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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 3

NFL WEEK THREE: By my count, seven teams are expected to start a different QB this week than they did just half a month ago on Kickoff Weekend. Some replacements are due to injury, but others are due to poor performance, and Woody thinks it’s a bit early in the season for any NFL team to pull that kind of trigger. As a result, I’ve chosen more upsets than usual this week. Just call me “Wild Woody.”

Woody went 10-6 last week, bringing my season total to 18-14. Here are my predictions for Week 3. Enjoy!

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Buffalo (0-2) @ New England (1-1)

This Sunday in Foxboro, some painted nut will be holding up a sign reading “14!” That’s because the Patriots have dealt the Bills a defeat in 13 consecutive match-ups dating back to 2000. After consulting the Smart Pill Machine, I see no reason why this New England fan should be disappointed.  Muskets in hand, the Minutemen will do their duty in short order, and when it’s all over, the field will be littered with the proverbial stack of paid Bills.

Woody’s Winner: New England

FACT: The Patriots have converted only one of 4 field goal attempts this season.

Click "more" to see my picks for the other 15 NFL games in Week 3.

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Atlanta (1-1) @ New Orleans (2-0)

The last three meetings between these NFC South rivals have been decided by 4, 8, and 3 points, all in favor of the Fleur-de-Lis. The Saints may be tuckered out after close back-to-back wins against the Vikings and 49ers, but they’ll have just enough left to swat away two-and-twenty Blackbirds. Woody’s heart is with the Falcons, but his money is on the defending Super Bowl Champions.

Woody’s Winner (in a close one): New Orleans

FACT: The Falcons defense has held opposing QBs to a league-low 52.9 rating, with no touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and 5 sacks.

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Detroit (0-2) @ Minnesota (0-2)

The Vikes have struggled to an 0-2 start, but there’s no better tonic than playing at home against Detroit. Granted, the Lions have looked better on offense (4 rushing TDs) and defense (10 sacks), but they still have a zero where it counts: in the “win” column. And MGM isn’t hiring. One of these two teams will get their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon, and unless WR Calvin Johnson wakes up, it’ll be the one clad in purple.

Woody’s Winner: Minnesota

FACT: In Week 2 against Philadelphia, Lions RB Jahvid Best hauled in 9 catches for 154 yards.

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Cleveland (0-2) @ Baltimore (1-1)

The success of the Ravens’ franchise has helped many a Baltimorean to forget that those nasty old Colts moved away and left them without a team back in 1984. That success has also caused the “new” Cleveland Browns to turn downright green with envy. This year in northeast Ohio, the Indians had a fire sale, and the Cavaliers lost their marquee player. Now, the Brownies are dealing with an injured QB, an ailing RB, and a seemingly absent set of WRs. They’ll be fortunate to see the far side of the 50-yard-line in Ravenville this Sunday.

Woody’s Winner: Baltimore

FACT: The Ravens defense has held its two 2010 opponents to a combined 4-of-29 on third down.

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Dallas (0-2) @ Houston (2-0)

The Cowboys enjoy a Week 4 bye after this Sunday’s game, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the hype about Dallas becoming the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The hole they’ve dug for themselves is big, too; the Starred Ones are the only winless team in the NFC East. Meanwhile, things are rosy over in Houston, where the franchise won its first overtime game in 8 tries. The Texans won their debut NFL game against America’s Team in 2002, and there’s nothing they’d love more than to repeat that feat in front of their home fans.

Woody’s Winner: Houston

FACT: Through 2 games, Houston is the only NFL team that has yet to fumble the ball.

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San Francisco (0-2) @ Kansas City (2-0)

Frisco was the only undefeated team in the 2010 preseason, but are winless in the regular season thanks to the Saints’ last-second prayer of a FG last week. Coach Mike Singletary not only remained cool and calm in the locker room following the loss, he actually praised his team’s effort. A loss this week would cause his head to explode, which would seriously derail the 49ers chances for a playoff berth… though not all fans would agree with me about that. I’ve incorrectly picked the Chiefs for losses in their first two games. Have I learned my lesson?

Woody’s Winner: San Francisco

FACT: 49er opponents have completed 46 of 61 passes this season, for a 75.4 percent completion rate.

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Tennessee (1-1) @ N.Y. Giants (1-1)

Titans and Giants? The gods must be angry. The Titans’ step back last week had more to do with Pittsburgh’s D than their own O. Coach Jeff Fisher’s decision to bench QB Vince Young threw his players for a loop. By the time they recover, the Big Men from Gotham will be well on their way to a 2-1 record. Too bad the G-Men can no longer dance on Jimmy Hoffa, but no matter. When the final whistle blows, Volunteers may be required to clean up all the Tennessee players left sprawled on the field.

Woody’s Winner: New York

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Pittsburgh (2-0) @ Tampa Bay (2-0)

When my junior high school football coach told me that “defense wins games,” I presumed he said that because I played on the offense. Now I get it; how else could the Bucs be 2-0? Tampa’s cannon should be quiet this Sunday as these undefeated teams struggle to score points. Pittsburgh’s just biding its time until Big Ben’s clock chimes, and a Buccaneer cutlass, well, just won’t cut it in Florida in Week 3.

Woody’s Winner: Pittsburgh

FACT: Despite scoring only 2 TDs in 2 games, the Steelers are undefeated thanks to a defense that is +6 in takeaways/giveaways.

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Cincinnati (1-1) @ Carolina (0-2)

Terrell Owens (sore back) and Chad Ochocinco (cracked rib) further the Batman-and-Robin shtick by nursing injuries at the same time, but both are probable for Sunday’s trip south. Considering Carolina’s QB troubles and injuries to Steve Smith above and below, common sense dictates that the Battle of the Big Cats should end with a Bengals victory over Panthers. A little voice tells me that Carolina might pull an upset, but it might be those White Castles backing up on me. Besides, felines look better in stripes.

Woody’s Winner (in a close one): Cincinnati

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Philadelphia (1-1) @ Jacksonville (1-1)

The Philly brass pulled a flea-flicker on everyone by announcing the “Kolb Era” when their plans apparently centered on Michael Vick all along. Announcing Vick as starter in the preseason would have brought out all his haters, but a minor Week 1 injury to Kevin Kolb gave the Eagles all the excuse they needed. Meanwhile, in Florida, David Garrard (who had an impressive 1-to-49 career interception-to-attempt ratio) was benched last week after throwing 4 INTs in 23 passes. But he’s back in teal, the game is sold out, and the Jaguars will play tough for their faithful. Still…

Woody’s Winner: Philadelphia

FACT: The Eagles have allowed 11 sacks this season, 3 more than any other NFL team.

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Washington (1-1) @ St. Louis (0-2)

The Redskins have played well thus far this season, and are 4-1 in their last five road games against the battered Rams. This week, Washington plays “Meet Me in St. Louis” and should find the blues to be to their liking. DC Power will light up the Gateway Arch, and while Sam Bradford has a few victories ahead of him this season, he’ll have to earn them by suffering through games like this one.

Woody’s Winner: Washington

FACT: The Rams defense leads the NFL with 7 forced fumbles this season.

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Oakland (1-1) @ Arizona (1-1)

The Raiders and Cardinals have even records; both teams earned a victory by beating St. Louis, but both were also blown out against better teams. This week’s matchup promises to be the Darren McFadden/Tim Hightower show, since both defenses are weak against the run. The Redbirds are still smarting after being humiliated in Atlanta, while the Mighty Oaks are looking forward to the possibility of a winning record for the first time since Week 3 of the 2004 season. Good thing footballs are vaguely acorn-shaped.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Oakland

FACT: The Raiders are 5-2 all-time against the Cardinals. Since 1973, the teams have met in St. Louis, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Arizona.

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San Diego (1-1) @ Seattle (1-1)

RB Ryan Mathews and WR Malcom Floyd are expected to be out when the Chargers head up the Pacific Coast this weekend. For the Seahawks coaching staff that means extra focus on San Diego’s key remaining weapon, TE Antonio Gates. If the Home of Grunge can hold him in check, it’ll be tough for the visitors to get an approval on their MasterCard. Seattle will eke out a win at home, but luckily for the Bolts, their plane tickets home have already been arranged.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Seattle

FACT: The last five match-ups between the Chargers and Seahawks have each been decided by a field goal or less.

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Indianapolis (1-1) @ Denver (1-1)

Most of Denver's injury problems are on the defensive side of the line, notably CBs Champ Bailey and Andre’ Goodman. As a result, the elder Manning should be able to pass at will against the decimated Bronco secondary. And considering how rude he was to his little brother last week on the gridiron, he’ll have no qualms about airing the football out in the thin Mile-High atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if rookie Denver QB Tim Tebow makes an appearance once the Colts lap the Broncos on the racetrack.

Woody’s Winner: Indianapolis

FACT: Last week vs. the Giants, Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis combined for 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.

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N.Y. Jets (1-1) @ Miami (2-0)

This Sunday night, the Jets go on the road for the first time this season, facing Miami in the Dolphins’ first home game of 2010. Both teams focus on the rushing game, and both have a pair of capable running backs. Both also have great success against the run, so the victor of this AFC East game may come down to the home field advantage. With this week’s game being in South Florida…

Woody’s Winner: Miami

FACT: The Jets lead the league with 20 penalties for 183 yards in only two games.

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Green Bay (2-0) @ Chicago (2-0)

This Monday Night Football game celebrates the league’s oldest rivalry. It also features the highest-rated QB in the NFL, only it’s not the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, but Chicago’s Jay Cutler. His 121.2 rating though two games is sheer dynamite, and Chicago’s defense will plant TNT all over to try to blow the Pack back to Wisconsin. Green Bay is favored by most, but Woody’s going out on a limb with this one. I like grated cheese on my Chicago Deep Dish.

Woody’s Winner: Chicago

FACT: This season, Chicago’s defense has allowed only 41 yards on 34 carries for a paltry 1.4 yards per rush.

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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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Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
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olympics
The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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Quinn Rooney, Getty Images
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Big Questions
How Do You Steer a Bobsled?
 Quinn Rooney, Getty Images
Quinn Rooney, Getty Images

Now that the Olympics are well underway, you might have developed a few questions about the games' equipment. For example: How does one steer a bobsled? Let's take a crack at answering this pressing query.

How do you steer a bobsled?

Bobsled teams careen down an icy, curving track at up to 90 miles per hour, so steering is no small concern. Drivers steer their sleds just like you steered your childhood sleds—by manipulating a pair of ropes connected to the sled's steel runners. The driver also gets help from the rest of the crew members, who shift their weight to aid with the steering.

Why do speed skaters wear glasses?

speed-skating

Speed skaters can fly around the ice at upwards of 40 mph, so those sunglasses-type specs they wear aren't merely ornamental. At such high speeds, it's not very pleasant to have wind blowing in your eyes; it's particularly nightmarish if the breeze is drying out your contact lenses. On top of that, there's all sorts of ice and debris flying around on a speed skating track that could send you on a fast trip to the ophthalmologist.

Some skaters also say the glasses help them see the track. American skater Ryan Bedford recently told the Saginaw News that his tinted shades help him focus on the track and filter out distracting lights and camera flashes from the crowd.

What kind of heat are the biathletes packing?

Getty Images

As you might guess, there are fairly strict rules governing what sort of rifles biathletes carry on the course. They are equipped with guns chambered for .22 LR ammunition. The gun must weigh at least 3.5 kilograms without its magazines and ammunition, and the rifle has to have a bolt action or a straight-pull bolt rather than firing automatically or semi-automatically.

Is a curling stone really made of stone?

Getty Images

You bet it is, and it's not just any old stone, either. Curling enthusiasts swear by a very specific type of granite called ailsite that is only found on the Scottish island of Ailsa Craig. Ailsite supposedly absorbs less water than other types of stone, so they last longer than their competitors.

Ailsa Craig is now a wildlife sanctuary, so no new ailsite has been quarried since 2002. As a result, curling stones are incredibly expensive. Kays of Scotland, which has made the stones for every Olympics in which curling has been an official event, gets prices upwards of $1,500 per stone.

What about the brooms?

The earliest curling brooms were actual brooms made of wood with straw heads. Modern brooms, though, are a bit more technologically advanced. The handles are usually made of carbon fiber, and the heads can be made of synthetic materials or natural hair from horses or hogs. Synthetic materials tend to be more common now because they pull all of the debris off of the ice and don't drop the occasional stray bristle like a natural hair broom might.

What are the ski jumpers wearing?

Getty Images

It may look like a ski jumper can pull on any old form-fitting bodysuit and hit the mountain, but things are a bit more complicated than that. Their suits have to be made of a spongy material and can't be thicker than five millimeters. Additionally, the suits must allow a certain amount of air to pass through them; jumpers wearing suits without sufficient air permeability are disqualified. (This rule keeps jumpers from wearing suits that could unfairly act as airfoils.) These rules are seriously enforced, too; Norwegian skier Sigurd Petterson found himself DQed at the 2006 Torino Games due to improper air permeability.

Those aren't the only concerns, though. In 2010, judges disqualified Italian jumper Roberto Dellasega because his suit was too baggy.

What's up with the short track speed skaters' gloves?

Gloves
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

If you watch a bit of short track speed skating, the need for gloves quickly becomes apparent. When the skaters go to make passes or careen around a turn, they need the gloves to keep from cutting their hands due to incidental contact with other skaters' blades.

There's more to the gloves than just safety, though. Since the skaters' hands often touch the ice during turns, they need hard fingertip coverings that won't add friction and slow them down. The tips can be made of any material as long as it's hard and smooth, but you've got to give American skater Apolo Ohno some style points for the gold-tipped left glove he broke out in 2010.

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