, worth $725 million when the league average is in excess of $1 billion.

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Green Bay @ Philadelphia

Kevin Kolb has a chance to pull an Aaron Rodgers by taking over the Eagles after long-serving QB Donovan McNabb left to serve our nation’s capital. If he proves half as successful, the Feathered Faithful will celebrate with cheesesteaks all around (but no bell-ringing). This time around, however, the Packers’ relentless sack machine will make cheddar at Lincoln Financial Field, with Kolb Salad on the side. Say cheese!

Woody’s Winner: Green Bay

FACT: If a Packers-Eagles game without Favre and McNabb seems foreign to you, you can watch those two face-off Thanksgiving weekend when Minnesota visits Washington.

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Indianapolis @ Houston

Like the Colts suffered in Indy until King Manning arrived, the Texans struggled before Prince Schaub came to town. This season might see a changing of the guard as people begin to realize that, hey, no team in a state that borders Lake Michigan should be a member of the AFC South. If Houston’s once-promising running game can get moooving, the Steers could become the toast of Texas this season.

Woody’s Winner: Houston

FACT: The Bizarro anti-version of this game would pit the Ravens (the team that replaced the Colts in Baltimore) against the Titans (the team that abandoned Houston before the Texans arrived.)

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San Diego @ Kansas City

All arrows point to the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that hasn’t been to the Super Bowl in 40 years. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Beginning the KC beatdown is a San Diego team that hopes that rookie RB Ryan Mathews can be the success that Ladanian Tomlinson once was. Expect the Chargers’ lightning to be very, very frightening to the Red & Gold. Len Dawson, where are you?

Woody’s Winner: San Diego

FACT: Ryan Mathews’ potential, along with his strong showing in preseason, has catapulted him to a first-round pick in most fantasy football leagues, a rare showing for a rookie.

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Minnesota @ New Orleans (Thu night)

This rematch of last season’s thrilling overtime NFC Championship will undoubtedly be the most-watched game of Week 1. Like that matchup, this one will occur in Louisiana, giving the Old Gold the home-field advantage. It remains to be seen whether Brett Favre has anything left in the tank, but even if he falters, there are worse options than handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson. Since opponents will be gunning for the Super Bowl Champs, the Saints will find it difficult to match last season’s level of success. At least for Week 1, however, they’ll hold their own against a top-tier team.

Woody’s Winner: New Orleans

FACT: The Men in Purple have defeated the Holy Ones in 7 of their last 8 regular-season meetings.

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Oakland @ Tennessee

Both the Raiders’ and the Titans’ logos incorporate blades, but it remains to see if Oakland can regain their once-sharp edge. JaMarcus Russell is history, but the Silver-and-Black inexplicably replaced him with another heralded underachiever, Jason Campbell. The new quarterback will quickly begin to miss the capable targets he had in D.C., especially when the Titans defense forces him into an impromptu audition for Dancing with the Stars. Oakland fans might want to wear patches over both eyes.

Woody’s Winner: Tennessee

FACT: With a stellar 13-3 record in 2010, Tennessee could bring the franchise to an overall winning record. Since 1960, the Oilers/Titans have gone 371-379-6.

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San Francisco @ Seattle

The Seahawks lost their top two WRs from last season, meaning the chemistry between QB Matt Hasselbeck and his new wideouts isn’t quite there yet. Enter Mike Singletary’s tough 49ers defense, and Monday morning’s $3 coffee won’t taste very good in Seattle. A good dose of Frank Gore will likely make this a low-scoring affair, and expect ‘Frisco to come out on top on the road.

Woody’s Winner: San Francisco

FACT: The 49ers made the playoffs 17 times from 1982-2002, but have not returned since.

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Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, but please be cordial to others; this is all in good fun. Thanks!

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9 Wild Moments from Winter Olympics History
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With the Pyeongchang Olympics nearing their final weekend in South Korea, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the wildest and most unpredictable moments of Winter Games past.

1. AUSTRALIA WINS ITS FIRST WINTER GOLD MEDAL WHEN SPEED SKATER WAITS FOR HIS COMPETITORS TO FALL DOWN

Knowing he was overmatched by his fellow athletes during the 1000 Meter Short Track Speed Skating competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Australian Steven Bradbury devised a strategy of waiting in the back of the pack on the off chance that his competitors might trip up. Amazingly, the strategy worked when a disqualification in the quarterfinals got him through to the semis and a crash sent him to the finals.

In the final, favorite Apollo Anton Ohno and the three other competing skaters collided in an epic crash; the trailing Bradbury was close enough to the pack to cross the finish line before any of the fallen skaters, becoming Australia's first gold medalist in the Winter Olympics.

2. ALPINE SKIER HERMANN MAIER FLIES OFF THE COURSE AT 70 MPH, GETS UP AND WALKS AWAY

In downhill alpine skiing, skiers travel at extremely high velocities (typically 60 to 85 miles per hour) down courses that closely follow the mountain's fall line.

In 1998, Nagano Olympics race officials were worried about the downhill course—specifically, a steep angle between the 6th and 7th gates. They altered this portion but the section still posed a danger.

Austrian Hermann Maier finished first in the World Cup standings before the Olympics but had a reputation for recklessness within the skiing circuit—in fact, according to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, “caution was not a word in Maier's vocabulary." Maier didn't slow down before the aforementioned dangerous turn in Nagano and went flying off the course at 70 miles per hour, tumbling to a halt some 50 meters away. In a sport where injuries—and even deaths—aren't unheard of, Maier shocked TV audiences by getting up and walking away with nothing more than a bruised shoulder.

Benefiting from a 24-hour weather delay on his next event, the Super-G, Maier used the extra rest to get back in full form and took home the gold. He also came in first in the Giant Slalom three days later.

3. WOMEN CHEAT BY HEATING UP THEIR SLEDS


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There have been a limited number of cases of cheating in the Winter Olympics (far fewer than in the Summer Olympics), but that doesn't mean it’s an impossibility. Just ask Ortrun Enderlein.

Enderlein, the defending luge champion, and her two East German teammates aroused suspicion by showing up just before their runs and leaving the scene hastily after. Enderlein won gold and her teammates placed 3rd and 4th, but upon closer inspection, it was discovered that their sleds had been heated immediately before the races, which reduced friction with the ice and resulted in faster times. The three were disqualified and the East German Olympic Committee blamed the affair on a "capitalist revanchist plot.”

4. SKI JUMPER RALLIES NATIONAL PRIDE BY FINISHING LAST

English plasterer Michael Edwards traveled to Lake Placid, New York two years before the 1988 Calgary Olympics to fulfill his dream of making the event as a downhill skier. When money ran short, he decided to switch to ski jumping because it was significantly cheaper and there would be no competition at the national trials. Edwards became the first Olympic ski jumper in British history, but was far below the standards of the rest of the field.

Edwards crashed at the World Championships the year before the '88 Games and was ridiculed by the international press, who dubbed him “Mr. Magoo” due to his thick-rimmed glasses and heavy frame.

To the British, however, Edwards became a great source of fascination, which turned into a full-fledged national craze as he became the first Olympic ski jumper in the country's history and successfully landed his attempt at the Calgary Games. Although he didn't even score half the total points of any other competitor, he earned admiration worldwide and was given the nickname "Eddie the Eagle" by the President of the International Olympic Committee during the closing ceremony.

Sadly, many others in the Olympic community did not take him seriously, and they raised the qualifying standards to prevent Edwards from participating in the future. This didn't stop him from trying, but he failed to qualify on three successive occasions. Today, Edwards still plasters for a living and estimates that 70 percent of his income comes from speaking engagements.

In 2016, Eddie the Eagle, a biopic about Edwards’s life featuring Hugh Jackman (not playing Edwards), was released in theaters.

5. GOLD MEDALIST IN OLYMPICS' INAUGURAL SNOWBOARDING COMPETITION GETS BUSTED FOR MARIJUANA

At the 1998 Nagano Games, snowboarding was introduced in an effort to make the Olympics more appealing to a younger audience. Still, there was some trepidation about the perceived rambunctious lifestyle of the snowboarding community and how it would fit in with the formality of the Olympics.

Nothing better illustrated this clash of values than when Canadian Ross Rebagliati became the inaugural winner in the Parallel Giant Slalom and was promptly stripped of his medal three days after the event for testing positive for marijuana.

Rebagliati claimed to have ingested it second-hand at a party and the Canadian Olympic delegation successfully appealed the IOC's decision on the basis that marijuana isn't a performance-enhancing drug. He got his medal back before the Games ended.

Today, 20 years after the controversy, Rebagliati has moved on from his snowboarding past and is trying his hand at entrepreneurism: he’s the founder of Ross’ Gold, a cannabis business.

6. NANCY KERRIGAN VS. TONYA HARDING


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Tonya Harding was an ice skating prodigy from a broken home who ascended to the world stage in the early '90s. As her financial security and world ranking started to decline in the months leading up to the Olympics, Harding became frustrated and directed her anger at fellow American Nancy Kerrigan, who was ascending in the world standings and landing lucrative commercial endorsements.

Harding's on-again-off-again husband Jeff Gillooly conspired with two other men to attack and injure Kerrigan before the 1994 Olympics. They carried out the hit after Kerrigan's practice skate before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Shane Stant, Gillooly's hired man, hit Kerrigan on the knee with a police baton as she was talking to a reporter in a stadium hallway. He escaped by diving through a plexiglass door before running to a getaway car.

The attack resulted in a bruise, but because there was no bone or ligament damage, Kerrigan was able to perform and was selected (along with Harding, who was under investigation for the attack) for the U.S. Olympic team. At the Lillehammer Games, Kerrigan famously skated to a silver medal after terrific back-to-back performances while Harding, disgraced, finished in eighth place. Harding's life, and the scandal surrounding her competition with Kerrigan, has been turned into the Oscar-nominated film, I, Tonya.

According to Olympic Historian David Wallechinsky, when CBS executives thanked their staff in Norway for the great ratings (the figure skating finals were the one of the most watched events in television history at the time), a CBS employee wrote back: "Don't thank us. Thank Tonya."

7. TWO AMERICAN HOCKEY TEAMS ARE SENT TO THE OLYMPICS, BOTH ARE DISQUALIFIED


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Controversy erupted before the 1948 Olympic Games in St. Moritz over whether the American Hockey Association or the Amateur Athletic Union was the chief governing authority for hockey in the United States. American Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage refused to sanction the AHA because of their commercial sponsorships, but the International Ice Hockey Federation officially ruled that the AAU was to be replaced by the AHA.

Amid the confusion, both teams made their way to St. Moritz to compete. Before they were set to march in the Opening Ceremony, the Swiss Olympic Organizing Committee banned the AAU. Because they were favored by Brundage, though, the AAU team got the honor of representing the U.S. in the opening ceremony, while the AHA team—which was actually allowed to compete by the organizing committee—had to sit in the stands.

8. LUGE TRACK WITH A HISTORY OF FATAL ACCIDENTS SELECTED AS SITE OF INAUGURAL LUGE COMPETITION


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Luge racers regularly hit speeds of over 95 miles per hour, meaning that even the smallest shift in body position can easily result in catastrophe. This was evident before the 2010 Vancouver Games, when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili careened off the track during a training run and died of his injuries.

It was an eerie replay of the luge's first-ever appearance at the Olympic Games. Two weeks before the Innsbruck Games in 1964, Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, a British RAF pilot who was inexperienced in the sport, flew off the track and died during a training run. Additionally, a German doubles luge team was injured on the track in a separate accident. The track had had several fatal accidents when it opened decades before, and although it was modified thereafter, Olympic participants had to lobby for further safety precautions to reduce some of the danger.

9. FRENCH JUDGE CONFESSES TO THROWING THE COMPETITION


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The pairs figure skating competition at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics resulted in a massive scandal that gave wind to the long-standing notion that figure skating judges can be swayed. Russian competitors Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze made noticeable errors in their long program, while Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier performed a flawless routine that had the crowd chanting "Six! Six! Six!"

When the judges ruled 5-4 in favor of the Russians and loud boos rang from the arena, the Canadian Olympic officials filed a protest. Protests filed by the losing party have become relatively common in the Olympics and the exercise is often a symbolic and ultimately fruitless gesture. But in this case, some dirt actually turned up.

In the subsequent investigation, it was revealed that the swing vote, French judge Marie-Rene Le Gougne, was up for a seat on the International Skating Union's powerful technical committee, and reports surfaced that she confided to a British referee a few days earlier that she had been pressured by her own national committee to throw her vote for the Russian pairs.

Le Gougne changed her story a few days later in an effort to save face, but her contradictory statements only exacerbated the coverage into a full-blown media frenzy dubbed “skate-gate.” In the end, Le Gougne was suspended for three years, the Canadians were awarded a second pair of gold medals, and the sport underwent reform with judges' scores being kept secret and chosen at random.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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